Today I delivered my first workshop at Pakata High School. Once they had remembered I was coming and sent a driver to ‘pick’ me, I had a brief chat with the vice principal who clearly was not impressed by my catering arrangements for the workshop I was about to deliver in a few hours time.
I told him I had budgeted for a bottle of water and biscuits for the 50 people or so that I had heard were due to attend. This would not do! (though it ‘did’ last week at Moremi!). We trekked across the road to where a woman had a huge pan of oil boiling on an open fire – with no ingredients in it yet, but a toddler standing close by!. After a short negotiation, she agreed to make 50 egg rolls (Doughnut with an egg in it ) by 2pm for 50 naira each (about 20p). I forked out the money, hoping that her snot dribbling offspring would be playing no part in the food preparation. We then drove off towards the city centre in search of 50 cans of soft drink, a pack of serviettes and some ice blocks. All this was because it was suggested to me, the success of the workshop would in no small way be gauged by the quality of the catering; they all expected a ‘snack’ and the drinks to be chilled.
Two hours later after visits to many roadside stalls and shops - even to a senator’s house where it was alleged that ice blocks could be bought, we arrived back in school and I was left to prepare for the afternoon session – until four pupils came into my office clearly wanting to chat and remind me that they wanted me to take them to the UK when I next returned home!
The training was scheduled to start at 2.15pm , the first participants arriving at around 2.30 and drifted in over the following twenty minutes, some with babies strapped to their backs. This I sort of expected but had not bargained on the first twenty minutes of the session being set aside for the snack. And I knew we had to start with prayers, so how did this fit in with them eating? This is a potential minefield! We got underway at about 3pm and things went fine until about 3.55 when an activity I had planned turned out to contain rather a contentious issue and there was loud discussion which threatened to continue indefinitely. I thought things were going from bad to worse when a few men got up and left. Surely ‘Values and Attitudes in Education’ can’t be that contentious an issue here! I think God came to my rescue as I realised it was at 4pm that the menfolk started to get up and go – the call to prayer had begun. I thought it was all over and so packed away my stuff. Just as I was preparing to leave, some people came back for the rest of the session. Maybe they had prayed the second half of my presentation would be better than the first and were returning to see whether or not Allah was smiling on them and their prayers had been answered! There was clearly a mismatch of expectations at play here and something I need to address next time I am at Pakata.