Uganda 2018 Day 9: Painting the Forth Bridge

It was a relative lay in for me today, but for the CM Sports group it was an early start. They were up for a 7.00am start with Mongoose trekking followed by a walk in the Rwenzoris and then a visit to Rihamu Junior School.

Mrs Green and I were afforded the luxury of a leisurely breakfast at Tembo before we set off for New Life Junior School. The school was founded by Yowasi and is located behind the family home. Mrs Green was going to be doing some teaching about co-ordination and fine motor control. There wasn’t anything really arranged for me, so I spent most of the morning sitting around trying to support Mrs Green where I could. Bea McIntosh had joined us once again and was working with Mrs Green – they have formed a very close bond. Bea has just returned from a year of teaching in Cambodia. Between them, they had the children in the palm of their hands, and the pupils were soon patting their heads while rubbing their tummies, bursting bubbles and swapping hands between nodes and ears. There was one boy who didn’t have the use of both arms and I think was autistic. When Bea started a game where she threw each pupils a ball and they had to give a word related to a letter in the alphabet, one of the teachers said that he wasn’t capable of doing it. Bea immediately threw the ball to the pupils who caught it in his good hand and gave a fantastic answer. I was so pleased for him.

Yowasi’s wife, Ruth, made us a nice lunch and then we headed down to Katunguru where Mrs Green and Bea were going to give another talk about sanitation. I was (once again) at a loose end so I asked Ramathan if there was anything he wanted me to do. He asked me to help P7’S with their English revision which was basically SP&Good and based around sentence construction. This was not my idea of fun, so I spent some of the time taking the mickey out of the pupils who were all in P2 when I first visited Katunguru six years ago. I also pulled the exam paper apart as the examination board had made many mistakes. Sweet potatoes was spelled ‘sweat potatoes! ‘

At the end of the two hours I was really pleased with what the children had achieved and I had marked all their work saving Ramathan a job. Mrs Green was carrying out some research so I caught up with Ramathan for a little while before we dropped Bea home.

Now to the title of this blog post. Regular readers of my Uganda blog will know that I regard the Katunguru – Kyambura Road as the worst in Uganda. However, this year there has been a bit of a change. There has been a team of workmen filling the holes on a daily basis and they have covered a distance of about 5km during the time I have been in Uganda – these guys work really hard. I have made a point of sticking my head out of the window every time I pass them and encouraging them. The unfortunate thing is that as soon as they finish, they will have to start again as the repairs they have carried out will last a matter of months. Hence the similarity to painting the Forth Bridge, as soon as they finish, they will have to start again!

When we returned to Tembo we found the others who’d had another good day. The visit to Rihamu had inspired all of them while also making them all think about how lucky they were. The headteacher, Shakily, had taken them to see where they allowed 25 orphans to sleep. Katie F was adamant that she could make a real difference to the school and I think the visit had little a real fire under her.

Tomorrow, The CM Sports group have a day off while Mrs Green and I go back to New Life and then have a meeting with Stephen Both, the District Education Officer.

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Uganda 2018 Day 8: The Bubonic Plague

I look like I’ve got the Bubonic plague! After pretty much leaving me alone for the opening week of the trip, they have come back with a vengeance and decided that feasting on my arms, legs and back isn’t enough entertainment, so they have decided to have a go at my face as well. One side of my face is slightly swollen with all the bites, I have a number of ulcers and the skin on the back of my neck looks like a rhino’s as I caught the sun during the Conservation Cup (I did wear sun screen). In short, I feel like Quasimodo!

The others were up early this morning as they were going on a game drive which started at 06.30. Mrs Green and I went to Tembo for breakfast and then headed out to Kafuro. We made a stop at Kichwamba to pick up Bea McIntosh who was staying at Yowasi’s house. Bea and Mrs Green were going to give out sanitary products and talk to the female pupils about sanitation.

 

I was also talking about sanitation with Stephen, the headteacher. As you can imagine, school toilets in Uganda are pretty grim. They are effectively holes in the ground covered by a concrete slab with a hole in it. Without trying to be too crude, if you aim and miss there’s an awful mess plus with the heat the smell is pretty awful. Stephen was telling me that the sub-county should empty the pits each year, but they don’t have the funds to do so. As a result, the pits for the girls latrines are nearly full and they have a major problem. There is a short term and a long term solution. The short term solution is to dig additional pits and build new toilet blocks. Because our children had raised so much money this year, I was able to buy Kafuro a year’s internet data and still give the school 200,00UGX (about £45) towards digging new pits. The long – term solution is to install eco-san toilets. These are toilets that have been installed at Mahyoro Primary School. Basically, they are toilets which separate human waste and, when you add ash, allow you to make fertiliser. It may sound crude but it is extremely effective. I obviously need to ask the pupils at Liss, but this is another thing that could make a real difference to our friends in Kafuro, and I hope our pupils will agree to fundraise towards it. Added to that, Stephen is a really nice person who is extremely child-centred and genuinely wants the best for the pupils in his care. I can’t say that I’ve always found that to be the case with all the Ugandan headteachers I’ve met.

On our last day at Kafuro, I always hand out letters from Liss children and today was no exception. Firstly, I had to make sure that the Kafuro weather station was working properly. The new display console was easy to set up and it was no problem to get it talking to all the sensors…..except one. For some reason, the anemometer did not want to communicate and nothing I tried seemed to work. I got out the manual and did everything it said, but there was still no success.

After 90 minutes of frustration I gave up and told Yowasi that I would have to take it home with me that evening. I then got on with the business of taking class photos and ensuring that letters were handed out to the right classes. Meanwhile, Mrs Green had been baking bread rolls with P7. We decided to show the class how to make a fried egg sandwich (omelette is very popular in Uganda but I’ve never seen a fried egg). Frying the egg in the cob oven took about 30 seconds and we have it in one of the rolls to Stephen. He declared it delicious, so we fried the two remaining eggs we had and Stephen chose some hungry children to feed.

Next, we did some preparation for making pizzas. Mrs Green had already made the dough so I worked with some boys to cook the tomato sauce. I got them to chop up some tomatoes, garlic and onions which we cooked down to make a fantastic tomato sauce. I added some oregano which I had brought out from the UK and Mrs Green showed the children how to stretch the dough, add the sauce and mozzarella (we had picked this up in Kasese). The first pizza went into the cob oven and within minutes a fully cooked, bubbling pizza emerged. It looked amazing!

Mrs Green and I went to lunch and said we would return in 30 minutes to help the children make the rest of the pizzas. However, when we came back the children had taken it upon themselves to make the rest of the pizzas and they looked perfect. It was just another sign of what quick learners Ugandan children are. We took the pizzas to P7’s classroom where they were going to watch today’s film – The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Again, the whole school decided to turn up and watch the film. It was interesting watching their reaction to the film. The children thought that the beavers were hilarious and it was clear that they did not like the White Witch. Their reaction to Aslam was most interesting however. There were gasps of awe when he started speaking, they were really upset when he died and there was a massive cheer when he finally defeated the White Witch. Clearly, the film had quite an impact.

We left the school for the final time with the good wishes of the children and Stephen ringing in our ears. We dropped Bea home and then headed back to Tembo to meet the others who’d had another excellent day at Katunguru Primary School. Nick and Ash had been amazed at the athleticism of the Katunguru pupils, particularly the girls, when playing cricket and had come to the conclusion that with access to proper training they would be awesome athletes. Lisa, Katie & Katie had really enjoyed teaching but were also mindful of the fact that the children did a lot of rote learning. It was therefore doubly important that the work they were carrying out challenged the children’s thinking skills and deepened their learning. From the sound of it, they had done just that.

Tomorrow, the others are off to Rihamu Junior School as well as trekking in the Rwenzoris while Mrs Green and I will be visiting New Life Junior School and Katunguru.

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Uganda 2018 Day 7: The greatness of Stan Laurel

We had a full program of activities at Kafuro so we were up and on the road by 8.30am after our usual breakfast of fruit platter and toast (Mrs Green) and rolex (me). The others were going to Katunguru for the day but didn’t have to be that early. We were taking Dave from the Banded Mongoose Project with us as he had not yet visited a Ugandan school and was considering doing some work with them along the lines which Jess Mitchell did a few years ago (see 2014 and 2015 blogs)

As soon as we got to Kafuro, I went off to teach P7 while Mrs Green went to do some baking with P6. My lesson was all about misconceptions Ugandans might have about the UK. To start off, I asked the children to tell me everything they thought they knew about the UK. Their answers were fascinating and (although they had some good knowledge in other areas) completely confirmed the stereotypes some Africans have about the UK. According to them, everyone in the UK was rich, we all live in big houses and there are no black people in the UK – we are all white.

My next step was to give the children twenty photos of the UK to look at and to write about using the same proforma that we have at Liss. I used the projector I had brought out from the UK and wrote on the chalkboard to model the type of writing I wanted. After that, I set the children off to work. Some of the photos were deliberately chosen to reinforce those stereotypes, but there were also photos of homeless people, a food bank, the roughest estate in London that I could find and Mo Farah. Yowasi had to explain to the children what a food bank was, but when they heard they were quite shocked. Likewise, when I told them the story of Mo Farah and how he was one of the most famous people in the UK and even more famous than Stephen Kiprotich (Ugandan Olympic Gold medallist in the London 2012 marathon) they were very impressed. The lesson concluded with the children and I talking about how easy it is to draw stereotyped images of each other’s country and expressing the wish that it was up to us to fight against those stereotypes and to educate others.

I left the lesson to find that Mrs Green had been making scones and bread rolls with P6. The children had never tasted sultanas before and really liked them. We had also bought some Kenyan strawberry jam – no clotted cream was available however. The children loved the scones and the bread rolls: Mrs Green and Yowasi cut them up small enough so that there was enough to feed three classes.

After a brief spot of lunch, Mrs Green was going to teach Gloria, the pupil that we arranged to cook at Tembo last year, how to make a British – style cake. I was with P4 and we were going to watch some Laurel and Hardy short films. This had been a film choice that I had fretted about. I have loved the films of Laurel and Hardy since I was a small child and firmly believe that they are the greatest comedians of all time. I was worried that the Kafuro children would find the films dated and wouldn’t understand the humour. I couldn’t have been more wrong. From the start they were doubled up laughing and the physical comedy that Stan Laurel used had them in stitches. Before I knew it, the door to the classroom opened and children started pouring in. Within ten minutes, almost the entire school were squeezed into the room and roaring with laughter. It became apparent to me that when it comes to physical comedy that children are the same the world over. What made it so special (and emotional) was that they were feeling exactly the same feelings that I had when I first watched Laurel and Hardy. It’s moments like this which remind you that we have so much in common as human beings, the power of film to connect people and that the world is really a small place.

When the final film had finished (I ended up showing four) the children broke into a spontaneous round of applause and were full of chatter as they left the classroom. I went out to see the cake that Mrs Green had been baking with Gloria and it looked very nice. I didn’t get to taste it as Gloria was taking it home to share with her family, but it looked very nice.

Before, we headed back to Mweya to meet the others, we met with Yowasi to evaluate the Conservation Cup. Then we made the long drive home stopping only to drop Dave off with one of his Banded Mongoose Project colleagues. We met the others at Tembo where they had all been teaching in different classes and really enjoyed it. They had also sat in on a debating competition between the two Katunguru schools. All of them were really impressed with the organisation and the standard while feeling that debating is a skill which is being lost in UK schools.

Stu and his family were also at Tembo so we were a very large group together eating that night. Tomorrow is our final day at Kafuro.

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Uganda 2018 Day 6: First Day at Kafuro

It was an early start for everyone today as the others were going to Katunguru while Mrs Green and I would be spending our first day at Kafuro. We went to breakfast at the Safari Hostel where the main subject of conversation was the most effective spreading technique of jam and butter on toast. Nick swore blind that Ash was the best spreader that he had ever witnessed in terms of coverage while Lisa was highly confident in her own technique. This conversation was soon superseded by a debate on the merits of marmite. Mrs Green is a staunch advocate of marmite and had encouraged several of the others to bring their own supply along as well. The ultimate test, however, was whether Geoffrey (our driver) would like it. He declared himself a big fan. The conversation then moved on to how you could use marmite in cooking and Ash shared his tips for adding marmite to cheesy pasta.

After our invigorating conversation, we headed off for Katunguru. Mrs Green and I stopped off with the others to make some introductions and to meet Henry Bwambale, the new headteacher. He was very friendly and told us that he was the brother of Levi, the previous head. I wasn’t sure if he meant blood brother because Ugandans often describe close friends as brother. We were shown in to the head’s office to sign the visitors book before heading off to Kafuro and leaving the others to enjoy their day.

I always love the drive to Kafuro – well, the last part to be truthful – as you drive to the top of a slope and suddenly the savannah appears in front of you in all its glory and to the right of you is miles and miles of farmland. At the moment it is planting season so there were lots of people working in the fields who all waved at us. When we arrived at the school there was a great deal of excitement as large groups of children gathered around the car.

There was an assembly arranged for us in the school grounds and the children sang a welcome song for us. The main theme of the assembly was ‘The Kafuro Water for Life Project’, this is the pipeline that Liss children have been raising money for during the year. Today was going to be the official opening. Before the opening, Yowasi and I both spoke about the project. I wanted the children to know that the money was raised by their friends at Liss Junior School and the fact that as well as buying crisps, many of our children had organised cake sales to raise extra funds. Yowasi spoke about the differences that the water pipeline had already made to the children at the school. Because the children don’t have to go down to the crater lake anymore, they are able to stay in lessons and increase their learning, they get cleaner treated water and (this really shocked me) they are free from the risk of being attacked by a hippo or a crocodile. This really made me think about how lucky we are to have the access to water that we do in the UK and what a difference our children have made to their friends at Kafuro.

Before, I opened the water pipeline, I explained that in the UK it was known as the Graham Haycock Memorial Pipeline due to the fact that Mr Haycock has risked clinical obesity through his efforts to support the project by eating as many crisps as he can. I had made a special poster to commemorate the event and had children hold the poster while we took photos. Mr Haycock, the children of Kafuro wish to convey their heartfelt thanks for your titanic efforts!

The best speech of the assembly was by Mrs Green who explained how much we loved being back at Kafuro and how it felt like home. We also handed over a new tablet which I had bought for the school as well as replacement parts for their weather station. We were then introduced to Stephen Tembo, the new headteacher, and instantly liked him. He explained how pleased he was to finally meet people from the UK and how much he had been told about us. He also said that the whole community had heard about our arrival and were very grateful for the water pipeline. The community had worked with the teachers and the children to dig the trench for the pipeline to run through.

By now it was lunchtime for the children and we were given a delicious of tilapia fillets covered in flour and fried as well as roast potatoes and lovely coleslaw. To be honest, it looked like a posh KFC but tasted much better. The children who had come back early from lunch were playing football and I was invited to join them. As I was so full up, I decided to play up front and let other people do all the running – this was a ploy that my best friend from school, Anton Lang, employed to good effect for years. Anton would be proud with the way I toe-poked an equaliser past the keeper and off the post (tree), but not impressed with the 25 yard free kick that screamed into the top right corner five minutes later (that would mean that I walked 24 yards to take the free kick – far too far for Mr Lang). My goal celebration made the children fall about laughing. I finished the game by eschewing a chance to score a hat-trick and instead teeing up one of the other boys to score the winner. As the game ended, Stephen told me that I had good skill for a person of my size – I think that was a compliment!

Because the assembly had taken so long, we decided that we would change our itinerary for the afternoon. Mrs Green had university research to do and Stephen was going to help her with translation while she interviewed staff and pupils. While she was doing that, I was going to start the Kafuro Film Festival with a film for P6. This was to be Bean: the movie. When Yowasi and Ramathan had first visited the UK, they had watched the 2012 Olympic Opening Ceremony and told me that Mr Bean was really popular in Uganda. The film was definitely the right choice as the children completely understood the physical comedy and laughed in all the right places. Watching the children, you can always tell those who become really engrossed and there were more than a few children who were really disappointed when the film came to an end.

After the film had finished, the children had some time for games before they went home. It was lovely to see the children playing games with all the equipment that CM Sports had provided. They were all having so much fun.

We drove home to find out that the others had had an enjoyable day at Katunguru followed by a great time on the Kazinga Channel Cruise. Nick had a little nap when on the return trip during the cruise and the others had taken great amusement from having their photo taken with him while he was asleep.

Tomorrow is a full on day at Kafuro while the others have a full day at Katunguru.

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Uganda 2018 Day 5: A Quieter Day

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