I had a mini melt down after chatting to a representative from the National Curriculum Development Committee (NCDC) yesterday to confirm my presentation was still going ahead tomorrow (May 25). He told me that all the attendees were ‘in the field’; and by ‘in the field’ he meant all across the country! He apologized and asked to reschedule. I wanted to scream and cry at the same time. I certainly didn’t sound very gracious and humble replying how I was currently in Kampala and had planned my two-week schedule around this meeting. He explained that most officials were conducting refresher training for the RTI School Health and Reading Program (SHARP) across the country. This made me more livid! I had been to those trainings and knew the program quite well. Some people mistakenly think I am a tutor with the program. Well funded by an international NGO – lots of resources and funding to help teach rote learning and memorisation. Such fun! The very thing I am advocating against in schools here.
Ironically, half of my presentation was going to be on the shortfalls of this reading program and a possible way forward.
That was the one goal scored by the other side.
On a brighter note, I had quite an encouraging meeting today with two representatives from USAID, the major donor of the RTI SHARP Reading Program. They were humble, willing to learn, and appreciated our discussion.
It is difficult dealing with government officials, especially when I won’t splash money their way. I also think there are significant undercurrents and resistance to positive change, especially for the poor (all government officials’ children would attend private schools, so little of what I am discussing would effect them personally).
I am trying to reschedule a meeting for a few weeks’ time with the key education players in the government. Please pray for this! Don’t give up, and I won’t either.