Case history 2 - Nick Moss

Nick Moss was "berated" in public

The Times, London, May 2, 2000

AS A 21-year-old graduate Nick Moss thought he would be helping Africa's poor when he enrolled at Travelling Folk High School in Juelsminde, western Denmark. But after six disastrous months in Angola he concluded Tvind was more interested in its own status and power than alleviating world poverty, and has since publicly campaigned against the organisation.

Within a week of arriving at Juelsminde Moss, from Hull, became suspicious of the teaching methods. Older teachers employed classic manipulative techniques to pressurise young students and make them conform to their own ideology, he says. "There was a tendency among the members of the Teachers Group to control the intellectual and social interaction of students. Intimidation, shouting people down and the manipulation of group dynamics in a way I can only describe as Stalinistic were common techniques." Moss himself was "berated" for "not participating enough" in a debate and subjected to ridicule before other students, apparently because of his university education. "My teacher was offensive and threatening. I put up with it because I thought it would all work out when I got to Africa."

Moss spent weeks raising funds, selling postcards on the streets in Germany, before arriving in Angola in February 1996. There things were even worse. Volunteers had to share a house in isolated Mosquito Valley, with poor security and no electricity, though Danish project leaders lived in better conditions in the local town, Benguela. The team's radio rarely worked. "Bullets regularly flew over the roof as armed guards defended the surrounding banana plantations from theft. We had not been prepared for any of this."

Within a week of arriving he contracted malaria but claims that a project leader did not take him to a clinic for five days. During four bouts of malaria his temperature hit 41C, but he saw only a local doctor and on one occasion was told he would have to send a fax to Denmark before other treatment could be authorised. "Young people who go to Africa with Tvind are placed at unnecessary risk," he says.

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