As our third day in Uganda comes to a close, we are sinking nicely into our routine and really enjoying the school visits, each being so completely unique depending on the area (rural or closer to a town) and the leadership style at the schools. Today was even more interesting as the children had just finished up their exams and were heading home to their families for three weeks. I instantly flashed back to my youth and right before winter break and how excited I was to get out of school! That energy was reflected in full force today, so young attention spans were limited along with a huge rain storm that came through for a good hour or so, and squeezed us all in very close.
We started at Bishops West, a school that was founded in 1910 and is run by Moses, a tall humble man, who has a big smile and heart. Bishops West is unique because it has youth in regular school (P1-P7) and around a 120 disabled youth and and is making great progress in building a vocational school for them. Per Moses, there are more deaf students in Uganda than any other place in Africa and they are considered “throw aways” to society if they are not educated and taught skills to be in the workforce. He thinks deafness could be caused from Malaria at a young age and/or the medicine that is given to them that ends up possibly causing hearing problems. At the vocational training they are doing great work by sewing, making shoes, jewelry, arts and crafts and learning computers. The men’s shoes they made could be carried at Nordstrom as the quality was absolutely perfect and a lot of the local business people come there just to buy their shoes!
Bishops West students welcomed us with an assembly filled with a sea of purple as we stood above the school of 500+ students and said a brief greeting and thank you. They then performed a native dance that entailed a lot of hip shaking and focus (I tried it at the second school but the girls laughed and I was tired in two seconds.) Elizabeth and I then went on a tour of the school (Janet wasn’t feeling well today and stayed back at the guest house) and Terry and Michael jumped straight into video taping the US school thank yous.
With the energy has high as I described above, Elizabeth, with her bag full of surprises, pulled out a bubble maker which was the hit of the day! When you look at the photo notice in their hands the pencils, a very scared commodity for a school child in Uganda. Often times youth are not allowed to attend school without school supplies and they will make one pencil last a whole school year if they can, so they grip them tightly as they reach for the sky. I know I will never look a pencil the same way.
I used my camera to connect and instantly had a group of youth in purple uniforms wanting more photos, as they screamed with delight every time they saw themselves on my digital camera. I will enclose one of them making funny faces which makes me smile every time I look at it. It was quickly time to go and some youth followed me to the car (Michael said I looked like the pied piper) and then ran beside the van as we left – if that doesn’t make someone’s heart sing, I don’t know what will.
On to Bishops East merely a 2 minute drive down the hill, this is where the rain hit and we all gathered tightly in a large classroom for a greeting and lovely song and dance performance. Time and photos here were limited because of the pounding rain and lack of room but we still left with a smile because of our youth interactions.
A couple things about Ugandan schools: they post signs everywhere which was passed down by the government to help educate youth about HIV, equal rights, respect and many more topics. So you will see signs all over the schools posted to the trees, my favorite of today was “Choose a good friend.” They cook all their meals over a wood fire and huge bowl, mostly porridge and beans and ground corn maze. Some school children can’t afford uniforms (a school requirement), so you will see a sea of colored uniforms and then a few children in random clothes, a large shirt or dress that are several sizes too big (in the rural areas it is less uniforms and much more random outfits and the majority of children are barefoot because they can’t afford shoes). I have noticed the depending on the school, some youth without uniforms also aren’t surrounded by friends and seem more serious in their mannerisms. Today, when the youth were leaving school for the break, some youth had their mattresses on their backs because they need it for home also.
Tomorrow we are headed to our first orphanage….