Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Finishing the "How To...." guides

July 3rd
Today I discover that the food at AEE is really good. Not just the breakfasts, with unlimited pancakes, honey and coffee, but also the main meals with fried fish and nice salads. We eat well today!
The day consists of more VSO meetings, this time looking at what we are going to put in our new five year development plan to be submitted to the Rwandan government as well as VSO international. We elect new members to the education steering group. Since I only have five months to go, and the election term runs for a year, I come off the committee along with almost everyone else and we elect new people. It seems really funny to be giving up responsibilities; I feel as though I’ve only just got going. In some ways even a two year placement isn’t long enough to make a real difference on VSO!
In the afternoon we go through my amendments to the “Ho to do things….” Guide for education managers. It’s a difficult document to get right. On the one hand we are writing for incoming volunteers, and your language needs to be informal, but VSO wants to submit the whole guide to MINEDUC for its approval. This makes an enormous difference. Some bureaucrat will go through it and carp and reject anything which suggests that things in the country are anything but rosy or perfect. And yet our guide doesn’t make sense unless we “tell it as it is” to new volunteers.
So what we decide is that my version will do fine, with a few minor adjustments, but that Charlotte will edit it and try to make sure the wording is acceptable to Rwandan officials. I’m relieved, because it has been a tricky document to compile and now all my responsibilities are finished. And it will be something I leave as a legacy to incoming volunteers.
We seem to be fated with this particular document. When we first compiled it in January the education system here was in total upheaval, with all the changes to the primary school curriculum and organisation. Now, as we finish the “final version” (ha ha!), the entire system of local administration is about to be changed. It is quite likely that next term we might all get recalled to write a third draft to reflect the change in emphasis from education management at District level to Secteur level. Watch this space!
What is good about Rwanda is that at least the government is dynamic and very active in changing things. There are other countries where VSO works where there is such apathy and inertia at central Government level that nothing ever changes from decade to decade. But it would be nice to have, say, three years when the Rwandan system consolidates and everyone evaluates how successful all the recent changes have been before plunging into yet more upheaval.
Our meetings finish in the late afternoon and a big bunch of us decides we’ll eat up at Sole Luna. It’s a long time since I had the best pizzas in town! So a dozen or more people converge on the restaurant. Joe goes on ahead; he’s a table tennis player and is meeting some of the big wigs of table tennis here in Rwanda to try to set something up in Nyamasheke. That neatly sums up what VSOs do – here is someone my own age who is fit enough and energetic enough to want to set up a sports facility in his District, and has the commitment and vision to start coaching youngsters on his own. He makes me feel a lazy saddo! As we’re walking to Sole Luna we get an elderly lady, not quite all there, who seems to attach herself to our group of muzungus. I think she feels safe walking with us. She mutters a lot, and is wearing thick socks but no shoes. Her clothes are in rages, with holes and rents all over the place. Half way up to the restaurant she suddenly takes off her wrap; she doesn’t seem to be wearing anything under it and her modesty is only saved by the long tee shirt she’s wearing. To say it draws attention from the hundreds of Rwandans we pass is an understatement. (There are five of us walking up in a group – me, Tina, Moira, Amalia, Michael).
Eventually a police truck comes to a halt alongside us and she is snatched by the police and bundled very roughly into the vehicle. It’s no way to treat someone who is mentally ill, but this is a poor country and there almost simply isn’t anywhere else to put her. She’s get slung in a police cell for the night while they try to find a church or charity to take her in. We all just hope they don’t beat the living daylights out of her in the process.
Our meal at Sola Luna is wonderful. We all make a point of ordering different pizzas, and then slice them up and share them so that no two slices are the same. I can’t think of a better way to eat on a warm, fine Kigali evening. The city lights come on around us, and another group of volunteers, this time Americans from the school in Nyamata, come to eat near us.
At the end of the meal we have the usual discussion as to where we’re going on to next. Many people want to go into town; others want to go back to the AEE guest house. My decision is made for me. One of the gang is not feeling well, and we need to get her home. With Joe and Michael I start to walk her (it’s all downhill from Sole Luna to AEE, even if it is a long way). Before we reach the VSO office she doesn’t feel well again, so we get a taxi and make sure she’s home safe.
Its funny – the longer I stay here the less fussed I seem to get about going clubbing and staying up late. I’ve done it, “ticked the box” as it were; and back at the guest house I start to write emails to Cathie and various other volunteers. Today I’ve also done a lot of photo sharing with the other volunteers. I think I now have some 4500 pictures of my time here. So if you don’t want to be bored, never ask me when I come home to show you photos of my time here….
Today’s been a good day. We work well as a group; there are few if any rough edges, and we have done some good work in terms of finalising the “How To….” Guide. And to end the day with a shared pizza is about as good as it gets here.

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