I have been giving workshops again. Out to Pader, a flat indistinct town that looks as though it hasn’t been started yet. VSO volunteers are expected to go by ‘public means’; usually a matatu (mini bus of some sort) or estate car taxi. A slow process with long hours waiting in bus parks. You don’t leave until the driver can no longer push anyone else in, four to a row in a car and so on; I have seen five when a thin man crouched in the foot well. Often there are people crammed in the boot on top of the luggage.
The roof rack would come into play but that is stacked to double the vehicle’s height with luggage: hundredweight bags of rice; blue tin school trunks; always several rolled mattresses; stacks of plastic chairs; livestock sometimes although goats and chickens usually go inside with the passengers. The vehicles drive fast but stop often, to squeeze in more people but also to break down. Rebuilding axles and wheel bearings by the side of road and other major surgery is common. The journey to Pader was incident free, the return less so, tyre problems/ boiling engines and an undisclosed engine difficulty that demanded a noisy smoking crawl up the hills. Still, five hours from door to door for a two hour journey wasn’t bad by Ugandan standards. A local paper put transport at eighty per cent of business costs, I was surprised it was that low, this is the dry season when travel is relatively easy, in the wet it is really bad.
TOT (training of trainers) workshops are slightly awkward affairs; a problem of NGOs own making. In the past they have given attendees what are called ‘sitting fees’; a payment for turning up. Along with a range of expenses, going to a workshop could make a reasonable sum. You can see why some people would really want to attend a training event. VSO (quite rightly) does not pay sitting fees, this makes the start of our workshops quite interesting.
The default Ugandan teaching style is nineteenth century didactic; man stands at a blackboard reading from a book, occasionally he will write something on a blackboard, students take notes. Michael Gove would love this delivery method, but none of it works with the students on our programme, few have been to school for any length of time, few have learnt how to learn.
This throws up unforeseen results; for example if you have not been taught before you think that learning is a one-off activity. Students learn the first technique of their vocational training, Flemish brick bond perhaps and think that is all they need to become a bricklayer. Not realising that learning is continuous they leave the college after a week believing they know all they need for employment. It is like the apocryphal story of the small boy returning from his first day at school and saying ‘Phew, thank God I don’t have to do that ever again!’
In these workshops we show different ways teachers can work with such students; lots of interactive teaching, games and lively group work; jolly but baffling for the traditionally taught. As the Principal in Pader pointed out to the attendees:
The Whites [us Europeans] do their teaching in a different way, they do not give out the answers, they make you do it. You will go home saying you have not learnt, but then you think for yourself, that is The Whites way’
PS: On one of our many stops on the way back to Gulu, a man appeared from the bush carrying this (dead) animal. It is an Anieri, an edible rat, a great delicacy and very expensive (about 25, 000 shillings or £5) It was a big thing reminiscent of an otter; we did not buy.