My alarm went off at 05.20 and by 06.00 Mrs Green and I were driving off Mweya for the last time on this trip having said a sad ‘Goodbye’ to Stu, who had got up early to see us off. At first I was unsure whether we would be allowed off the peninsula that early as there is plenty of work going on at night along the two roads into Mweya. Water pipes are being laid along one while lots of shrub has been cut back along the other as part of a program to get rid of invasive plant species. However, the ranger on gate duty let us out after a couple of questions and we were on our way.
We drove directly to Fort Portal where we filled the car with fuel and had some breakfast. After that, it was negotiating six miles of rubbish roads before we reached some re-laid tarmac and I was able to really put my foot down. We started making really good progress towards Mudebende – our next waypoint. Unfortunately, I was about to encounter the first Ugandan speed gun carried by a traffic cop that I had ever seen. I was duly clocked at 100km/h in a 70km/h zone although there were no signs to indicate this. Unlike the policeman that I had encountered two days ago, this guy was lovely. He showed me the reading on the speed gun and I expressed my surprise that my car (which was not the most powerful) was capable of reaching such a speed. After much laughter – sarcastic from the policeman, nervous from me – he decided to let me off with a warning. I must have encountered the only straight traffic policeman in Uganda!
We had a five-minute stop at Mudebende to get some drinks, then we continued our rapid progress towards Kampala. As we reached the outlying towns and villages, the traffic began to get busier and it increased still further when we reached the northern bypass. Progress was slow at first, but we sped up as we moved away from the centre of the city. We were now moving into unknown territory for me as I’d not travelled to the eastern side of Kampala. A pleasant surprise was getting up close to the Nelson Mandela Stadium where the Ugandan international football team play their fixtures.
We joined the Jinja Road and headed further east. On first viewing I would say that this part of the country was more affluent than the west of Uganda where we are based. The roads were in better condition, the towns seemed cleaner and there appeared to be more regulation of the hawkers who try and sell you anything when you stop your car in traffic. In several towns they appeared to be licensed to sell as they wore long jackets which were numbered.
We didn’t see much of Jinja as we were in a hurry to get to Buwenge and there was a great deal of roadworks going on. We saw the Nile brewery in the distance and crossed the River Nile itself before we headed on to the Kamuli Road. Buwenge was now 30 minutes away.
The reason for visiting Buwenge was all to do with Mrs Green’s work with the University of Chichester, researching Special Educational Needs and Disabilities in Uganda. Through QEPP she was put in touch with Mandy Slater and Kerry Mcleish who were responsible for setting up the Family of Hope School in Buwenge. The school caters for children that cannot access the education system due to their complex learning needs. Mrs Green was very keen to visit the school and to interview Robert, the executive director of the school. Mandy and Kerry had kindly extended an invitation to visit the school and to stay overnight at the house they use when staying in Uganda.
We met Robert at a petrol station by the main road and followed him to where the school was located. As soon as we arrived, we were mobbed by the children who were ever so keen to touch us, hold our hands and make sure that our luggage was taken to the house. It was very humbling to be in the presence of children who have so little but are so giving. From there, Robert took us on a tour of the school. Mrs Green was snapping away as there was building work going on and she had promised to send photos to Mandy and Kerry. The school is lovely with swings and slides for the children to play on – they also open up this to the community so that the children get to interact with children who have mainstream education. We saw their football pitch which had been levelled out due to funding from the Arsenal Foundation, and this is also open to the community to use. Robert is very keen to develop the children’s skills in order that they are able to make a real contribution to society when they leave the school, so they are working very hard on the school garden at the moment to teach children how to grow and harvest crops.
After that Mrs Green sat down to interview Robert who is a very gentle and impressive man. I talked with his son, Fred, who is also a teacher and a football fanatic – like many Ugandans he is a massive Man Utd fan. When I told him that I had been to Old Trafford on a number of occasions he was absolutely gripped. He told me of his frustrations about Ugandan sport for children – talent spotters tend to be based in the big towns so children in the rural villages get very few opportunities to compete against one another or show what they can do. When I told him about the Conservation Cup he was very impressed and wished that there could be a similar tournament in Buwenge.
When the meetings had finished, Robert and Fred left us. I began to talk to Mrs Green, but was so tired that I kept falling asleep and then waking up and talking nonsense – some people would say that there’s no change there from when I’m fully awake! Totally knackered, I went to bed. Tomorrow is our last day in Uganda.