Thursday, 12 March 2009

Frustration, frustration..........

March 11th

Today turns out to be an almost complete waste of a day, so this will be a relatively short and un-edifying blog entry. I arrive at the office early in order to arrange a visit to Cyicaro School in the mountains. I’m determined to get off early before I get sidetracked with departmental business.

But the MTN phone system is down, and stays down for more or less the whole day. I try and try to get through to Cyicaro but every time I get a recorded message saying the service is not available at present, and to try later.

I wonder if Étienne has his phone switched off (very unusual out here), so I try other schools – Nyarusange, Gasovu, Ngoma – but it’s the same response every time. You’d never get four heads all with their phones switched off. The system is down.

During the day there are some calls which arrive and others I can make out, but all the important work calls aren’t getting through.

After an hour and a half of trying I resign myself to another day without a school visit and try to get caught up on other things. What I don’t understand is that the computer modem is working fine – I can everything I want on the internet. It’s just phone calls that don’t seem to be working.

I still haven’t pinned down Raymond to get my green card renewed. It turns out that Raymond has been transferred and instead of him, it’s Léo I should be talking to. But I go to Léo’s office 4 times during the day; it’s locked every time. Wednesday is one of the few days that Raymond used for doing immigration things, so it looks as if I’ll be waiting a while longer to get my card done.

Next I try to pin Claude down about my rent. Nothing doing. Claude says we need to talk to the Accountant. The accountant says he hasn’t received the paperwork from Claude. Next time he’ll say that the Maire hasn’t signed off, and so it goes round and round.

I ask Claude about money for our head teacher training next week. The sum we’re wanting is tiny – about £50 in English money. But we have to see the accountant. This time the accountant’s office is closed; he’s out somewhere and stays out for the rest of the day.

The only good thing to happen today is that Céci, from the ICT department, brings me my “good schools award” certificates, and she’s made a nice job of printing them. They’re in colour, and on posh thick card. Claude’s overjoyed; all he’s got to do is sign them himself and get the Maire to sign them. I wonder if he can manage that….

Now we have a power cut, so I’m limited as to how much computer work I can do – I’m on battery power.

Now I have a young man, a computer science student at one of the Kigali universities, coming in and giving me his hardship story. He’s done one year at college and run out of money. I listen sympathetically but tell him I have no funds and I’m not empowered to authorise District money, and send him on to Valérian. Valérian listens sympathetically, tells him there’s nothing the District can do, and sends him back to me. I’m getting tired of him so send him on his way. This is two financial hardship stories in two days. But whereas Delphine, yesterday, seemed to be the perfect kind of person to help; this young man is cocky and full of attitude. His breath stinks of alcohol, which doesn’t quite go with the financial hardship theme. He gives me his email address, and I note that his forename is Yusuf. So I’ve been tapped for help by a half-drunk Muslim. Well, well, well….!

Claude’s gone home at lunchtime and doesn’t reappear until three o’clock. I don’t know whether there’s something wrong at home (I hope to goodness that there isn’t a problem with the baby), or it might simply be that they’re having building work done. But his absence means we can’t resolve the rent, or the head teacher training, for the rest of the day.

By now I really have had enough. I feel like banging my head against a wall. Soraya’s laughing at me because I’m so impatient and reminds me that some volunteers have had a similar situation for weeks at a time. But this is different. I’m in my second year, and this is the time when we’re supposed to get so much more work done. I really don’t feel like a tourist at all; I’m just somebody working in Africa. I’ve totally forgotten about things like buying souvenirs, sending cards, even taking pictures up to a point.

So I trot off home in disgust. Of course, I bump into Sally and Nicole in the market and they ask me what’s happening about training. I explain, and we agree that unless Claude has given the OK and found money by the end of tomorrow, it will not take place. Thirty one new headteachers of tronc commun schools; no proper training for any of them in things like writing development plans, and we can’t between us arrange a single half day’s training at the District Office. Why am I here?

Tom and I dine in style on left overs from last Saturday and Sunday (!) – if you cook everything for long enough it seems to be OK.

Rwanda talks the talk about efficiency, progress and so on, but the reality lags somewhat behind. At national level they’ve just decreed that if someone writes to the Maire of a district and the letter isn’t answered in 3 days, the Maire gets points knocked off her performance contract rating. If the letter isn’t answered within a week, the Maire gets a fine. Oh yeah? So what happens when a VSO’s rent is left for three months and still no sign of payment?

No comments: