Tuesday, 24 February 2009

How to authorise a credit card in Rwanda...

February 20th

Into the office early. I manage to catch Claude without any queue of people outside his door and sit him down for ten minutes. In that ten minutes I get more stuff sorted than at any other time since I came back after Christmas. I get a complete list of all the Tronc Commun Heads and their phone numbers. I get Claude’s agreement that after this week I concentrate on visiting and inspecting the new tronc commun sections. We agree that I will also make a point of visiting all our failing primary schools, however far out into the wilds they are – VSO will get some hefty transport invoices during March! We agree that both of us need to inspect the four worst performing traditional secondary schools, and we allocate the week leading up to my birthday as inspection week. We agree that it might be a good idea to give all the new Tronc Commun heads some training so they know what they’re supposed to be doing. (Has anyone told them about development plans, for example? I don’t think so. Apparently they’ve been begging Claude all week for some detailed description of what they’re supposed to be responsible for). We even agree that I should design some certificates to award to high performing schools so that they have something to put on their entrance walls and boast about.

I come out of the meeting feeling very happy.

While I wait for Soraya to get her contract signed and stamped by the mayor (it’s only seven months since she started doing the job, after all) I pinch Claude’s modem and get a lot of electronica sorted. Amongst other things I make sure I’ve downloaded all the primary curriculum and tronc commun curriculum onto my desktop from the Rwandan NCDC (National Curriculum Centre) website. Word is getting out that I’m the person to come to for documents, and within half an hour I have Étienne from Rongi and another head asking me for copies of just these new syllabuses. I send Étienne scampering upstairs to find a flash drive; when he eventually arrives he’s pinched Védaste’s flash. But everything he wants I’m able to provide so my cred is rising with these guys.

While I’m still waiting for Soraya I discover two striking articles in today’s press; a sad but funny one about Tanzanian teachers being caned by the local police for lateness, and a desperately sad one about a local upper sixth form girl in Kamonyi district (next door to us in Muhanga) giving birth in the school toilets. If I remember I’ll post them for you all to read.

Eventually Soraya is ready and we escape to Kigali on the bus. I want to activate my new credit card; Soraya wants to get her visa application stuff under way.

At the VSO office I manage to get my business done within ten minutes of arriving. The moral to my story is that if you need to ring an 0800 number from Rwanda you have to do it on a landline. Quite apart from the technical side which MTN mobiles don’t seem able to handle, when you eventually get through in England you get first one of those automated answering systems which play nice music while you wait for ages, and then you get put in a queue. Just imagine how much that costs when you’re ringing in peak time from the middle of Africa!

VSO office is busy; the “Disability” volunteers are all arriving for a big meeting. Last year the place was always packed on Fridays because all the volunteers who were teachers in schools arranged things so that they had Fridays off to go shopping and get ready for the weekend. This year we don’t have any volunteers working as teachers in schools; we’re all either teacher trainers like Soraya or District Advisers like me. So in general Fridays are now good days to come into Kigali…..

Soraya eventually gets all her business done, but by then it’s gone two in the afternoon and we’re homeward bound. We’re just sitting in the bus in Kigali centre waiting for it to leave when she gets a phone call from her Philippina friends saying that they’ve seen her with me in town; that it’s so and so’s birthday today and why isn’t she coming up to the house for the party? So Soraya jumps out of the bus and manages to re-sell her ticket to a Rwandan, and off she goes.

Back home I feel really weary. I try to plan all my visits between now and the end of term and realise there simply won’t be time to do all the schools I want to do – and that’s before any of the inevitable disruptions get in the way. Still, many visits can wait until the summer term and it’s always better to have too much to do than too little. All I need to do is get my tooth sorted and I’ll be right back on form again.

VSO tell me that if I can get to the office by eight on Monday, someone will drive me to the dentist’s place in Nyarutaramba. It’ll save me a moto fare and while I know roughly where the place is it’ll be so much easier to be dropped at the door. It’s only a few hundred metres from Kersti’s school so I might arrange to pop in during the morning and say hello to the crowd we took up the volcano! The only thing is that in order to be in Kigali VSO office by eight, I’ll have to take the six o’clock bus from Gitarama and five o’clock is a pretty heroic time to be getting up in the mornings!

Tom and I cook up an absolutely enormous supper and end up so stuffed we’re groaning. Once again I feel absolutely tired out; I can barely write this blog entry. Last night I slept so soundly I hardly stirred in the bed; I’ve got no ideas whether there were mozzies inside my net or not. (We’ve both been getting mosquitoes inside our nets; we’re wondering if the little sods walk up the bed legs. Neither of us has holes in our nets and we both make sure the nets are well draped when we go to bed. Perhaps mozzies are evolving into cunning little blighters….)

Best thing about today – getting things sorted with Claude (only the baby naming ceremony is still hanging in the air); getting my credit cards activated.
Worst thing – wouldn’t it have been lovely if I could have done the dentist while I was in Kigali today instead of having to make yet another trip in on Monday!

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