Friday, 22 May 2009

Number crunching once more

May 20th

Funny day today – successful and productive but not in the way I had planned. Into the office early and I ring up Mushishiro school to try to visit it. Once again, the head puts me off, saying she’s away again today. The weather is fine; it’s a good day to be out of the office. But when I try to find an alternative I’m a bit stuck – I’m trying to keep a reserve of schools which aren’t too far away so that I can use them while Catherine’s here. I don’t want to inflict on her a long run up country, especially if there’s still going to be a risk of heavy rain while she’s around.

So in the end I decide to spend the day in the office, getting down to the statistical analysis. Claude comes in briefly; but – guess – he’s forgotten the computer modem and left it at home. Oh yeah !

I spend a busy morning and get heavily into my work. Some more census sheets have appeared during the past few days but nobody has thought to tell me. The highlight of the day is when the final primary one; the one I’ve been waiting for all the last fortnight, finally turns up. The head brings it in and apologises profusely. I’m still missing lots of maternelles and secondaries; I give Valérian my list of missing maternelles and ask him to get on to them.

I meet the new head teacher of Nyabitare school (when I visited it last week the head had run away at Easter and there was nobody to take control) and he seems pleasant enough. It’s coming to something when the muzungu in the District Office is the person who knows who everyone is and where everything is kept and how to go about getting things….. What a difference a year makes!

Soraya and a lot of the gang are gearing up for the big MINEDUC training scheme on Thursday and Friday of next week. I’ve formally dropped out because I can’t combine doing it with looking after Catherine. They’ve postponed this course twice and I’ve altered my arrangements both times to accommodate them, but as usual the latest announcement comes at such short notice that a lot of people have arrangements which they can’t change.

During the day VSO tests its emergency evacuation routine; we get a phone call to check that they really do have our contact numbers and can get messages through quickly in case of emergency. The drill is that you make sure you have your passport and any other essential paperwork on you; you pack up your immediate possessions and wait for a call to say you go to the nearest safe house. For us in Gitarama that means Soraya’s place, a couple of hundred yards away. We are supposed to wait there until we can be evacuated to Kigali. Seeing as there’s eight of us in Gitarama (nine when Becky moves into her house) they’ll need something the size of a taxibus to get us all out in one go. Then we’d be put up in a hotel in Kigali until we can be flown out.

Thankfully this is all just a drill; there’s no problem and no real threat to our safety. Swine flu may be raging around the world, but few people here have pigs because they are too poor; likewise they are way too poor to travel around and catch the disease on holiday in places like Mexico. The real risk to Rwandans is from expatriates like us who are just arriving in the country after travelling round the globe.

I have lunch with Soraya at “Tranquillité”; there’s a big bunch of young Americans there. I think they’re another of these groups coming over for a very short period to work in orphanages or something similar. They look very lost and speak virtually no Kinyarwanda whereas we can order our food and ask for things like salt and extra this and that quite fluently between us!

Soraya and a group of girls are doing a big training weekend up in Kiyumba secteur this weekend; I was supposed to be going there as well but it always happens that when there’s a training arranged it clashes with other things. I’m committed to the VSO volunteer committee this Saturday, and people like Moira and Kerry are at a bit of a loose end while they wait for the next training college semester to start, so they’re only too pleased to get a chance to go up country. I forget just how much “out and about” work I do, and how many of my colleagues are stuck in the same place day in, day out.

By the end of the day I’ve calculated the key “big figure” – the total number of primary pupils in the District. This comes to over 72,000. When you add the maternelles, the tronc commun secondaries and the older all-through secondaries you’re looking at 100,000 pupils aged from five to their late twenties. That’s quite a responsibility! The attrition rate in primary schools is still as bad as ever. We have over 17000 in year one; but year six is down to 6500. Thousands and thousands of children are still dropping out of school to go to work, especially the boys.

It’s nice to be back in my own office; I get very few interruptions now. I’m even getting mail coming addressed to the “bureau bazungu”, which I think is really cool.

No comments: