Tag Archives: government

New Vision and the Thieves

_NewVision of the Thieves

There’s a whole story behind this photo that I don’t have, but what I do know is: this is the Local Council, a one-room building not far from Kazo Playground. The guy sitting down is the ‘Defence’.  The two young men being photographed, by a New Vision journalist, have been taken in (arrested?); their shirts are tied together. At first, I was told they were thieves. Later, someone said they were homeless and caught squatting.I never found out what they really did. Continue reading

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Preaching prejudice

Prayer mountainSundays in Kazo start noisily.

Angry yelling pastor and his clapping wailing fainting congregation start before 6am and they don’t let up till late morning – or maybe it’s later; by 11am I’ve usually hit my limit and gone to find somewhere quieter in central Kampala.

There are other distractions: rain battering our corrugated iron roof, the radio fizzling in and out of reception, someone’s phone playing crackly music, kids chanting over and over at the school opposite: LETTA A, LETTA B! TODAY IS TUESDAY! WE ARE FINE THANK YOU TEACHER MAURINE! SCHOOL FEES, SCHOOL FEES! But none of it, not even Dad’s occasional late-night liquor-induced grumbling, drives me to curse the way the shouting born-agains do. Continue reading

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A great Euro-African affair

It ended quietly, with just a relieved scattering of applause. By the time the first meeting of the Africa-Europe Youth Platform finished, the other rooms in the AU Commission building had long been deserted, its 20 floors of offices long since emptied. We came and we went; and not many people knew what it was really about, if they knew we’d been in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at all.

And what had we agreed on? A minimal set of guidelines, an idea of what needed to be done in the next months – and not much more, in the end.

For two days, some 30 of us, representing youth organisations from Europe and Africa, got together with the idea of creating a new structure that would help youth organisations from the two continents work together and represent the combined voice of European and African youth in global policy-making. 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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Learning, not burning [churches]

“All these men just hanging around doing nothing…!”, my Mum kept commenting when she visited Tanzania. It’s true. Partly because social life happens outside, and partly because Time here is a different kind of commodity – something to be shared, not jealously guarded as it is by us in the West, running around shouting about how busy we are.

By now, though, I had stopped noticing the lazing and lurking and staring; I (sometimes) enjoy the gentler approach to time. And many of these men – they are usually men – do work somewhere, during irregular hours perhaps: selling produce in the market, working in a relative’s shop, repairing things.

But even if they’re lucky enough to have that informal employment, a desperate lack of skills prevents them ever getting more than unstable, unreliable work for a minimal wage.
That skills deficit starts at the most basic level. Tanzania has made progress: the share of national income spent on education more than tripled in the last decade; in the same period, enrolment in primary schools doubled. But just being in school, it seems, is not enough. Continue reading

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The conference I wasn’t supposed to be organising

Tomorrow’s the big day. Whatever happens, I did learn a few things.

1) How to use a phone,  combining the best of Tanzanian and Western methods. In other words: If they don’t answer, keep ringing. And ringing. If they say they’ll check something and call you back, say you’ll stay on the line. Phone everyone you’re working with every day to remind them of what they said last week they would do by yesterday. Phone everyone you’re working with to check they received the e-mails you sent. Don’t bother with landlines; any numbers you find on websites are probably already out of order. Get everyone’s (three different) mobile numbers. Lose any self-consciousness about shouting down the phone. Hang up before either of you says goodbye. Continue reading

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Kicking asses

I’ve gone over to the dark side at work, preferring to hire Westerners now because I know they will actually answer my calls and will probably do the work we contract them to do. It wasn’t actually intentional. I would’ve happily worked with a Tanzanian graphic designer, even after sleazy Amour (who disappeared somewhere, the only trace an e-mail from his former boss to warn me to avoid working with him on a private basis – ha!), but those I contacted simply never answered my request. Or maybe they never received my e-mail, or didn’t open their inbox – you can never be sure.

And now when the printers fail to deliver the correct file for the third time in a row, six weeks after we ordered from them – well, my employer’s principles of sourcing locally start to feel like something they throw in just to add an extra challenge to your day.

The other side of capacity-building – one of those bits of awful development aid jargon, nicely lambasted here – is how we work with our own colleagues. Continue reading

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Bad news

“I have some bad news”, said my colleague, when I answered her call on Sunday. So she wasn’t calling to check I’d got back from Zanzibar in one piece – since there was yet another ferry sinking recently, Tanzanians are a bit nervous about boat trips. No, she had bad news, and oddest of all I didn’t get that sudden heart-sinking feeling you usually get when you hear those words, because I knew it was coming, knew all along there’d be a story from among my colleagues at some point, even dreamt a few days ago that one of them was killed in a car crash.

Not a traffic accident this time but cerebral malaria. JD, our gardener/groundsman – the one who told me just a few days ago with an earnest face that I looked good, I was getting fat – had got sick fast, had been brought to hospital and then sent home, got worse, and then died, leaving a wife and five kids behind. Continue reading

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Communication for beginners

Have I learned nothing in all the time I’ve been here?!, I wonder sometimes.

The past week I’ve been in long meetings with an experienced Belgian colleague who’s in the country for a week. With our Tanzanian colleagues we’re working on the “exit strategy” of an education project – trying to pave the way for continuation of what worked well and ensure that what’s been invested isn’t lost as soon as our funding ends next year.

So I arrive with my laptop, ready to note down action points and to-do lists and questions to be ticked off. And then struggle against the rising irritation in my lungs as people we were scheduled to meet simply don’t turn up, or are late, or sit there yawning or answering their phones. Continue reading

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How to spend it

I knew Morogoro, a small city 200 km from Dar, was a popular conference venue. But I’d no idea of the business this has spawned till this week. During the first hour and a half on day one of our workshop, word had apparently spread that customers, flush with per diems and with time to kill during breaks, were in town. So as we spilled out of the conference room for our first tea break, we were met by a newspaper vendor, a professional photographer, a stall selling jewellery and clothes, another offering cracked heel balm and aloe vera toothpaste, and a fairly unconvincing guy offering “health checks” along with appropriate herbal remedies to treat your multiple deficiencies.

Dress shopping while nipping out to the loo













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