Home Articles An anthropologist's story of Katine
An anthropologist's story of Katine PDF Print E-mail
(0 votes, average 0 out of 5)
User Rating: / 0
Saturday, 30 October 2010 12:31

I have worked in eastern Uganda for a number of years and have published on the history, politics and religion of the area. This should have given me a good sense of what to expect when the Katine project started in 2007. But, looking back, I now see I was pretty naive. I remember visiting Katine a year into the project. I wanted to see Amorikot primary school. A lot had been written about the school on the Katine website, and I was taken there on the back of a motorbike, by the journalist Richard M Kavuma, on a Saturday afternoon. I went to look at what had been built: the floors, the walls and the toilets. To this untrained eye, the school looked OK. It had been built to a decent standard. And yet, I felt let down. I wanted it to be perfect.

Development appears simple. When a fundraising newsletter comes through the door or an email arrives in your inbox, you are told that you can bring about change. "Give £5 a month and educate a child"; "Give £8 a month and train a community health worker". The five-minute video during a Comic Relief telethon makes it all seem so easy. All you have to do is pick up the phone. The focus is on what can be achieved. What you are not told is how difficult development is, or that things might be less than perfect. You might find that local politicians are not co-operative. They may challenge you on your work or ask for a kickback. You may find yourself in a divided community, which means your work is not properly supported.

So what does it actually mean to get a school built in a place like Amorikot? It means dealing with local government, with the people who live there, and with building contractors. In the case of Amorikot, the problems were with the company contracted to do the work. The contractor worked too quickly and at a distance.

What makes Katine remarkable is that you get to see the story of Amorikot in detail. Anyone with internet access can click here see how the school was built. You are shown that the process was less than perfect. You also see how the experience of Amorikot changed the way schools were built later on, with Amref moving towards a more community-based approach. You can look at budgets, read project evaluations, see the comments of development experts on education and criticism by members of the public.

Katine shows that doing development on the ground is a complicated business. It depends on a number of things, some of which you can influence, some of which are beyond your control. The classrooms built at Amorikot are a lot better than what was there before, but the school also needs good teachers, which is the responsibility of the Ugandan government. A recent article on the website reveals that Yoweri Museveni's administration no longer plans to send teachers from government schools to "community schools" such as Amorikot. This means many schools in the area will lose good teachers, and pupils will suffer as a result. In seeing all of this, you come away from Katine with a much better understanding of development work, appreciating the gap between the promise on which NGOs raise funds and what is possible on the ground.

At times, you could also argue that having an insight into this complexity makes it difficult to see what has actually been achieved.

At the start of the project, only 42% of people in the sub-county had access to clean water. By September 2010, clean water coverage had increased to 69.9%. Next year that figure is expected to rise to 85%. In education, by the end of the third year of the project Amref had built 16 new classrooms, provided more than 5,000 textbooks and delivered 1,100 desks. The project delivered on its promise to create an "improved teaching and learning environment".

In agriculture, new varieties of cassava were introduced by the NGO, Farm-Africa. This helped people get through a drought in 2009. The village savings and loans associations, supported by Barclays and two NGOs, Care International and Uweso, have encouraged people to save money and start new businesses. By the middle of 2010, people had banked more than £22,482 in these associations. (To put this into some sort of perspective, this was more than six times the amount people paid to local government in tax.) In health, the number of people reporting for HIV testing went up from 1,278 to 4,357 in the space of a year. The percentage of under-fives immunised rose from just over 40% in 2007 to almost 100% in 2009. These numbers are important.

The project has lasted three years, in which time we have got to know a lot about Katine – enough, certainly, to appreciate what it has meant to achieve these things.

What I will take away from Katine above all is its openness. For the first time, the complicated reality of doing a development project has been brought to a wider audience. Journalists have reported failures as well as successes. Amref has put its work on the website for people to see, unedited and unvarnished; commentators have raised questions about the sustainability of the project; people have blogged, offering advice; and journalists such as Richard M Kavuma and Joseph Malinga have explained the situation in their country.

The Katine project suggests a different way of reporting development. It shows that you can engage with one place in a poorer part of the world, over a period of time, and gain an insight into the challenges it faces, which is simply not available if you fly in and out. You come to see not only how complex everyday life can be for the people there, but also how their lives intersect with a local education system that does not work well, or with government policies that work against their interests. And, in this, you begin to see why development is both difficult and necessary.

• Ben Jones is a lecturer in the school of development studies at the University of East Anglia. He has written a number of articles on the Teso region of Uganda, in which the Katine sub-county is situated, for the Katine website. You can download his final assessment report on the project here.

This is not a news report and may contain views expressed by the author which are not supported by GNM.

Courtesy to guardian.co.uk.

Comments (0)
Only registered users can write comments!

Bookmark and Share