A new volunteer, Kate, has arrived in Sudan who will be partnered with me in Ed Damer. Much to my relief SVP has helped to find a much more suitable place for the two of us to live in, courtesy of Griselda Tayib, who I have mentioned in a previous post. This still needs to be formally agreed by the Ministry of Education. Separate accommodation will make a huge difference to our day to day lives in Ed Damer.
Yesterday evening Kate and I were told that we should go to the Ministry of Education today to discuss our placement and accommodation at Ed Damer. After meeting with Aifa, the original brains behind SVP sending volunteers to schools (they had previously been to universities only), she took us upstairs to ‘meet the Minister of Education’. The Minister was at a meeting of the Council of Ministers but was due back shortly. While we waited we were taken to a conference room where a comedy act was in progress on stage, accompanied by Sudanese music. Kate and I were very bemused – it seemed such an unlikely thing to find in a government ministry. Following the music and comedy, there were speeches and a presentation to a young man called Ahmed who has serious physical disabilities. He was being honoured for his achievements in gaining a Masters degree and for his assistance to other disabled students. Once the presentation was over, the music started again. Everyone got up and danced in the Sudanese style, with plenty of finger clicking, clapping and linking of arms. We all joined in. It was lovely to see the Ministry’s recognition of his achievements done in such a human way. No cold commendation or medal, but a real Sudanese-style knees up. Ahmed and his mother looked completely over the moon.
Aifa then took us to the Minister’s very plush suite of offices to await her arrival. We waited in the boardroom. While we were waiting a group of people from UNICEF arrived to set up a presentation for the Minister. Kate and I both felt very small and insignificant by contrast to this vast NGO. However when the Minister arrived, and before she did anything else, she took us into a smaller office and talked to us very enthusiastically about the importance of our work in helping Sudanese teachers learn modern teaching methods and students to improve their spoken English. As with Ahmed’s presentation, the personal touch was very clear. The Minister even said that if we faced any difficulties she would be happy to speak directly to people! The whole experience made a refreshing change from the multi-layer bureaucracy we all know so well in the UK.