Monday, 23 March 2009

Navel gazing in Kigali

March 19th
Up at five and out of the house well before six. It’s lovely to walk through the dawn down to the town centre. I’m taking the computer modem to the office before I go to Kigali for a VSO planning meeting. The office is opened up at around five in the morning, but the guards are well surprised to see a muzungu at this early hour!

I’m in Kigali by half past seven and get myself installed at the St Paul centre. I’ll be here overnight, so I book a room. The rooms are clean and well lit, with two beds per room but divided by a screen so that you could have two strangers occupying the same room and yet privacy for each.

The meetings are pretty deadly, and it’s difficult to see how things could be otherwise. There are seven or so of us VSOs – Tiga, Els, Tinks who are primary teacher trainers; Joe and I who are District Officers, Jane from the PHARE (HIV) project, and Chris who must be the last remaining secondary teacher. There are about twenty Rwandans from our partner districts or Dioceses, mainly the “chargés d’éducation” but also a couple of directors as well. There’s nobody from Muhanga, which comes as something of a surprise.

We are reviewing what VSO has achieved in the past year, and looking to where we need to change our focus for the coming year. It involves a lot of excruciating study of comments from our quarterly reports, most of which date from last year and have been superseded by all the changes in January.

I know the job has to be done (our outside funding providers insist on this sort of navel gazing), but I can’t help feeling that we almost need to start with a clean sheet and say “what are the needs of schools in the “nouvelle regime” since January, and how many of these needs can we realistically address as VSO?

At the end of the day Joe O’Toole arrives from Rusumo, and also Sonya – the Irish contingent are gathering ready for tomorrow night’s St Patrick’s Ball in Kigali. We go for a drink, and where? – to the little bar in the grounds of the town centre church. Yes folks, the main church in the centre of Kigali has a big flat area around it (used, amongst other things, by driving schools), and in the far corner of the church site is a bar! Now that’s our kind of church! We sit for an hour or so and put the world to rights.

Tiga’s not well and has been to the King Faisal twice for tests; Sonya’s better after last weekend’s mishap, which is really good news. Tinks is definitely leaving early and returning to England at the end of May; her placement is not working out as it should and she wants to be back home in time to get a teaching job ready for September.

I have big ideas of using the late evening to catch up on blogs, but I’m tired and by soon after nine most of us are in bed.

Best thing about today – seeing people like Tiga and Joe O’T who I rarely see these days.

Worst thing – if only this meeting could have been next week – I’m missing the last two days for visiting schools, and I’d far rather be stomping round the Rwandan countryside than stuck in a meeting in Kigali. Oh well…..

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