Tag Archives: electricity

A few small bananas

My third day in Nakivale, Uganda’s oldest refugee settlement, and feeling ready to move on tomorrow. Meanwhile my guide and translator, a film-maker and actor called Alex, is in his ninth year of living here. Some Rwandans I’ve spoken to have been here 16 years. Some mention those who were resettled in the US, Canada, Denmark; many have disappeared to try to make it in Uganda’s cities. Most people stay.

And they come. New arrivals — about 3000 each month — put the current number of inhabitants at 110,000. The population looks set to keep growing:  Uganda is receiving refugees from not one next-door crisis, but three: DR Congo, Burundi, South Sudan.

I’ve talked to maybe 20 people, some for five minutes, some for several hours. Olga, a warm young Congolese woman who has galvanised a group of her peers to start making and selling crafts, tells me in well-spoken French that life is better here for simple reasons: securité, liberté. We can do what we want. Many others are less positive. Yes, we could go and live elsewhere, but how can we afford to? Yes, we can set up businesses here in Nakivale, but how, without capital? Yes, we could buy better or cheaper goods from the cities, but who pays our transport there? Continue reading

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Photo fortnight

Two weeks go by fast. We didn’t do a proper exhibition in the end; the timing felt a bit too tight to select photos and get them printed before I left, partly because there was no power to use computers when we needed to. Instead, I sent the group out to do some video interviewing (luckily I had spare batteries). Day one of video worked really well – they liked getting out to a new place and asking and answering questions on camera. Day two was hard work though. The group wanted to practice by interviewing teachers and school pupils but got caught up in the labyrinthine formalities of sitting in the headmaster’s office trying to explain their reasons. Finally, the HM, as they’re known here, sent three pupils out to answer the group’s  questions, but they were all so terrified and shy that they could barely be heard on camera, while the teacher has asked them to do it all over again when they’ve had more time to prepare. It was, I guess, a useful learning experience…

So, what was the real value of all of this?  Continue reading

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A little bit of a change

Flipchart

Lots of ideas

“So how would you avoid making the same mistake as Mugabe?”

It wasn’t a question I’d expected to ask of my trainees yesterday, the staff of an organisation called A Little Bit of Hope in the nearby-ish town of Busolwe. They’d raised the Zimbabwean president’s name: we were discussing the role of a communicator and one of them had mentioned the time Mugabe had delivered a whole speech without realising he was reading out the one he’d given last month.

The point was relevant though – and a sign they both understood my questions and were volunteering their own ideas, two things I’ve learned not to take for granted. Continue reading

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Power-saving mode

On the way here, Gerald the driver told me he watches Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and The Weakest Link on BBC Entertainment. Why did so many places in England have names ending in ‘shire’ and why was she only the Queen of England if she ruled the whole United Kingdom? I didn’t know.

Busembatia is only an hour’s drive from the expat-friendly, tourist-magnet town of Jinja, but it feels far from that world.

“Bye Mzungu!” squeal all the kids.

“Mzungu – it’s that colour that you have,” a man called James explained, slowing his bicycle alongside me to introduce himself. White people have stayed here before, but that doesn’t seem to have dulled the excitement.

Resources feel precious now. Continue reading

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No to nostalgia

RainWe finished the film, even with 4+ days without power; our main actor walking off set mid-scene; and people never turning up when they said they would. We screened it on my laptop in a dark classroom on my last evening in Kazo, to about 20 people, and it was kind of special to feel proud of something that I had not done: the guys had done virtually all the actual shooting, acting, editing.

But there’d been too little time (or energy, or electricity) to do all that I could/should have done. I could have done a camera class with the teachers and P2 class, could have helped Eliab with his CV, could have helped Godfrey with his dance website and Joseph with his exam prep, could have helped Shakul and Baker create flickr accounts, could have given Poul more time on my computer to play with Photoshop, could have done more editing with Daniel, could have taught Juliette how to use Excel and Word, could have made that brochure for Ronald, could have done more photo sessions with everyone, especially the latecomers, could have pushed further on the AIDS issue that was always sort of there but never properly discussed. I could have done more for so many good-hearted, courageous people. Maybe I need to come back.

Before the nostalgia sets in, I’d better remember the worst bits. Continue reading

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Burn it

Putting the bins outJennipher (age 9) looks after me – offering to clean my shoes, bringing my tea. There’s something to be said for the hierarchy of age that reigns in this part of the world, though when it extends to gender, it’s less appealing (e.g. girls kneel before their elders when greeting or thanking them, in a sign of respect, but boys don’t).

Anyway, one evening, Jennipher takes the rubbish from my room. ‘Now we burn it’, she says, brightly.

Next thing, I find myself crouched on the garbage heap next to our house, along with Jennipher and a few other kids (younger still), all knelt over the match that refuses to light. The plastic bag I’d tied up has been ripped open and a week’s worth of my waste is scattered at our feet: empty water bottles, dirty tissues and, well, personal stuff. I can’t remember now if it’s bad to burn plastic (fumes?), but it sure as hell is a bad idea to stand in a heap of waste picking up bits of used tissues. Continue reading

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Poetry of the powerless

Candle

This power cut is ‘general’
Whole neighbourhoods are out
Transformers at Mulago
Burned sometime last night Continue reading

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(Some) Action

Schedule We have 20 scenes to shoot in a week. After a slow start, I realised that my hands-off approach might be fine for actual filming, but it damn well wasn’t working for planning. We’ll see how my schedule works out.

There’d been a general sense of surprise at how much work was involved, and more interest in taking photos of each other wearing sunglasses. (Is that an age thing, a boy thing, or a Ugandan thing?)  It’s probably going to rain now, they said. We don’t have all the actors. They won’t let us film there. There’s no power.  It’s too expensive to print out the script. Continue reading

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In their hands

Photo by Daniel

It’s been four days now, each day inevitably starting with my frustration at someone arriving an hour or two late, someone joining unannounced, or someone not turning up at all. But so far, the people I’m working with – late teens to early 20s living in the neighbourhood, many of whom have dropped out of school – have lifted my mood pretty quickly. They speak good English, some have done film-making before, and they do listen – even, some of them, to my pleas to stick to some sort of timetable.

Our resources are pretty limited: we sit on benches under a tin roof that deafens out any hope of discussion when it rains, next to a school full of endlessly chanting/screeching 3-7 year-olds; we have access to one power socket when the P1 classroom is free; and we’re relying on my DSLR plus a few point-and-shoot cameras donated by generous London friends. Continue reading

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Teaching science with a heart

“We as science teachers are feeling really tortured”, says Demetria Swai, a Biology teacher.  She’s one of only four science teachers at Moshono secondary school in Arusha: of the others, another teaches Biology, one Physics and one Maths. The school has 1000 pupils.

To fill the gaps, temporary teachers are brought in where possible. But in the meantime, Mrs Swai spends two days a week teaching at a neighbouring school – which has no Biology teacher at all.

Science education is in a bad way in Tanzania. Yet the issue that brought Swai to Dar es Salaam was not the lack of teachers but the methods they were using. Continue reading

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