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Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Changing Tides

Hello all!  I know it’s been forever since my last update and for that I apologize.  Things have been busy here.  With the second health group finishing service soon, my training class (the second education group) is taking on some new responsibilities.  It’s up to us and the third health group to organize GLOW and BE camps this year.  The GAD committee* has taken on GLOW and BE preparations for the time being but eventually there will be a separate volunteer committee dedicated exclusively to GLOW and BE so that GAD can focus on other stuff.  Needless to say, there are a lot of things in process right now.

We’re also working to expand PSN, the peer support network.  PSN was initiated by the first health and education groups to arrive in Rwanda.  It started out as volunteers helping other volunteers in the field, but now PSN is increasing its involvement in volunteer trainings.  I’m a member of the GAD committee and a GAD-PSN liaison so I’ve been in and out of Kigali for meetings.  Between that and ELT-JCS** I’ve been out of site almost every other weekend.  It’s a substantial change from the slow pace of last year.

There have also been lots of changes at my site.  I met with a guy from the sector office last Thursday and discovered that my headmaster is getting transferred to another school.  Technically he no longer works at St. Dominique but his replacement has yet to arrive.  This comes at the end of a long string of massive changes: the addition of another grade level, the construction of new classrooms, a number of teachers being transferred and new ones brought in, new students getting added to the roster every week.  The changes are mostly positive, but that hasn’t made any of it any less jarring.

We’re also being micromanaged by local government administrators in new and exciting ways.  At one point I was recruited to work with an English teacher from Meredith’s school on a standard scheme of work for lower-secondary English to be used in schools all across the sector.  A scheme of work is like a curriculum but more detailed; it includes a schedule of when to teach what.  I was excited to contribute to a standard document of such importance and I went into it with all kinds of flowery ideas.  Unfortunately the teacher I collaborated with was a bit set in her ways (to put it lightly) so the scheme of work we created looked exactly like the one she uses for her own classes with the addition of a “themes” column and some suggested activities.  As with so many things in Peace Corps, I learned a lot more from the experience than I contributed, but that’s alright with me.  It was an opportunity to work closely with another English teacher, and my name is now permanently attached a document that will be disseminated by the sector office year after year.

My idea for a school library is looking less and less plausible.  The books are there, the room is there, about half of the necessary shelving is there, but with so many other things going on I can’t get access to any of it myself, much less recruit others to help me.  That too might be for the best.  I found out from the sector that there’s a plan in the works for my school to be absorbed by Meredith’s school at the beginning of next year.  Meredith’s school already has a library and a librarian, so I’d only complicate things by creating a distinct organization system and shelf list.  The best I can hope to do is begin labeling our books according to the other school’s system so they’ll be easier to organize when the two schools merge.  Since that’s the most I’ll have time to do before I leave, it’s a perfect situation.  At least that’s how I’m trying to see it.  Admittedly I feel weird knowing my school, the locus of my service, will imminently cease to exist.

Speaking of leaving, many of you have been asking when exactly I’ll finish my service.  There’s no exact date set, but as soon as the school year ends in November, we’ll start leaving in batches.  Everyone from my training class should be out by early December.  It’s all a bit unreal.  Seven-plus months sounds like a lot, and sometimes I feel like it can’t come too soon, but considering how quickly the last three months passed I’ll be back in the States before I even know what happened.

There’s still so much to do I know I can’t waste too much time looking at the finish line.  There’s GLOW and BE camps to plan, an English club to run, and my three sections of S4 to catch up to speed, not to mention my regular S2 sections of almost seventy students each.  There’s a lot going on, and I don’t plan on missing any of it.

*GAD = Gender And Development.  Last year, Peace Corps Rwanda created a GAD committee tasked with creating GAD resources for volunteers and providing support for gender-related projects.  The committee is still defining its role, but so far we’ve been working on GLOW and BE and gathering information relevant to gender and development from volunteers at different sites.

**ELT-JCS = English Language Training for Judges and Court Staff.