donderdag 12 mei 2011

The Ministry of Education: A short blog on understanding how things could possibly go wrong in a development country.

My first day at work started great: the building of the ministry of education looks beautiful on the outside, with a garden around it and an old fountain in front. Not very well maintained, but hey its an old building. Until I walked in and discovered this building does not only have people as inhabitants.

First there are all the old stuffed animal heads on the walls in the staircases. Old scruffy boars, buffalo’s, and dear all stare at you when you walk up the stairs. In every corner there are old dusty chairs, broken desks, old files, maps and paperwork. It’s dark and dusty… and it smelled as if some people have used the corners as a toilet (I discovered why when I found the real toilets). And then some parts of the ceiling have fallen down, taking with them a whole bunch of bat shit (nobody really takes the effort to clean what came down). These bats apparently live at the top floor of the building. Walking along these hallways avoiding the hundreds of electricity wires hanging around I could not help but laugh to myself. Is this really an official government building?

Above the main entrance of my section some pigeons have build their nest. Me and Raj from VSO walked in and got welcomed by Hari, the chief of the section and my counterpart. He called together the 7 people that work in the section and welcomed me. Tea was brought in and there was some small talk. And then they showed me my workplace: a small desk in a cubicle right next to the entrance door (yes, I can hear the pigeons from my workplace). No computer, and not too much daylight unfortunately. I went to work, installed my laptop, created a gmail account (everybody uses gmail). And then… what?

The first three days everybody assumed I knew exactly how to get started with my new job. I decided to first orientate myself and quietly get used to my new office place: read some documents on the ministry and drink tea with my colleagues to get to know them. Days go fast: you start 10 o'clock, tea time is at 11 and at 13 o'clock it’s an hour lunch break. The loadshedding starts at 14 or 15 o'clock (which means no more power for the rest of the day!!). Computers shut down and people start drinking tea again and read the newspaper until it’s time to go home at 17:00.
At the end of the third day I decided it was time for me to get out of my cubicle and talk with my big chief and counterpart Hari. I asked him if he knew some small things I could start working on in our section. His answer was: ‘Actually everybody in the Program and Policy Analysis Section is just doing administrative work’, and then he said secretly ‘we are more like a post office!’ Apparently he thought that was funny. He did not want to bother me with that kind of work! No, my work would be to collect AND analyze ALL policies the ministry of education have made in the last years. And if I also could be so kind to analyze the financial systems of some other ministries of education in the world and report this back to him.

Conclusion: this section is called the Program and Analysis Section, and on my third day I discovered that my job would actually be to DO the things this section is actually meant to do! I walked out of the ministry and decided I seriously needed a drink…

The next day I got started on this huge task. It seems enough to keep me going for even three years: collect all policies, document them, see who made them, if they are approved and if they are being implemented. The financial assignment I decided to ignore for now. Firstly: I will write a toolkit on analyzing policies within the Nepali context. Secondly: I will create a some kind of documentation and analyzation on policies within the ministry. The toolkit I will make myself but at the same time try to get my stamping colleagues to familiarize themselves with it. The second document I will try to make together with these colleagues once we both know how. This all to make sure that when I leave they will be able to do it themselves and have my toolkit to fall back on.

A small plan is made, and it seems like a nice idea. I will keep you informed on how it works in reality!

1 opmerking:

  1. Wow, sounds like you can really make a difference there. I hope they cooperate.
    Greets Gabrielle