Tuesday, 26 May 2009

May 21st – 22nd

Very little to report for these two days. Into the office early, and working on the census. I’ve got all the data entered into the computer and I’m producing summaries of everything from the age structure of the staff to details of which children are having to repeat years. As usual the raw data is in chaos – if schools find a question difficult to answer they just leave it out. There are at least five different versions of the census form, all slightly different in the questions they ask; schools invariably lose the form they’ve been sent by the District and make a shabby photocopy of an old one. Some schools have sent in the same information twice, but with slightly different figures on each. Some tell me exactly how many latrines they’ve got; others just say “yes” to the questions about toilets. So while everyone wants me to be absolutely 100% accurate, it ain’t gonna happen like that. The only figure which is very close to accurate is the total number of children, because their capitation grants are based on these numbers.

The weather is uniformly cold and grey, always with the threat of heavy rain. I can’t go up country at the moment, and I’ve made a decision to concentrate on statistics until Catherine comes.

One break arrives on Thursday morning. Moira is very interested in the “Centre de Rattrappage” (catch-up centre) at Nyabisindu school, and I arrange with Jeanne for us to visit. When we roll up they’ve forgotten about us, and it transpires that there’s only one of the three rattrappage classes there today, and they’re doing a test. Moira rearranges for next Monday, but I want to do a dipstick inspection of the tronc commun section, so I go into two classes. There’s a biology session which is going into great detail of the reproductive systems of plants. It’s all in English, but dull without illustrations. Needless to say there’s no electricity and no computers, even though the school has electric wiring and light fitting installed by the parents in the hope that one day current will arrive. After all, this school is barely half a mile from the District office; in fact it’s the closest secondary school to the Office.

Back at the office there are boxes and boxes of tronc commun science textbooks lying around awaiting delivery to the schools. I put a bomb behind Valérian, saying it’s completely unacceptable that here we are, five months into the new tronc commun schools’ existence, and not a single one has a textbook. When we open the boxes of books we discover they’re all in French……. They must have been ordered from the printers just a few weeks before Kigali made the decision that all teaching was to be in English.

This puts us in something of a quandary. I want to distribute the books and tell the school to get on and use them – surely textbooks in French are better than no textbooks at all. But on the other hand the teachers and pupils are making enormous strides in coping with learning in English; it might send all the wrong messages and cause confusion if we send them books with all the technical words in French.

We ponder for a while, but in the event the decision is taken out of our hands. Word has reached the tronc commun heads via the bush telegraph that there are science books in the Office, and heads start arriving from all quarters of the District to claim their share.

By two o’clock in the afternoon on both days I’ve got square eyes from the computer screen, and I walk back home and take an hour off to go to the market and such like. I plan to do all sorts of cooking in the evening, but we have a series of power cuts first thing in the morning and all evening. Tom’s working very late indeed on Thursday, so it’s just me and the guard to cook for. I manage to get the meal done before its dark; then I have a fit of inspiration and decide to make a big bath of soup to freeze ready for next week. I’ve just got half the veg chopped up ready to cook, and the saucepan boiling and with a few things in it, when the power goes off and we’re in pitch dark. Now then, fine chopping with a sharp knife isn’t something you relish doing in torchlight, so I turn off the gas, stuff all the half prepared veg in the fridge, and retire to bed with a candle and my iPod. I hate evenings without power; there’s nothing much to do. You can do some reading with a wind up torch, but it gets boring after a bit.

I’ve got a nasty head cold which I can’t shake off; it turns out that half of Rwanda has the same thing. It’s been so cold and wet these last few weeks that everyone’s been caught out; temperatures have been below those in England, and when we’re sitting still working at a computer screen in our office we get really chilled.

So by half past eight, or nine o’clock at the latest, I’m tucked up in bed and going to sleep in disgust at a world without electricity, without water in the taps; a world which is cold and wet, and with a runny nose and a headache. Life could be better.

No comments: