Tuesday, 28 October 2008

the day they change my job description!

October 27th

Well, today is the day everything changes. I’m still not feeling well, still thinking I’ve got a gut full of amoebas and still not looking forward to pooing in a pot and presenting it to the clinic for analysis. Though almost certainly it’s what I’m going to have to do.

The first part of today is a lovely example of how to cope within the relaxed, horizontal time frame which is the Rwandan way of doing things!

To begin with I’m off to the internet café, but it’s still closed, as it was all day yesterday. I ask at the counterfeit record shop next door and they tell me the café is closed for a fête. Aha, I know what’s going on. It’s the first communion ceremony Karen was telling me about yesterday; the owner of the café has a handicapped daughter attending one of Karen’s schools and she would have been one of the children starring at the ceremony. (Karen arrived at about 9 because it started at 10 and she wanted to be there in good time. In fact it started at about 11, and didn’t finally finish till around 4 o’clock). This family is having a day off to recover, and have simply shut up the café – without any word of explanation for potential clients.

The other internet café is slow and expensive – in other words useless; I’m not even going to try to use them.

So I go to the bank and wait 40 minutes before it’s my turn to be served. No matter, I need the money and for once I’ve got organised and beaten the Gacaca closures tomorrow.

Now there’s a power cut in the town centre area, so there’s no chance of doing any internetting anyway. I’m not due to meet with Soraya till eleven, so I trudge all the way up to the post office. No mail for any of the four of us. I just can’t believe that – not even for four of us!

In the District Office I search for a computer with an internet link (the office has lashed out on a generator so everything doesn’t have to stop every time there’s a power cut), but there’s no machine free. In a dark corner of the corridor I almost run down Claude, and arrange a meeting with him for 11.30. So far so good.

On the way back to town I bump into Karen. She, like me, has a tummy bug and has just taken her poo sample in a pot to be analysed.

I walk back all through town to Soraya’s. Hayley is there. She’s having a slow day having done all the work she can and is now waiting for various people to get back to her with bits of information so she can continue. I tell her not to wait for them for long, but to keep pestering them with phone calls until they give her what she wants. We play with the puppy while Soraya finishes getting up; she’s lost her set of keys and thinks she’s left them with her friends in Kigali. She’s also feeling pretty rotten with a bad stomach, and on comparing symptoms I’m pretty sure we’ve got the same bug. This is starting to get funny – three VSOs in the same place all potentially with the same amoebas.

With Soraya I tramp all the way back through town to the Office to meet with Claude, calling in at the Electrogaz place on the way so that Soraya can put some electricity on her meter. The girls have run out and been using candles and torches for a couple of nights. And would you believe it – whenever I go to Electrogaz there’s a queue 30 minutes long; but when Soraya goes there today we’re almost the only people in the place and get instant service!

Up to the District office but Claude’s too busy to talk to us. This week it’s the national concours exams for P6 primary pupils. It’s a really big deal, of course, because your chances of secondary education (and a decent job) depend on passing this exam. So security is all important. There’s lots of people loading the P6 exam papers into trucks to distribute to the secteurs, and they’re doing it under armed police escort! Can you just imagine even GCSE papers, let alone SAT tests, being given guards armed with automatic rifles in England! We breeze into the store room because we can see Claude there, and the armed guard gives us a very severe look. However, we know everyone in the room and they know us, so it’s OK. Claude puts us off till 2 o’clock.

So it’s now an entire week plus a day and a half since I returned from England and still I don’t know what work Claude wants me to be doing.

Soraya and I walk back to town, stopping on the way at a little tailor’s shop and we haggle with them for making up a new shirt for me (using the green material I bought in Kigali a month ago). Even Soraya can’t beat them down below RwF3000, but I know from Cathie and Elson that 3000 is a fair price. The shirt will be ready on Saturday, and if I like it I’ll wear it to Han’s party on that day.

We mooch to “Tranquillité” and eat, stretching out our dinner for as long as we can. Neither of us is particularly hungry; one of the side effects of amoebas is that you feel bloated and can’t eat much without feeling uncomfortable. And what you do manage to eat seems to turn into gas straight away, so for the rest of the afternoon we’re burping at each other and apologising to each other!

By 2pm we’re ready and waiting for Claude. But he’s not there.

At 2.30 he arrives, and we have to wait until 3 because there’s a whole queue of urgent and quick business he needs to sort out with various callers. Finally we get together. In five minutes he changes my role and re-writes my job description. English training, to meet the Government’s edict, is now the absolute top priority. (We’ve already noticed that people who visit the office are starting to try their English on us rather than always using French. Even some head teachers who swore blind they couldn’t speak a work of English when I inspected their school….).

Firstly there is to be a series of fortnight-long English training courses, one for each secteur. The first two, before Christmas, are relatively straightforward and we can do them (though I will have to miss most of the second because I’ve booked my flight home…)

MINEDUC is doing a training at national level, but only for around 30 teachers per district. Muhanga has 1200 primary teachers alone who need training. Even if we just train those in the 2ème cycle, it still amounts to around 600 people – 12 sessions of 50 people for a fortnight each. It’s a mammoth undertaking.

We point out to Claude that if we train in the spring term it will mean closing schools for a fortnight at a time. Claude answers by saying we are to use our weekends to train. (taking midweeks off in lieu). That sounds reasonable but won’t work in practise because it’ll cut us off from all the other VSOs who get together at weekends. And we doubt whether many primary teachers will want to give up four weekends in a row. But we decide we’ll see how the first two training sessions go and cut our cloth for the others accordingly. And he wants to divide staff into beginners and advanced, with Soraya taking the beginners and me (on my own) doing fortnight advanced English courses. Help! I’m not an English specialist. I wouldn’t recognise a subjunctive if it got up and bit me!

Then Claude wants us to do twilight sessions for the District Office staff. Every day, Mondays to Fridays. We’re to liaise with the Human Resources office later in the afternoon.

Then he says we are to go ahead with the four two-day English training courses which Soraya has already organised and prepared. This means we’re off to the far north (Nyabinoni) all next week. Another 3 hour moto ride, but only if Claude and the secteur rep can arrange accommodation up there for us. There’s no way we’re doing return trips that far for 4 days in a row!

My resource making days are to be integrated into each of the secteur trainings. (Good thing too, otherwise Claude will have 600 rice sacks cluttering up his office for ever!).

Finally he wants me to re-do my summary report on my school inspections in a different format, school by school instead of as a SWOT diagram of global comments. He needs this to give the mayor by the end of this week. That’s about the only request with a reasonable chance of fulfilment!

Finally we go to see Goretti, the Human Resources officer. She’s a gorgeous looking girl, who throws me into a near panic by saying that they – the staff at their Monday meeting and led by the Chief Executive – have decided they want English lessons every day from Monday to Friday, with a 2 hour session on one day. They’ve divided themselves into beginners (9, including the mayor), and intermediate (21). Soraya is to take the beginners because they think I’m more intimidating than her. Only 2 people, one of them Claude, are excused because they consider themselves fluent in English.

So there you are, folks. If all this comes to pass we’ll have no weekends till we finish at the end of next year, and Claude clearly intends me to go on inspecting on the days I’m not doing English training.

Soraya and I are taking a wait-and-see line. It’s a typical Rwandan way of doing things to demand everything at once; I doubt whether it’ll all sustain. They already know that we can’t be doing inspections or trainings in the remoter secteurs and still get back for evening conversation sessions at the office, so it’s all about negotiation.

What is does mean, beyond any doubt, is that from now onwards I’m going to be working far harder and longer than anything I’ve done so far. But at least I’ve got a vision of where they want us to go, and I’m so fed up with all the drifting of the past week. So tomorrow it’s off to Kigali and start preparing English training sessions.

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