Sunday, 8 November 2009

Starting Points.

Tuesday 3rd November: It's hot in Karonga. No surprise really as we're 400 miles nearer the equator than in Lilongwe and everybody is waiting for the rainy season to come. Still it's a fascinating border town, a little Wild Westy, a transient feeling of people arriving or leaving, of import and export. In the centre of the one roundabout - exits for Malawi South, Tanzania North or Zambia West - sits the chipped fibre glass model of the town's most famous resident: Malawiasaurus, reminding the traveller both of the town's Paleontological past and poential for tourism. It's like a humid Drummnadrocit - but unlike Nessie - the monster here actually existed.

We go early to the teacher training college to meet the Principal and prepare for the baseline tests that Gheneli is here to oversee. As the sun beats remorselessly down on the campus, groups of students drag their chairs from tree to tree looking for some shade in which to conduct the lesson.

Base lining is a key component in measuring the impact of the training that the young teachers are going to go through and is conducted in three distinct parts. Firstly a rigorous questionnaire which measures knowledge about HIV/AIDS and understanding about prevention. Secondly some semi-structured interviews which gives the facilitators the chance to find out a little more about individual attitudes to sex and finally a series of improvised scenes which help to explore some of the participants current behaviour patterns. None of these instruments for data collection is completely fool proof, but collectively the hope is that they give a pretty good indication of knowledge, attitude, understanding and practice of the participants prior to them engaging in the curriculum. At the end of the training the same processes will be repeated and behaviour change measured. It's the kind of quantifiable evidence that helps to attribute measurable value to the project.

Over lunch Patrick and I head for the small Museum which tells the story of the region in an ambitiously entitled exhibition 'From Dinosaurs to Democracy.' The central attraction is of course Malawisaurus himself, twelve foot long and impressive, posed in front of a rough painted tableau of dramtic volcanos.
The northern lake shore is one of the world's richest fossil sites, the rift valley bends here and that has forced ancient bedrock towards the surface making the uncovering of our prehistory possible. Patrick's impressed, but not persuaded - tapping the bones and shaking his head. Next to the skeleton is a small exhibit dedicated to our genus ancestor Homo Rudeolfensis, whose early remains have also been found a few miles south. It seems, we all came from Karonga at one time.

Back in sweltering conditions to the TTC to join in with Dan's workshop and administrate some of the baseline, before ending the evening with Gheneli and Patrick, eating fresh caught chambo and rice by the gently lapping lake, twinkling under the light of a bright full moon.

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