During our time here I am never going to be other than a middle aged white man, a status and appearance that can sometimes help and usually gets in the way. I have been working with instructors a lot recently, sitting in lessons offering advice and support. Or that is the theory; the problem is that (like Schrödinger’s Cat if I understand the quantum analogy correctly) my being there affects the whole process. The students seize up, becoming very shy and the teachers are worried that they have done something wrong. It will take a long time before I become a ‘normal’ part of the furniture.
How do we best help others to learn? How can we help others to make changes that best help them? When I was a teacher, enthusiastic encouragement and support seemed to work best, it is rarely productive to order someone to do well.
When we were training in the UK before we came out to Uganda, our trainers put great stress in the difference between teaching and facilitating, between instruction and support. I find that difference more and more noticeable. Instructors here generally know what they are trying to do, it is up to us to help them get there, or discuss the direction and support change. Mostly this involves things like:
use visual aids with students who cannot read and write (the majority on this programme); sorting out the budget line so that the motor vehicle teacher can photocopy pages from a workshop manual for his students to consult as he demonstrates; asking teachers to use examples that they know will sell in the market, that sort of thing; small steps as they say.
There was depressing article in the East African Newspaper recently, pointing out that Africa loses $58 Billion annually in debt repayments, illicit financial transactions and other illegal activities. $192 billion profit is made in Sub Saharan Africa by international companies, very little of that stays here (tax evasion mostly).
Climate change is adding an extra $10.6 billion to that cost, climate change largely caused by industrialisation elsewhere. $134 billion flows back in through loans, foreign investment and aid much of which has to be repaid, adding to the debt crisis. Some of these figures may be questionable, but the principle still remains; Africa still gives the West far more than it gets back.
Can a small programme trying to improve the skills of young people so that they earn their own living after a nasty insurgency (Joseph Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army) destroyed the economy and civil society. Can such a programme ‘facilitate’ change?
I don’t know is the honest answer. Starting at a very small scale, helping youth here to become self-sufficient, would seem to be one approach, manufacturing hardly exists anymore and you have to start somewhere. Mary has being doing a lot on market relevance recently, expect more on this soon.
The people we work with are very honest, if something is not working and not suitable we are told very clearly. So far what we are doing has, mostly, met with approval. Keep on keeping on I suppose.