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Email: / Phone: +31 (0)20 673 4774 / Mobile: +31 (0)6 520 66 499

What do you do when your training is interrupted by gunfire?

It’s not every day that your training is interrupted by gunfire and it threw up an interesting professional dilemma – and not one you’ll find in many Training of Trainers handbooks. What do you do? Ignore it and go on? Take a break and then forget it?

I was about half way through a TOT course for Internews in Nairobi last month when we heard shots in the street outside. We were on the 12th floor so were not in any danger ourselves.

There was a couple of minutes of disorientation and then we all flocked to the windows. The die-hard journalists in the group (including myself) grabbed our phones and started tweeting, torn between the urge to find out what was going on and the urge to report what we were witnessing. A strange thought went through my head: “It’s a pity we’re not doing a course on journalistic ethics…”

After a while we decided to take an early lunch break and although it was an unsettling experience, we carried on – more or less – undeterred in the afternoon.

But the incident (three people shot dead as police chased alleged armed robbers. At least one of those was a woman caught in the crossfire) cast a shadow over us for the coming days.

Lesson learnt? You can’t just ignore ‘outside’ events. You have to clear a little space and talk about what’s happened. And you have to come back to it until the shadow gradually disperses. And that’s being professional – because the training room is not a self-contained universe…

Next week Zimbabwe…

By Abi Daruvalla