Sunday, 28 June 2009

Bringing water to Gatenzi

June 26th

A complicated day today. Into the office early because I have promised Raima I’ll go and see her. She wants to discuss some confidential things with me. So we spend half an hour together. It seems as though Mineduc from Kigali are doing an audit check of schools to see if the numbers of pupils claimed by the Districts are the true figures, or whether the Districts are claiming more pupils than exist in order to get more funds than they’re entitled too. I find this all a bit threatening, because this year it is me who is directly responsible for calculating the District’s figures. The man from Mineduc is filling in his forms in pencil, which seems odd because, as Raima rightly points out, entries made in pencil can be erased and changed all too easily.
When I arrive at the Office I bump into Claude, who is just off to a meeting in Kigali. So is Valerian, and so is Solange. But, to my huge good fortune, Claude has left his modem behind in the office. Valérian says there is a problem with it and that it won’t work on Claude’s computer. But I find it works perfectly well on mine! I agree with Valérian that I will take the modem with me and keep it for the weekend, returning it to the office first thing on Monday. At last! I have so much stuff waiting to put on line; you wouldn’t believe it!
So I’m rather ashamed to say that I spend the whole morning messing about on line. I find three lots of census forms waiting for me, and one of them has been done in such a complicated way that it takes forever to transcribe onto my spreadsheet. Every single school seems to interpret the questions in a slightly different way, and the breakdowns they are required to give are so detailed and so intricate it is very painstaking to go through them. The senior pupils are divided by age, by sex, by year of study, and by the “branche” (subject combination) that they are studying. That requires an enormous spreadsheet to cover every permutation.
After these three schools are done, there aren’t any more secondary school census forms in for me to analyse, and I’m tired of ringing schools who promise to send them, only to find that days have gone by and they still haven’t arrived. I really need Claude or Valérian to do the phoning and put a bomb behind some of them.
I race back home on a moto because Delphine is supposed to be coming to me for a computer and English lesson. In the event she doesn’t come; she rings me to say she is doing a training for something. I’ll find out what’s going on when I next see her.
I have two big parcels for Charlotte and Kerry; Kerry says she’ll call in to collect hers in the evening. Working at home is getting really trying; there seem to be several competing sound systems across the road, all playing at full volume. It really is becoming too noisy here, and I think that even were I to be doing a third year in Rwanda I would need to move somewhere quieter. It is ridiculous when there is too much noise to concentrate even though you have every window closed!
First thing in the afternoon I set off on a moto to Gatenzi school with half a million francs in my rucksack. I’m going to see Imelda, the head teacher, and give her the first instalment of money to but a 10,000 litre water tank. Gatenzi has well over 1200 pupils and is a completely rebuilt school. The classrooms are lovely, but to anybody from England it seems inconceivable that people would build a modern school and NOT install water or electricity. Yet here we are, in one of the ten poorest countries in the world, and that’s how things are. We wander round the site, looking at possible places to put a tank. At Gatenzi we’re spoiled for choice – there are four big blocks of rooms, every one suitable to add a tank to. The site is almost flat so earthworks would be at a minimum.

Gatenzi is a catholic school, but I’m so tired of the Rwandan Anglicans not co-operating to help us get out to distant church schools that I’m using the funds from my English parish church to go to this needy school. It means we’ll have put tanks in two school both very close to Gitarama town, but the need is present at both Gatenzi and Cyeza. Despite each being only six or seven miles from Gitarama, they both feel very rural indeed. I’ve no doubt there are far more needy schools up-country, but it is so difficult trying to access them that I must put the money where I know it is needed and yet at the same time where I can access the work to check it is being done satisfactorily.
While I’m in the classroom that Imelda uses as her office-cum-staffroom, there are a couple of men working through sheets of paper. I discover they are our friends from Mineduc doing the audit check on school numbers; this time they are checking Gatenzi’s returns. It causes a lot of amusement when I explain that this particular muzungu is responsible for Muhanga’s statistics, and I take the opportunity to have a hit of a go at them for leaving it so late each year before they send out their census forms. It won’t be my problem next year, but I’m going to have my say!
I take a load of pictures of the school; just by chance there are several children going to fetch water from the nearest tap or spring with their yellow water cans (old cooking oil containers). They’re only too happy to let me take their picture and it shoes perfectly just how much time and effort is being wasted in going to the nearest water source. One of the children has a little cup with him, and this leads me to think they are going to get water from a spring. The spring is probably already running low so that they heed to scoop up water laboriously with a cup and pour it into the yellow pots. My only regret is that we are now well into the dry season and unless we have a few thunderstorms Gatenzi might not get any water into its tank until the autumn. But then we do get storms during the dry season, and when they come they are torrential. Gatenzi has the usual blue metal roofs, and the area of roof is so massive that one big storm should fill the tank!
I tell Imelda to contact Jeanne d’Arc and Jacqueline at Cyeza to get the name of their mason, because we think he has done a good job with their tanks. Imelda’s ahead of me. News travels fast round here. I know what’s going to happen next – I’m going to have a queue of head teachers banging on my door asking when I am going to give their particular school its water tank.
In the late afternoon I do the market and get a huge bagload of vegetables. I’m feeling a bit guilty because Tom has done a lot of the cooking for several days and I feel I should be doing more. By the time he comes home I’m well into preparing the meal. On a whim we invite Soraya and Hayley to come; we have stuff of theirs in the fridge and freezer and they will be coming round to collect it. We might as well join forces and make a better meal. They arrive, bringing Becky with them. Becky’s not feeling too good; she has a dodgy stomach and is eating the minimum. Moira and Kerry show up and we invite them to stay, so suddenly we have a dinner for seven plus our guard. The whole thing turns into a glorious free for all – Soraya’s noodle and vegetable soup, my summer salad with egg, sausage and cheese plus potato salad and loads of fresh salad vegetables. For pudding there’s not only fruit salad and avocado ice cream to finish up from yesterday, but Soraya had made a chocolate rice confection which tastes amazingly good. Chuck in several bottles of beer all shared between us, and you’ve got a fabulous eveing coming out of nothing!
Best thing about today – getting the final water tank started. The evening meal.
Worst thing – not getting all the census stuff in. I really don’t want to have that work hanging over me during the school holidays.

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