Monday February 15th
Maseru – TY
Enterprising People – both Good and Bad
Myself and Trisha (who also chairs the local Board) were meeting with the Hub’s Directors this morning to establish their commitment to making the Hub work. We know from hard won experience that there is very little impact we can make, or sustain, from Ireland without their support, and to use the colloquial term we are not interested in just ‘p*&%ing in the wind’.
Both local Directors are from SchoolNet Lesotho (SNL), Nelson is the headmaster of a large secondary school and Malefetsane has just retired from being Head of the National Curriculum Development Unit in the Department of Education. I genuinely like both men and find them competent and hugely committed to the ideals of Camara. However to make anything work in Africa, you need ‘blood, sweat and tears’ – the blood and tears we have had but now we wanted to find out about the sweat. The meeting went well, skillfully led by Trisha and we left with a renewed sense of hope. Next stop was a visit to the Hub in TY, a place which I described in detail in my diary entry last year (excerpt below):
‘Thursday July 2nd 2009
Maseru – TY
A Horrible Day
Some days are bad days. This one was very bad. ………… I went to visit the Lesotho Hub for the first time since August 2008 when I had last saw it as just a shell that our volunteers had helped paint. The good news – there were lots of computers there. The bad news – there were lots of computers there, about 800 Camara machines in total (with revenue potential to the Hub of some €40,000) waiting to get sent out to schools. There were other problems: lack of volunteers, poor technical capacity; lack of documentation; no training programs; and limited marketing or follow-up with the schools. The Hub was also quite messy with stuff scattered everywhere (also not a good sign) and no obvious systems in place. I was not happy.’
One of our volunteers subsequently reported finding a rat inside one of the computers but luckily it was dead!
The first thing I noticed was that there were far fewer computers lying around the Hub. Many had been sold but unfortunately much of the money received from the schools had not reached our bank account! We also heard about one enterprising volunteer had also set up a side business for himself in selling cheap computers to students in the National Health Training Centre. He would take the computers outside the front of the workshop to clean with an air-blower and would have arranged for a taxi to periodically drive buy and pick them up. Unfortunately for the Hub he had neglected to let them know he was doing this! A short chat with the local police stopped this little enterprise but no money or computers were recovered.
For every negative there is a positive, and when we arrived at the Hub there was a real buzz about place. Despite all the chaos and bad management, a local women called Mary had set up a teaching centre and was training over 50 local people in basic computer skills. They had each paid the Hub 120 Malotti (€12), and they would come during Hub opening times (8am to 7pm) to receive instruction and practice their skills. One women, who was getting paid a small fraction of what our last CEO had received, had done this and had demonstrated to me again that every time you despair in Africa you meet people who fill you with hope for the future.