Monday, 5 October 2009

Ups and downs - Sunday life in Gitarama

October 4th

Tom arrived back late last night; Christi had gone to the airport to fetch him. He has an amazing amount of luggage, most of which seems to be filled either with foody things for us or with presents for other people in FH and around Gitarama. His head is completely shaved, with just stubble growing on it, about as long as his beard. He’s put on weight, too, and he looks completely different. He has brought back a bunch of ophthalmic instruments for Piet to use at Kabgayi hospital, some stuff from Hayley for Charlotte and Soraya, and a full sized pressure cooker for the flat. So from now on we’ll have perfect beans and the atmosphere in the flat will be less polluted…..

It’s a quiet day today so we go to Momma’s to church. The service is long and the sermon is like a school assembly where the deputy head is berating the pupils for causing damage to fixtures and fittings. Money is always short at the orphanage, and the children haven’t been helping momma. There’s been damage to windows, bikes have been broken and the gutters taking rainwater into the afritanks have been smashed by children playing and crashing into them. (The plastic gutters and downpipes get very brittle after a while in the hot sun here, and they are easy to smash if you knock them). Momma lays it on the line for the children – the TV and video are broken and they can’t be repaired or replaced because the money needed to repair them has had to be spent on hauling water from some distance by car because the afrtianks are empty…. You get the message. I’ve been asked to do the sermon for next week; I think I’ll do something on Jonah and get the children up out of their seats and dramatize the story. I’ll use a couple of blankets to make a whale and we can rearrange the benches everyone sits on to make a boat shape.

Back at the flat I have some preparation to do for my visits to Kiyumba schools next week. I’m planning to visit at least eight schools, and I need to do my homework. I’ve decided to take my laptop with me on the basis that all the presbyteries seem to have electricity, and there’ll be so much writing up to do that I daren’t leave it all until I come home. I’ll confuse schools one with another. And two of the schools are the worst performing in the entire district and I’ll need to be both accurate and forceful when I speak to them! So it’s a pretty concentrated couple of hours crunching all the numbers and getting straight in my mind which place is which.

Then, just when I think I’m organised and raring to go, the curse of Rwanda strikes. The head at Kavumu rings to tell me not to come tomorrow because its “National Teachers’ Day” and the school will be closed. Now you can bet your boots that if Kabacuzi secteur is closing, Kiyumba will as well. But I’ll need to ring my Monday afternoon school to confirm, and I can’t get through because of the hills. So I can’t do anything tomorrow until I’ve been to the office and checked with Kiyumba secteur.

I try to relax watching a video (“Legends of the Fall”). Wonderful scenery, but what a depressing story!

We have sixteen at the muzungu meal, and everyone is pleased to welcome Tom back. For the new volunteers it’s the first time they’ve seen him; he’s become something of a legend even before they’ve got to know him. The evening meal has become an opportunity to pass books and videos around, and most Sundays there’s something to read or take home afterwards. Kerry gives me a load of rehydration sachets. Nathan arrives with my order of bagels; they’re headed straight for the freezer if I’m going up north.

During the meal Soraya and I get plotting; tomorrow is Claude’s birthday and we’re going to give him a surprise with a cake and a “card” (see below).

There is a truly beautiful full moon tonight. On one side of the sky it is clear, with the moon rising orange through the dusty haze and eventually settly to a bright silver as it rises in the sky. On the other side, towards Lake Kivu, there are distant piles of clouds and occasional distant lightning flickering.

After the meal I walk home with LĂ©onie and Soraya and Charlotte and collect some eggs for the cake. Back at the flat I discover that the cake mix is for chocolate brownies and doesn’t need eggs after all. While it’s baking in the oven Teresa rings, and I’m trying to juggle maintaining a conversation with England and at the same time testing a hot oven to see if my brownies are cooked. (Turns out they’re scorched on top and chewy, to put it mildly, on the inside. But, hey, who cares – its chocolate cake and out here in Rwanda we’ll forgive almost any culinary disaster if the taste of choc is still recognisable!).

Off to bed while my brownies cool on top of the cooker. Another good day.

Below is the text of what Soraya and I concocted for Claude:
Time allowed: 15 minutes
1. You have three teachers to send to Scotland and not enough money for their air fares. Do you:
a. Tell them get a second job at weekend and holidays and raise the money themselves?
b. Tell them to go ahead and book their air tickets and account for it as “English training course”?
c. Tell them to go overland and start hitching lifts immediately?

2. You need 30 new classrooms for Tronc Commun classes due to start in three months’ time. Do you:
a. Tell all your schools that every teacher in the District will be dismissed unless they build 30 rooms in time?
b. Ring up UNHCR, tell them you have 3000 teenage refugees arriving in January, and ask for tents?
c. Tell all parents that you’re abolishing P1 for a year so that you can use their classrooms for Tronc Commun?

3. Kigali rings you up to tell you that they have made a mistake with the budget and that Muhanga is to be given an extra RwF 40 million. Do you:
a. Spend it on solar panels, printers and internet modems for the rural schools?
b. Buy cars for everyone working in the education part of the office, and a couple of motos for each secteur to ease the transport problem?
c. Take all the money and your family and get the first plane to England to do your Masters’ Degree?

4. Kigali has decided to do yet another reorganisation of local administration. Your existing job will disappear. You are being offered three alternatives. Which will you accept:
a. Director of Education for the secteurs of Nyabinoni, Rongi, Kibangu and Kiyuma, living at Nyabikenke on a reduced salary?
b. A post in MINEDUC on the same salary meaning you will have to commute to Kigali every day?
c. A temporary post for one year on double your current salary, working as Rwanda’s “ambassador for education” to other countries and comparing their education system to ours?

5. The 2009 concours exams for P6 are a disaster. Muhanga is the worst performing District in Rwanda, and Kigali is furious with you. Do you:
a. Tell all our teachers that from now onwards they will have to work Saturdays to improve our children’s results?
b. Dismiss every headteacher and recruit new ones from Uganda and Tanzania?
c. Analyse the results for P5 and send all pupils who are likely to fail to schools in Ruhango, Kamonyi, Ngororero etc?

Mostly (a) – you are reliable, dedicated, honest and predictable
Mostly (b) – you take risk; you are ruthless, creative; you bend the rules
Mostly (c) - you are reckless, impulsive, ambitious, self centred, driven.

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