On the way to the training site, we sat in stalled traffic while the Vice President of Zambia, who is white, drove by. I can’t remember his name, but I think he may be the only white Vice President in all of the African countries. He is appointed by the President (although there is a move afoot to have him be a running partner in future elections). He has been in office for two years, ever since the new administration came into power. The president is limited to serving 2 5-year terms. This VP goes all over the country, visiting villages. He is a strong proponent of women’s issues and programs for the disadvantaged.
Today’s session: Budget Management, was rocky. It’s hard to teach something you yourself don’t really understand. I relied completely on the facilitator manual. Thank goodness we were thorough when we drafted it!
I began the session with a quorum of 8 people. Very early in the session, the participants were paired up to analyze an operating budget and answer questions. The questions were very simple and it was supposed to be a ten-minute activity. It ended up taking an hour.
First, the manual was not printed back to back, so the pagination was off and participants couldn’t see the page numbers on every other page. Second, neither John, Vivian nor I had caught it- but the budget the participants were supposed to analyze was covered with xxs all over the numbers. Something had happened when the materials were converted from word to pdf. I had to tell people what the numbers were.
Third, people strolled in for the next hour. So other participants kept having to explain everything. God, it was a mess.
Fourth, there was confusion for some over the fact that we used both “income” and “revenue” interchangeably. There was a major snafu: When we got to the point where the table groups were supposed to make budget projections and place their calculations into an operational budget template, it turned out that a number of our calculations on the answer key up on a PowerPoint slide were incorrect. A bit embarrassing, to say the least, but they took it in good stride. They still really appreciated the activity. We had a long discussion what these private medical training institutions can do to get students to pay their tuition on time. Ideas broached and currently implemented by some: use a debt collector, refuse to let the students take exams unless they pay, have written payment plans and give people a few days deadline to pay before they will be asked to leave, etc.) It’s a terrible problem for these institutions.
The last activity of the day was on calculating the cost of training one medical student. There were three steps the groups had to take. After over an hour working on step 1, with an accountant (or two) at each table, the groups only got halfway through that step.
Rather than having the groups report their conclusions for discussion, then moving on to the next step and repeating the process- we had to talk them through the entire thing.
Actually, my colleague John did that. It was an enormous amount of lecture and I got a headache, even though he was working through materials I developed!
Apparently, even though I was uncomfortable with how the session went, they liked it and gave it high ratings.
Some comments: “more of such workshops are important as they highlight the key issue that we at times consider irrelevant.”
”The accounting figure, though not balanced, the principle was nice. Very good and good luck.”
“The workshop should be conducted at least twice a year.” ”Has been hard, but I have taken something of use and beneficial. I’ll apply: controlling expenses and involving staff in budget making. I would attend such meetings regularly.” ”It has been a worthwhile day- budgeting sessions. Especially will apply the operational budget.” A number of folks suggested that more time was needed. Yup. We could easily use another day on the topic.
That’s all for now. I need to prepare for Module 4: Financial Management. Wish me luck!