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I spent the last week in Arua ( Africa’s second best town ) delivering training on Performance Management : how to use Excel; working a management information system; helping Arua Technical Institute start developing their strategic plan.
Our drive there was made more enjoyable by seeing 2 elephants crossing the road in front of us on the main Kampala – Arua road. Where else in the world do you regularly see elephants crossing by the side of the road as you are going past?
The training was all quite intensive especially the session on data management, some of the participants don’t have access to computers, their Excel skills were rusty and everybody had different versions on their computer.
As ever the Principals and instructors in West Nile enjoy detailed discussions and we veered off at one point into a discussion on why there were more student strikes in secondary schools than technical colleges. Strikes are a common feature in Uganda and can be very violent, attacking teachers ‘chasing them away’ and damaging property (usually the student dormitories or administration blocks ). One theory was that, in technical colleges there was a closer connection between staff and students, but we could have gone on all day!
On our programme there have been, to my knowledge, several strikes about food /lack of and poor quality, there is always the worry that if food is not produced the students will riot.
As ever the feedback from the training was that participants wanted more time, that more people should get the training. This is tricky, our programme is coming to an end, but the wider point is that staff in technical institutes (these are from public schools where it is a requirement to be teacher trained) do need a lot of capacity building and our intervention has only scratched the surface .
It wasn’t all work . Winnie and I managed to get to the pool at a local hotel for a couple of hours on our last day and she enjoyed practicing her swimming.
We also went out to a pork joint with our colleagues. Arua is noted for its pork and it’s a tradition that when we go there we have to visit at least one.
I enjoyed some early morning walks around the old golf course which is now used as a green space for football games in the evening and a swimming place for the local kids.
Arua is really developing there has been a lot of work on the roads in the two years I have been coming, buildings going up all over the place although a number of older buildings remain, I presume from the colonial era. The hotel we stay at, Desert Breeze, is a large 4 storey building always full during the week with people from NGOs, missionaries and government departments visiting for work . We arrive on a Monday and then depart back to Kampala or Gulu on a Friday.