Now I’m back in to the work routine I thought I would write a small piece about my experience of Uganda and in particular Wobulenzi Town Academy.
Leaving a cold and wet England is never a tough thing to do but as I travelled to Heathrow a mind of mixed emotions were present as I was unsure what I would find, unsure what to expect and all with a bunch of people I had only met once the week before.
Uganda is a real mix of extreme wealth and extreme poverty with not a lot else in the middle but such a beautiful country and a lot greener than I had expected. Driving around Kampala was an experience in its self as the Highway Code has certainly not been heard of here but if biggest gets priority then that’s fine by me.
The two weeks had been planned out for us and I was particularly looking forward to getting stuck in to some building work. We were given the project to construct and landscape the area at the entrance of the school to include two flagpoles as required by law. Working with local materials is a challenge and you soon have to learn to adapt techniques to suit these items, especially bricks.
On the day that we were leaving the school Jerry thought that it was appropriate to have an official flag raising ceremony and invited the local builders working on the health clinic to sing the national anthem which they willingly lined up and sang their hearts out. Working in the heat was the real challenge and you soon appreciate why the locals do everything at the pace they do, I was even happy when it rained!
The thought of teaching to a class of children was not my idea of fun and I avoided the subject every time Elspeth mentioned it although she insisted it was up to me but deep down I knew I wasn’t going to get off the hook. So eventually on the last school day I was convinced that it would be good for the students if I talked to them about what I did as a job back at home. Expecting a small class, Elspeth ushered me into the main hall where I found around a 100 students waiting for me. I have no idea if they had a clue what i was on about but they paid attention and thanked me afterwards.
After a week at school we returned to Kampala for a fund raising evening where a hot shower and more importantly BURGERS were a welcome sight. I must congratulate our host on a superb night and a great brunch the next day.
Sunday back at school for the end of term ceremonies was an incredible experience with the students organising an entertaining day for us. I am not sure our nativity production was any where as good as the performances they put on for us and i am still concerned why I was cast as the grumpy inn keeper!
The school was deserted the second week with the students gone for their summer holidays and I have to say I missed them immensely. So it was head down and start with some of the maintenance work on the school ready for next term.
Talking to the children and in particular reading a number of their personnel life experiences certainly opens your eyes and even shed an occasional tear. What is most impressive is the big smiles that greet you every time and without fail. You do have some real low moments due to what you see and experience but I have to say that with the support from the team they soon pass and I was lucky to be with a great bunch of people. Having no water, no electric and living on stewed goat isn’t that bad – we only had 2 weeks of it they have it all the time.
The common questions I am asked are:
- Why did you do it? - something I have always wanted to do but still not sure why.
- Would I recommend it? - Absolutely it is the only real way to understand and experience something so alien to our way of life.
- Would I do it again? - without hesitation it has been one of my life best experiences.
- What was the best bit? - going to school every day, never thought I would say that.
- What do I miss? - 80p a pint !
- Do I think I made a difference? - Tough one, I’d like to think I have in some small way, but I do know it made a difference to me.
I am sure I have already bored people endlessly whilst talking about the whole experience... but then they asked, didn’t they?
Finally I must thank Nick Allen for supporting me on the preparations which left nothing uncovered and the Dugdales and Balls for making me feel welcome and ensuring the whole experience was one that will never be forgotten.