Dear Friends of Got Matar,
Thanks to your generous help, good progress is being made at Got Matar. This is in spite of an incident of fraud which was uncovered early in the year and led to the sacking of the General Manager of the Institute of Technology (IoT) who was found to have been helping himself to students’ tuition fee payments, as I explained in a letter to donors which was posted on the website here. The General Manager has been replaced by the teacher who has been successfully running the Car Mechanics course and safeguards have been put in place to reduce the risk of any further fraud.
It is said that every cloud has a silver lining. Even in this ‘bad apple’ case there were two positive side effects. The first was that student enrolments increased as there was presumably a strong incentive for the culprit to raise student numbers. But, more important than that, the IoT staff demonstrated the strength of their commitment to the Institute by continuing to work for 3 months without being paid while investigations were brought to a conclusion and the necessary financing freeze has been lifted. All courses (except the Information and Computer Technology course, which had been run by the culprit), were kept going without interruption and all students were retained. No funds subscribed by donors were lost.
As you may recall, the main priority at this time last year was to complete construction and equipment of the training workshop for the Beauty Therapy and Hairdressing courses. This was achieved in August and the building now houses over 50 students.
The hope for this year was also to complete the training workshop for the Food and Beverage courses that have so far been run in unsuitable rented buildings. The foundation was laid in September and construction – delayed somewhat by an unusually wet rainy season – is now progressing well. Most of the labour for construction is provided by students enrolled in the IoT Masonry courses, enabling them to gather valuable practical experience as well as to earn money with which to pay part of their tuition fees.
As in the case of the Beauty Therapy workshop, the Food and Beverage facility has to be finished to very high standards so as to provide the necessary conditions of hygiene for practical classes. Apart from easily cleaned working surfaces, floors have to be tiled and ceilings sealed. As I indicated last year, the total costs of the building and equipment will be about £50,000: of this £25,000 still needs to be raised. Finishing this workshop and getting it into operation will be the IoT’s main goal for 2020.
The Community has recently decided to set up a small nursery which it will run to look after very young children so that their mothers can continue to be trained at the IoT in skills that could improve their livelihoods and capacity to look after their children. This is of particular importance in a community such as Got Matar which has lost so many older members to HIV/AIDS who would otherwise have been available to provide within-family care. A Swiss family-run charitable foundation has kindly approved a grant of Euro 9,000 to cover construction and equipment costs. The Community will assure that the nursery is properly staffed following the systems that they have already set up for a women’s dormitory for IoT students who live in distant villages. The goal is to get the nursery built and operational very early in 2020.
As you can see, the main focus of the Community – and hence for our funding – is now on improving the facilities of the IoT. There remains a need for 5 more purpose-built training workshops and an office as well as a teachers’ room. There is also a need to increase computer availability so that eventually all students who complete a skills training course leave the IoT with a high level of computer literacy.
With the improvement of facilities and equipment, IoT enrolment has been rising: there are now over 200 full-time students. Operating costs still exceed income but the Community and IoT management are determined to bring it quickly to financial self-sustainability. This implies gradually raising tuition fees and increasing the sale of goods and services.
When we first approached donors for assistance in late 2006, it was to build the secondary school and you responded with great generosity. It was built, as planned, in 4 years, with the first students graduating in 2010. The school, planned for 600 pupils, now has more than 800 enrolled students, and the 2,000th student came on board in 2019. Standards of education compare well with the best schools in the district and many students have gone onto higher education and have entered the job market. It would be very difficult to measure the impact that the school that you helped to create has had on the local economy and society, but it has without doubt been big.
The secondary school has largely weaned itself from donor dependence. This year the only support that we have provided has been for the bursary programme that helps well-qualified children – mainly orphans – to study at the school, but this is being gradually phased down with the engagement of the Community. One reason for down-sizing the bursary programme is that there is a growing local capacity (especially among Got Matar Alumni) to finance bursaries. The other is that, as it was fiendishly complicated to manage a programme with individual donor sponsorship, Roberta and I decided a few years ago to pick up the tab. We are now both in our late seventies and don’t want to pass the obvious risks related to our life expectancy onto bursary holders and so have reluctantly agreed with the Community’s Bursary Committee on a phasing down of the programme. In 2018 there were 160 bursary holders, with 40 new entries. In 2019 new entries were cut to 30, and we have just agreed to fund 20 new entries in 2020, bringing the total number on board to 124. Anything that we save on the bursary programme will be given to the IoT development programme.
I have only mentioned this because the Bursary Committee is very keen to keep a programme going that would provide at least one bursary each year for each of the 10 primary schools in the Got Matar area. We would be delighted if someone younger than us – or a group of sponsors – would tell us that they would be prepared to take this on from January 2021. It would imply eventually financing 40 ongoing bursaries each year at a cost of Euro 100 per student per year, or Euro 1,000 in the first year, rising to Euro 4,000 from the 4th year onwards.
This may seem a lot of money – as it is – but it has to be put in perspective. The cost of sending a child to the boarding school in England, where I and our sons were lucky to be able to study, is now over £40,000 per year. This is ten times as much as it costs to give bursaries that enable 40 orphans to study for a year at the secondary school. It also is enough to build a whole new training workshop for the IoT that can be used by 50 students!
If you are interested to pick up the baton on the bursary programme or fund a workshop, please let me know and I will brief you on the operational details.
Each year when I write to you, I feel that donor fatigue might reasonably be setting in after 12 years of engagement. But then I pick up courage to nag you again because I believe we offer a really good opportunity for people who want a fairer world to invest in creating a better future for young and very poor people in Africa. This year has told us that there are risks, but I still feel very confident in the Got Matar Community Development Group’s ability to deliver top quality education programmes with great efficiency. The strength of the programme is due mainly to the fact that it is planned and run by the Community and not dreamed up by outsiders! There is a very strong sense of local ownership.
Success is also due to the help we receive from highly experienced registered charities based in Italy and UK in receiving and managing donations. Associazione SONIA, founded and run by our friend Vanda Altarelli, manages donations made in Euros. Ace Africa (UK) plays a similar role in relation to funds subscribed in pounds and other currencies and, in addition, its Kenya branch (Ace Africa (Kenya)) mentors the staff of the Got Matar Community Development Group. If you want to donate, please use the forms provided on theGot Matar website (www.gotmatar.org). The SONIA form is at www.gotmatar.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/SoniaDonatev9.pdf and the Ace Africa form can be found at: www.gotmatar.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/GMDonate10.pdf
You are welcome to share this ‘report’ with friends and relations who you feel might be interested in this venture.
Andrew & Roberta