Wednesday, 16 July 2008


July 11th

Life is so end-of-termish at the moment that for the first time since I arrived here I can’t even get any urgency to getting up in the mornings!

At the office I discover Venantie is about to be transferred to another post – in charge of the Department for the promotion of women and the family. It’s quite a surprise for her; no extra money and not something she actually intended to do. Whether this is one of the new Mayor’s projects I’m not sure. The family post has apparently been vacant for some time. None of us knows how soon she’ll be replaced in the education Department; we take it for read that they will have to replace her with somebody! That could work in my favour; it’ll give me someone I can strike up a relationship with; I’ve been a bit semi-detached with Venantie because I’ve never been sure of her role.

I’ve arranged to go to see Stéphanie at Shyogwe at half past twelve. Because it’s the end of term, and many schools seemed to have packed up by mid-day, the buses are absolutely packed with secondary school students going home. There are queues of patient children at every stop; some of them will take most of the day and night to reach their families. The taxi bus operators always put up their fares at these times, so the youngsters are really caught. I decide to walk out to the Shyogwe turning and then take a taxi-vélo. This is a slower way of getting there, but cheaper. From the main road to Shyogwe school the gradient is predominantly uphill; my vélo doesn’t have any gears and the cyclist really earns his pittance in carrying me there. Mind you, he’s charging me twice the normal rate; one cheeky brat asked for three times the rate. I just laughed at him and immediately I was nearly run over in the crush of other drivers eager to get my fare.

At Shyogwe they’re just dismissing the children; all the way up the approach road I’m wading through hundreds of them. They’re all clutching their green end of term assessment and report cards. All the subjects are examined and graded, then there’s an overall percentage. Some of the children come up to show me their cards; generally those who have improved since last term. The ones with lower percentages stare glumly into their shoes. I wonder if any of them are due a thrashing from their parents when they get home. I do hope not, but it’s very possible. Stéphanie’s in the middle of the school yard, surrounded by several hundred pupils and still giving out report cards, and rewards (pens, notebooks, folders) to the best students in each class.

The reason for my coming out to Shyogwe is to see whether the Dutch money has arrived. It hasn’t – not quite. I ring VSO in Kigali with Stéphanie beside me; Charlotte confirms that the money has been and gone to Kigali and is in the process of transfer to the Diocesan bank account. VSO and the EER Diocese use different banks, so we’ll have to wait till next Wednesday or Thursday for the transfer to take effect. As soon as that happens, I tell Stéphanie, she can start building.

She’s a happy bunny, and tells me she wants me to come and dig the first sod for the new block. OK, it’ll make a good photo and one I can send to Holland. It really should be Geert doing the digging, but in his absence it’ll have to be me. Now there’s a thought – I never in a million years saw myself as launching a school building project!

The administration block at the school seems to have come to a halt. I was expecting it to be pretty well finished, but it doesn’t seem any further forward since my last visit a month ago. Stéphanie says they have run out of money. If I understand her right, it is being funded not by the Diocese but by Marchwood Primary School in Hampshire. This is the school which has funded Shyogwe’s big water tank. Apparently Marchwood knows they are short of money and are going to raise it – eventually. We agree that we can’t use any of the Dutch money to complete the admin block – the first 10,000 euros will be needed down to the last cent to build these four classrooms. I must get in touch with Marchwood and let them know I exist.

Back at the flat I spend the rest of the day reading, making some more resources ready for Monday’s training, and writing email letters ready to send to people tomorrow. I keep trying to ring Tiga to wish her bon voyage and check whether she’ll be back when I want to go down and use her house, but I can’t get any reply. I think she must have left for home a day or so early. No matter, Samira’s got her key and I know Tiga won’t mind me using the place (again). I’m assuming Suerte the rabbit has been cooked and eaten by now!

Tom’s in Kigali overnight, so I do another bit of experimental cooking which works well, and spend the evening watching an Austin Powers movie which is pretty awful.

Best thing about today – knowing that the Dutch money has arrived and that soon I really will be able to see a physical difference on the ground, at least in just one of my schools!

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