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The not-so-Grand Finale April 2, 2007

Posted by isabelleinnamibia in Communication, Eco-goodness, Gender, Out of the city, Raaah!, The job.
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It’s been a pretty exciting week out in Ovitoto, as it was the last week of our project. All the money had to be spent by Friday 30th March and so we had a week of energy-fabulous and environmental-brilliant activities. To help us do this, we hired the Energy-Demonstration Trailer from the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia (DRFN), which we had used previously for our Home Garden and Shack Insulation Training back in November. It’s a great piece of machinery. Entirely powered by solar and wind energy, the trailer demonstrates different ways to use alternative technology. It has a computer with speakers (for showing movies, both educational and for fun), all sorts of exciting energy meters for demonstrating the amount of energy used by different appliances, and a colourful display of energy-saving light bulbs. It also comes with a range of simple appliances, to show how a small solar unit could be used to run a profitable and energy-efficient phone-charging/hair-dressing/cooking business, or in the home for basic refrigeration (Namibian’s are crazy about cold drinks), music or lighting. There is also two solar cookers and a tso-tso stove. All in all, it is a nifty and incredibly informative information-centre-on-wheels, which is the main focus for our activities this week. Getting the trailer, the benches, army tent (shading which won’t fly away), the flip chart pads, the awareness materials, myself and Milly and all our stuff up to Ovitoto was tricky but we managed to arrive safely on Tuesday afternoon. I felt things were fitting into place nicely and was feeling very positive about the week’s events.

 

Playing teacher

Wednesday morning, we had arranged with Mr Kazombiaze, the local school’s Life Science teacher, to have the Grade 7 and 8s down to the ECO-C for an informative and interactive field trip. He said they would be there for first period, at 7am. I was up at stupid-o’clock, and walked to the centre in the chilly pitch-black to start preparing by 6am. As I rarely see this time in the morning, I was astonished at how dark it was and also how cold it was. I also felt a bit guilty as I slipped out the school gate to see that the kids were already up, dressed and downing their breakfasts – they must’ve been up at 5!

The first group didn’t arrive until almost 9am – I really need to get down with the African time-keeping. The morning went well, with Milly, Tjono and I showing the kids around our ECO-C, introducing them to the concepts we are promoting and following up themes that they were studying in the curriculum. Having reviewed their curriculum, I had drawn up some ideas for the Observation Sheet that the teacher was preparing for them to complete during the visit. I received a copy the day before; it is clear that he took a few of my ideas on board, but managed to phrase them in the most incomprehensible way, that I was unsure what the answers would be, let alone how to present them to the learners. At least I understood why some of the kids were coming out with such strangely phrased questions.

The first group took far longer than expected, as their teacher kept interrupting and demonstrating his unusual teaching method of asking the same question and repeating himself on the same minor point for 10 minutes. Although we appreciate his knowledge, not all of it was right, and far from wanting to correct him in front of his class of 70, I carefully suggested that he took an apple and some cold water and relaxed in the shade. The kids also asked more questions and were less inhibited with the teacher out of the way. All in all, it was a terrifically positive morning, and am glad to have had the chance to build up more of a rapport with some of the kids.

We also had a visit from our donors, the UNDP GEF, who are keen to check that we are doing what we say we are in the reports. A sea of excited faces of attentive learners certainly bought us some brownie points. It looks like we will be a case-study in an up-coming UNDP report. Very exciting.

 

That evening, I collected the Grade 7 and 8s who stay at the school hostel (kind of like boarding, but without the care) after dinner, and took them to the centre to watch a movie on the computer, totally powered by solar and wind energy. “
Madagascar” was the film of choice and went down pretty well, considering the concept of a lion, zebra, giraffe and hippo being kept in a zoo in the middle of the city and being clueless when they arrive in the wild is pretty far removed from Ovitoto life. At least it was a change from hanging out in the dusty school yard, or the glass-strewn football pitch, or their dorms with the broken beds and windows.

Prophecy fulfilled

Thursday was Tjono’s Big Day. He was to facilitate his own workshop. For weeks, I had been prepping him for it; drawing up the concepts to be presented, introducing participatory teaching methods to him, checking he felt the content was relevant, translating it into Otjiherero and drawing up a lovely, clear flip-chart presentation as a teaching aid. The workshop had been advertised on the radio for weeks, appealing to the Traditional Councillors of each village to nominate a trainee for this workshop. By Wednesday, we had no names, but Tjono reassured me that a few of his mates were keen and that “people will come”.

By 9am, we were ready and prepared for the workshop to begin. Except no trainees had come. We waited some more. “Ah, people, they will come”, reassured Milly and Tjono.

If you read one of my previous entries about a recent training I was running, I mentioned my fear of sitting alone in a field, under a tree, prepared for a training but with no trainees. This actually didn’t happen when I anticipated it, but instead hit when I least expected it. At least I wasn’t alone though. Tjono, Milly and two silent teenage boys who I reckon should have been in school sat with me at the ECO-C, waiting patiently in the shade. To pass the time, I set off to source some rice and eggs so that we could experiment with the solar cookers, which brought us great excitement when they actually worked.

At 1.30pm, a car pulls up and a trainee steps out. Four and a half hours late. It then turns out that the two silent boys are in fact here for the training too. A bakkie carrying some of Milly’s relatives cruises by, shouting that they too will come back for the training. By 2pm, they are not there, so we begin with our 3 trainees. It is all in Otjiherero, so apart from knowing what the flip-chart says and the waving around of energy-efficient light bulbs, I’m not entirely sure what is going on. Milly tells me that Tjono is doing a great job. I am relieved.

At 3pm, two guys turn up for the training.

“You’re 6 hours late”, I simply state.

“No, we are here for the training. You must train us”, they demand.

I go on to explain that, well, yes, you are late, and no, I don’t have to do anything, and then ask them politely to come back the next day for the Open Day.

“But we want our $20. We have come for the training. And you must give me a certificate…”, one demands, as he is distracted by a plate of biscuits laid out for the trainees that turned up at a slightly more reasonable hour.

Disappointed from the poor turnout, and highly offended by these demands, I turn them away, again asking them to come the next day, biting my lip so as not to bring the project a bad reputation. I have learnt that it is just a cultural idiosyncrasy that people often say “you must…”, “give me…” and make other such demands. And despite this knowledge, and that I come across it everyday, and that anthropologically I should understand that it is just the way they do things, I still find it overbearingly rude and that it is one of the main things here that really wind me up.

I promptly packed up my things and left the centre and walked up the long, hot sandy road to my room. I didn’t understand anything that was going on anyway.

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