Friday, 22 May 2009

Playing postman, and crossed wires at Kamonyi

May 19th

Into the office for seven; I leave Becky at the flat. She’ll go up to Kamonyi this morning and try to get on with some work there. It will take her mind off the housing issue for a day and give VSO time to make decisions. We tell her that when she gets to Kamonyi she’ll get down to some immediate practical things – get lists of all the schools and the names and numbers of their Directeurs; try to get a map of where the schools are; ring Syriac, the one Directeur she’s already met and who knows me, and arrange with him to go out and visit some of the schools she’ll be directly working with.

In the office I’m met by Jacqueline, the tronc commun Directeur from Cyeza school. She wants to talk to me about the water tank. Suddenly everyone’s trying to put water tanks into schools. An Italian organisation has come to the priest at Cyeza and offered him three million francs to put in a tank (my maximum is two million). She wants to know whether I’m happy to put both sums of money together and install two tanks; she has detailed costings from a builder which come to 5.5 million. I tell her I’ve got absolutely no problems at all. There will be two tanks, one on each of the two brick buildings. As far as we’re concerned one will be the “English” tank and the other will be the “Italian” tank. Let’s hope the water from the English tank tastes better! Jacqueline wants the rest of her money as soon as possible, of course. What a pity we couldn’t have had this conversation before yesterday, when I had plenty of time to change big sums in Kigali. I tell her I may have to wait until I go in to the capital to collect Catherine next week, and she’s happy with that solution. At least the catholic church is wealthy enough here to be able to lend her the million and a half she needs until I can get my money changed and repay them.

I’m glad about this because it means that the first water tank is now well under way. And I’ve got an accurate idea about costs for a second tank. I’m beginning to think it might be best to try to put two tanks in one school rather than one tank in two more schools – there are cost savings by putting in two at a time. The engineer and builder in charge of the Cyeza scheme lives in Gitarama and I’m pretty sure the cost of putting a system into another school would be more or less the same. Not any cheaper, because the Cyeza site is flat and there will be minimum earth moving required. But I really have to get down to finding a suitable second school for the “Holy Trinity” funded water tank.

Védaste comes in and tells me that Claude is off for a month on holiday. That’s OK; if he is taking a whole month now, then I won’t feel guilty about asking him for five weeks in the summer. Unfortunately, though, it looks as if he’s taken the computer modem with him. I think I’ll ring him and ask if I can collect it and be responsible for it while he is away….

Védaste tells me to get cracking on the statistics. I tell him I’m still missing one primary school and a lot of nurseries and secondaries. By chance, the executive secretary for Kibangu overheads our conversation and comes in to introduce himself; Musambagiro (the missing school) is in his secteur and he promises to get the data to me immediately. Well, I’ve heard this before – Claude said he was going to get the stuff for me straight away!

I collect a whole load of post and head off home for lunch. Its clouding up outside and it looks as if it will rain this afternoon. I’ve rung up Kabgayi “A” to inspect the tronc commun section; the Head has asked me to come in the afternoon which is unusual.

I take a moto out to Kinini and start walking up the hill to Mbare school. I have a packet of photos from Nicolle to give to Iphigénie, the Head. (I’ve already delivered mail to Tom and the girls at YWCA. I get more like a postman every day). Nicolle was one of the VSO headteachers on three month placements here, and she worked intensively with two schools – Mbare and Kabgayi “A”. As I go up the hill I meet the start of the afternoon shift of pupils on their way to the school; two lovely little year one girls want to hold my hand, and their mates hold their hands, so we walk in a line of about six little tots plus me all the way up to the school. The little ones think it’s really cool to be holding hands and walking with a muzungu; from these tinies I get none of the constant “amafaranga” that I’m still getting from everyone else I pass, whether adults or children. The dependency culture is getting really bad at the moment (or else it’s just that I’m a lot more sensitive to it at the moment).

AT Mbare I deliver photos to Iphigénie who is in the middle of eating her dinner. She’s delighted, and the pictures are big prints which she can put up in her office – all the staff are there, and pupils in sports uniforms etc.

I walk all the way back to Kavumu in the heat, and meet Kerry at the bottom of her hill to deliver a parcel from Australia to her. Then it’s uphill to Kabgayi on the main road. As I approach Kabgayi I meet Goretti, for whom I have my final item of post – more pictures from Nicole. Goretti’s pleased as punch with the photos, but worried that I’m here at Kabgayi in person – apparently Alice, the head of the tronc commun section, has got it into her head shat she’s supposed to meet me at the district office and is on her way there via her house for dinner. I really don’t know why she thinks I want to see her at the District; I specifically said I wanted to visit classes.

We ring her and stop her heading to the office. I go to the school and talk with Goretti for an hour or so; by then I’ve got most of the information I need and I can write up a token report and feel that the visit has not been wasted. I visit classes to say hello to the pupils, but the school works a long morning (0715 to 1320) and classes are at the point of ending for the day. The children all look wonderful in their new uniforms – powder blue shirts for both boys and girls, with blue neckerchiefs with yellow piping. It looks like a mass rally of scouts and guides….

All lessons are being taught in English, which is not bad because even after five months this school still has not got a single textbook for the secondary section. The teachers are using photocopies of Ugandan books; one copy for each subject. With only four teachers and lots of subjects to teach, you get some weird and wonderful permutations. One guy is teaching Chemistry, Biology, Political Science, Creative Arts, Sport and Religion. Just imagine asking an English secondary teacher to cope with that lot!

As usual there is no electricity and no computers, so ICT is a joke. What’s doubly annoying is that parts of the school have electric wiring and lights, but no power. At some time in the past the place was run as a nursing training school attached to Kabgayi Hospital next door. The hospital electricity supply was extended to the school. Now, however, the pre-nursing is taught at St Marie Reine in separate buildings in Gitarama town, and the hospital cut the power supply to these classrooms so that it didn’t have to pay for the school’s use of current. It just shows the lack of foresight, planning, and joined up thinking which exists here at the moment. The whole country is trying to run before it can walk and the result is chaos. Of course, if ever a minister or anyone important comes down to visit, he is only shown places where everything is working properly. So the politicians go back to Kigali blissfully unaware of all the day to day difficulties they have created in their brave new Rwandan vision.

One of the nice things about visiting tronc commun schools is that each has done its own little piece of innovation. At Kabgayi they have set up an “études” session every day from 3 to 5 p.m. This is supervised but not taught; they have done a deal with Cité Nazareth primary school in Shyogwe (one of their feeder schools) so that Shyogwe-based children do not have to walk the two miles back and forth twice a day to Kabgayi. “Études” is quiet time for doing homework, or for going through your day’s work, and revising it. The surveillant in charge can explain things or give help, but he/she isn’t there to teach a lesson. The system is even better because it’s the parents who have requested it, and they are all paying a levy of RwF3000 each to fund the surveillants’ salaries. That’s pretty impressive, and it shows you that we’re dealing with an urban school here with a slightly more affluent clientele than those really out in the sticks. There are two daily “etudes” sessions, one at Kabgayi and one at Cité Nazareth. But what does it take to try to get this level of innovation into some of my primary schools?.....

Becky texts to say that she’s having a brilliant day at Kamonyi, knee deep in statistics and getting the feel of the job. Also, that VSO are about to sign the lease on a house for her at last. She’s going back to Kigali tonight because I’m sure VSO wants her out of “Beau Séjour” as fast as decently possible. She won’t be sharing with Nathan; I think Nathan still has big visions of buying a huge place and making money by renting out rooms to Kabgayi University students.

Back home in the rain, but I manage not to get too soaked. Why can you never find a moto when it’s raining and you want one?! I’ve barely got the kettle on when Soraya comes round; she’s really worried that with Claude on leave and her share of the house rent not paid, she’ll get put out on the street. By the end of the afternoon she’s talked to Charlotte in Programme Office back in Kigali and between them they’ve done a deal whereby VSO will pay her missing rent and claim it back from Claude and the District slackers as soon as he comes back from his leave!

Then Delphine arrives for a lesson. She’s got her identity card back from the woman who had it in her possession. It has cost her a mere RwF3000, whereas I think to get a complete replacement card would have cost ten times that much. So she’s a happi(er) bunny than she was last week.

While she’s here Janine arrives to do the cleaning, so we’re moving around from room to room to accommodate Janine’s cleaning routine. And once again I can see the younger guard trying to peer in from the rear garden window; he’s obviously thinking I’m running some sort of vice ring with all these young women in the flat. Dream on, sonny!

I go down to the town and get stuff in the market (white ibijumba this time; see if they have more flavour than the red ones). While I’m out Tom arrives back at the house and on my return he’s well into preparing veg for supper. Today he’s been to a cow give-away sponsored by FHI. This is where deserving poor families are given a cow; they breed the animal and then when the calf reaches a certain age it is sold and the money is repaid to FHI and deemed to have paid off the original debt from the cow. In the meantime the family has a constant supply of milk and any further calves are all profit until the cow is too old for more and finally the family eats it. It’s a nice way of giving a cash injection to strapped families without actually handing over money. (There’s a very real risk that cash would find its way into Primus and banana beer within a day of being given).

For months we have been carefully keeping a precious tin of steak which Tom had brought out from England. Well, tonight it’s in the pot with boeuf bourguignon sauce and every veg we can find from imboga to tungurusumu. Yummee….

It’s been a good day today despite the screw up with the Kabgayi visit.

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