Saturday, 27 February 2010

It's Bicycle Repair Man!

This friendly guy operates out of a shack at the top of my road.  He has absolutely no English but always acknowledges me with a smile and a wave of a spanner as I go by.  There is often a crowd of kids around him as he repairs punctures, fixes brakes or inflates tyres for them.  Most times he is crouched down in this position with bits of bike strewn around him.  Either side the double doors are rusty old heaps for sale and one smart, black shiny bike - his.
About a third of the way down the road towards my house is Akhil Motors where they mostly repair Ambassador taxis.  I've mentioned them before.  This mouldering green Ambassador has seen better days but, unlike the car just out of shot, it at least has its doors, windows and wheels.  The other car has donated pretty much everything apart from the shell and is slowly disappearing under a pile of filthy old oil filters.
Here are some of the jewellery items made by the older students working in SISP's Stitching Unit.  They're made from old glossy magazines, PVA glue, Superglue, and a lot of effort.  The boys first roll the paper into a thin tube, like a paper straw, which is held together by a smear of PVA glue.  Later, once dry, the tubes are flattened, bent, and twisted into curls and whorls which are fixed with a liberal dose of Superglue.  Finally, the creations have ear ring fittings and wire hoops attached.  We sell them to tourists who visit the workshops on Friday lunchtimes, or via orders placed by the sponsor organisations in Italy, Belgium and The Netherlands.

There was a SISP staff meeting last Friday and I was the only volunteer invited along.  SISP President Paul Van Gelder announced a pay rise for all staff of 22% across the board which was greeted by much applause.  It will cost SISP an extra Rs.50,000 a month - up from Rs.150,000 to Rs.200,000.  He said that food prices had risen 20% in the last year, hence the size of the rise.  The teachers have been pressing hard for increases for at least the last year.  Paul has always declined, saying that if he gave them a rise he would have to give it to everyone but it's now a new year and a new budget.

Male staff tend to be vocal in their claims, while female staff tend to be very passive.  Our social workers are all women, as are the workshop coordinators and most of the full-time workshop staff.  Four of the six full-time teachers are male and only one is over the age of thirty.  Trouble is, the male teachers claim that their pay has dropped behind that in the profession.  It's made a tricky balancing act due to the huge variation in teachers' salaries in the private schools, and by the consistently higher salaries in the public schools (jobs in the public sector are highly sought-after and are too often gained through personal contacts and back-handers - corruption, in other words).  One of our best teachers (male) left just before Christmas for a better salary in a public sector job, gained by merit, I hasten to add.  I guess time will tell whether the remaining teachers are satisfied with their pay rise or not - but unfortunately disrupted education will be the price paid if they aren't.

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