All entries for Wednesday 26 September 2007
September 26, 2007
Since going to Uganda I've become pretty passionate about Uganda and the consequences of aid work. For those of you who have followed this blog you will know that have debated long and hard on the value of western volunteers and intervention in Uganda. By chance I have come home to find that Channel 4 are taking an interest in Africa in their new program 'Millionaire's Mission'. Now I haven't seen it, but I've read about it. And whilst the idea is so right, the way that they have done it is so wrong. Everyone goes to volunteer with the best intentions but I do feel that people rush in thinking they know what is best without any experience of the country or the people. Channel 4 is running a program on Channel 4 called 'Millionaire's Mission' and is doing what I believe Uganda needs. They have sent young entrepreneurs to Uganda so that a rural community can benefit from their skills and experience. The idea is fantastic but the problem is that it has turned the plight of Africa into a reality tv program. The entrepreneurs spent 3 weeks in Uganda. There is no way that they can claim that they understood the complexity of the cultural situation or that they had time to plan their ventures. It is the perfect example to highlight my fears of Western projects in Africa, that we think we know what is best. In the program they set up a school where international volunteers can go and teach for 4 weeks for only £900. The idea is good because it creates a steady income for the community and it will create awareness back home about the problems in Uganda. But to launch this as a school? Would any school in Britain operate where teachers changed every four weeks? Where teachers didn't speak the local language? Where teaching was part of a holiday experience? These children might be poor and there is a shortage of teachers, but it would be better for the community to train and employ local teachers. That is truly sustainable because what happens when Africa stops being a fashionable issue and the nice international teachers dry up?
These eight entrepreneurs went to Uganda for 3 weeks and with £120,000, damn right they should have made a difference. This is precisely how we shouldn't help Africa, throwing money around isn't going to solve problems. It might help but its only through education, awareness and training that a real lasting difference can be made. Entreprenurial ventures are fantastic and Ugandans do need help, but they need help expanding on what they have and what they know. They don't need to be told how to do things 'our way'.