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Accountants in the Mist

Anisha (ICAEW) & Siva (CIMA)
Ahazaza Independent School, Rwanda

The unbelievable has happened: we actually found ourselves excited about accountancy again! We also think Quickbooks is the best thing since sliced bread.

Last week it was really brought home to us how different the reality of the Ahazaza school children was. Raina, in her inspired way of teaching real life to the children, decided to take 55 of the older children on a tour of Kigali, the capital city, while they were visiting for a science exhibition. She told us the story afterwards; oh how we wished we had been there to see firsthand when they discovered what modern life was like!

They had NEVER EVER before seen:
  • Traffic lights: Raina had to teach them what the red and green lights meant, and that you could only cross the road when the little green man lit up.  Muhanga doesn’t have enough traffic to need traffic control.
  • Underground car parking: Well, they had never before seen so many cars in one place, let alone a “house” specially for the cars! They were fascinated by the ticket barriers to let cars in, and by the electronic gate for privately purchased spaces, where you had to enter a code. Even the teachers had never seen anything like it before.
  • A shopping mall: They couldn’t believe how clean and polished the floors were, and that the shops all had glass fronts. In Muhanga, all the shops are like small grocery stores or little hatches crammed with goods; they all look the same with wooden open doorways, whitewashed walls and pillars outside, cement floors, barely any lighting, and a huge counter inside.
  • A supermarket: The security staff at the Nakumatt supermarket took a photo of them, because they had never before had a group of schoolchildren on a field trip to see a supermarket before! The children (and teachers) couldn’t believe how big the place was, how many varieties of product were on display, and the fact that people bought so much in one go that they needed a metal trolley to put their shopping in! They had never seen a microwave, deep freezer or refrigerator before (in Muhanga, only very wealthy households have fridges, and no-one has a freezer). Raina taught them about the checkout tills, barcodes, electronic scanners, and the little display that shows how much change you are owed.
  • A lift: Raina took the whole group to the Hotel Des Milles Collines, one of the most expensive hotels in Kigali. She showed them the lifts – they had never even imagined such a concept before! Even the teachers were scared to go in because they didn’t know how it worked (no building in Muhanga has more than two floors). Raina had to teach them all about the different buttons, and how you could EVEN go down, below the ground floor, as well as up.
And these are mainly children from the wealthier families in Muhanga!

This really shows how disconnected we in the West are from the reality of the developing world. While we are chasing more and more hi-tech ways of making our lives easier, most of the people here don’t even have running water.

Once the children came back from Kigali, we each took a class (P4 and P5) for 45 minutes until the teachers came back. It was daunting, suddenly standing alone in front of a classroom of children all staring at you and not knowing what to say!

When we told them we were not married, there was a shocked silence! They are taught very traditional values at church.

We both talked about our lives in England, how far we travel to work, where we live, and answered their questions. But they didn’t come close to understanding what our lives are like, because their own reality is so different. Life in the developed world has to be seen to be believed.

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