ACE has done
you can do
Eden has made
several trips to the ACE-supported schools in Uganda. He spent
nine months, between October 2007 and August 2008, working in
the schools, teaching classes and carrying out improvement projects.
This page contains the reports he sent back
to us during his stay.
You can also
read an article he wrote on his return home. It is called Cornish
Flags Flying in Africa.
2011 Eden revisited the schools in Uganda. To read his blogs from
that visit click here
2012 he revisited Uganda, together with his fiancée, Stephanie Tag.
work at Mukibugu School, teaching
lessons and carrying out some repairs.
blackboards in some classrooms were in a very poor state so he has
been retexturing and repainting them.
has also been trying to improve the highly eroded grass in the courtyard
by laying turf.
organised 'The Trees of Life Art Project' to brighten up the exterior
of the P1 classroom.
pupils from P5 to P7 used different colours on their hands to print
classroom looked a lot brighter .....
and the pupils had a lot of fun.
organised school sessions during the school holidays and 60 P5 to
P7 students attended.
pupils had lessons on computers, art and craft, hygiene, modern
and even watched some of the BBC series Africa with David Attenborough.
is his first report, sent on 6th November 2007.
'Pearl of Africa', where the eastern savannah meets the West African
jungle. Travelling from Kenya I saw how this is true as the landscape
changed before my very own eyes. Kisoro District, where most of
ACE's schools are based, lies in the southwest corner of Uganda
near the Congolese border.
thing that struck me was the wonderful visually appealing scenery.
The Virunga volcano peaks in the background standing like guardsmen
each over 3400m high and steep-sided terraced hills with farmhouses
on in the foreground punctuated by lakes.
visited eight schools during my first week here. All of
them supported by ACE and I was astonished by what I saw.
The first school I visited, Nyarusunzu,
which is very near the Congolese border, had only two concrete
classrooms for 340 students. 3 classrooms were simple mud
and sticks structures covered by a tin roof. It reminded
me of 17th century animal sheds.
picture shows Eden with pupils in one of the old classrooms
to build a 3 classroom block for the school in place of
the mud and stick classrooms to the headmaster (who actually
got onto his knees in thanks) and within one hour of leaving
the school the first lorry load of bricks arrived at the
school. It felt a bit like 'Challenge Anneka' but dreams
really can come true when people support a charity like
ACE through giving generous donations.
picture shows piles of bricks which have just been delivered.
astonishing thing I have seen is the number of school children
packed into one class. A first year class that I saw had over
200 students in. The classroom was dark as I entered due to
the building only having windows on one side. As I walked
in all I could I see at first were eyes in the darkness. There
aren't enough classrooms or teachers to create smaller classes
at this particular school. When the 200 students started singing
and jumping the whole classroom began to rock, it was like
the building was coming to life!
picture shows a crowded but happy class in a new classroom
at Mukibugu school.
This is my
first report for ACE and during my first week here I have already
seen many things that I didn't think existed in the world of modern
day education. Children sitting on top of each other due to not
enough desks, a chronic lack of modern classrooms, having a single
textbook for a class of 200 and many other things that are to
long to list here. ACE is regarded as a godsend to many of the
schools here due to the work it does. I hope that this continues
and that it is supported further in the U.K. When people say you
can't change the world, it isn't true. You can change the world
for these children in Uganda and ACE has done just that for so
near the Congo border in southwestern Uganda. - 5th Nov 2007
his second report, sent on 22nd November 2007.
is a large part of what makes up the Ugandan education system.
With 50% of the 30 million or so population under 14 years old
(the average age of the country is 15) it becomes even more important
for Uganda to give its children a comprehensive and full primary
education. However, the facts are that it isn't able to do this.
is divided up as follows:
|| ? years
on the surface to be an efficient and structured system, but there
is a huge internal problem as shown below:
primary school in Uganda has 297 students, divided up as follows:
Only 20% of
those students who start Primary 1 actually finish their primary
Of those who
actually start secondary education, only 17% complete the full
6 years, mostly due to the fact that secondary education is not
free and very costly to most families.
students in school is the number one problem. The main reason
that students drop out of school is poverty. Parents have large
families - 5 or more children - because they believe that this
will make farming (the main industry in this area) easier for
them as they get older. Having 16 hands working in a field is
certainly better than just four.
oldest is left to tend the youngest children and the middle children
tend the animals. Goats and cows need to be herded around to find
new grass throughout the day. Also, as the children become older,
they start 'petty trade' - i.e. selling things at the market,
starting transporting produce, or starting manual labour. I often
see children as young as six, during school hours, working in
the fields or helping their father transport bamboo canes to the
fields on their heads for the beans they have just planted. When
the need to provide food on the table everyday is a necessity
to survive, education becomes secondary.
look at the teachers' situation. A primary school teachers' salary
is 200,000 Ugandan shillings (£57) per month, which is £684 a
year (the price of a motorbike here). Trying to support a family
of seven (families of more than 7 children are the norm, especially
for rural families) on this is a challenge to say the least. Most
teachers have to walk to school and this often takes over an hour
for many of them. They work from 8am to 5pm and many have to take
work home with them. This is because marking the work of 100 pupils
(often the size of a P1 class) takes a very long time. In summary,
they are over worked and underpaid.
As I write
this, a young girl of about eight years in a school uniform (a
school jumper is a nice piece of warm clothing when it is a holiday
and cold outside) is looking into my room and seeing what the
'white man's' room is like. Her eyes are wide, ooh she has just
seen me, she is now looking uncomfortable and now she has gone.
I am certainly a source of curiosity here…
for Ugandan primary education is not all bleak. The education
department in this area has recently started a campaign to get
students back into school. They are capturing between fifty to
a hundred students a day and taking the names of the parents so
that they can be reprimanded. Once word gets around that this
is happening more students will go to school.
at the school I am teaching at shot up at the beginning due to
the fact that I am teaching at the school. It dipped the next
week and now has gone up once again. Working with the headmaster,
and using a little money from ACE, we have managed to construct
two volleyball courts, monkey bars designed by a young Cornish
engineer, improved drainage (as many parts of the school flood
when it rains), a new school wall (think of Hadrian's wall only
smaller), and the beginnings of a netball court. Most of this
took place within a day. It is amazing what you can accomplish
with 400 students and 800 hands all working together.
the end of the day I sat on top of the school water tank with
the headmaster and took in the view. Mukibugu
School did not have a playground when I first arrived
but now there was a volleyball game in full swing, a football
game was taking place (albeit on a slope), and the monkey
bars had a large queue up to it (the first in Kisoro!). A
group of local men and women had gathered to watch on the
bank opposite the school.
'A good day
for Mukibugu School' I said to the headmaster. 'Yes, a very good
day.' he replied.
bell for the end of school had sounded 10 minutes ago but no one
had left. We rode home and left the other teachers to finish the
volleyball game they were having with the students.
A few bright
moments for primary education in Uganda but the real solution
is to eradicate poverty. The only problem… education is the key
to getting out of poverty.
wrote this letter to Angela and the ACE trustees on 22nd November
It is a national holiday here due to the Commonwealth Heads of
Government Meeting (CHOGM) taking place in Uganda this week.
A few things
that have happened this week:
The two new
classrooms are now in full use and being enjoyed by P1 students.
Apart from filling the classrooms with students we have worked
hard to decorate the classrooms with wall charts, posters and
anything else educational that we could find. They are looking
very nice indeed!
I have started
creating a new library here. When we began there were boxes of
books everywhere, with textbooks in two or three different cupboards,
virtually unsorted. No one had any idea how many textbooks the
now two large cupboards in the staff room containing all the books
and they have been sorted out into years P1-P7.
we will record exactly what books we have.
42 books were
in a terrible state of disrepair. I have now started repairing
them, but it is taking a long time.
when this is finished, we will know exactly how many books the
school has and how many textbooks from each subject it desperately
needs. There is very little textbook use here, due the simple
fact there aren't enough for all the students. Each book costs
about 13,000 shillings.
Augustine (the headmaster) and I rounded up the whole school
and started to make a playground here.
Yes, I know
that the school is on a slope! There
are three pieces of flat ground that have been converted into
had a pile of sand and a flag in it. Another had not been marked
in anyway and the final area near the teacher's accommodation
flooded every time it rained.
There is now one volleyball court in operation. Poles were constructed
and a net was found at the school.
Number two volleyball court has been marked out after we took
the flag pole and sand away from the area at the top of the
school. It still needs poles and a net. Poles are easy to construct,
and Augustine is going to find a second-hand net.
The 3rd area has a nice deep drainage ditch now and will be
marked out soon. We are thinking about making a netball court
I asked the local carpenter to make this to my design. It has
been a huge hit with the students, especially with the boys! It
is located next to the large water tank.
We took all the spare stones from the classroom construction and
built a wall 2-3 feet high next to the road. Now the students
can't run into the road when the ball goes out and have to use
the school gate to enter/exit the school.
I have used
some of the money you gave me to do the above.
have seen the school at the end of Tuesday. It was beautiful to
see. The whole school was a hive of activity and shouts were going
up all over the school. Augustine and I sat on top of the school
water tank to take in the view. I remember thinking 'this school
didn't have a playground when I first arrived'. There was a volleyball
game, a football game, boys climbing on the monkey bars, and rope
walking going on. A crowd had gathered around the volleyball as
the teachers and upper students were involved in a heated game.
With a few
ideas, a little money and a motivated head teacher, it is amazing
what can be achieved in a short space of time.
Next we are
going to invite Francis (the district education officer)
to come and have a look at the small out of the way school near
Mgahinga Park. He may be a little surprised ..… Perhaps he will
provide a little money for a few textbooks for the school or even
better still he may have a few ideas for other schools in Kisoro!
is zooming ahead!
ago work started (Oct 30th) and now Paul is fitting the beams
for the roof. According to him work could be finished before the
end of term (Dec 6th), but certainly it will be finished for when
David visits in mid-December.
You will need
to talk to David about sending in the final 10 million shillings
that Paul needs to finish the work.
is completed there will be 9 classrooms at the school but there
are only 6 teachers. The temporary ones will be left for the time
being according to the head.
Head: He would like to use one of the classrooms to be used as
teacher's accommodation. He says all the teachers would sleep
in the one room. The biggest problem at that school is the lack
of teachers and the lack of teachers' accommodation. I inspected
where the teachers sleep and found them using one bed to sleep
two people. They are being charged 10,000 shillings each a month
to sleep in a tiny room. I was a little shocked when I saw their
need your thoughts on this…
are 325 students but only 61 desks. That equates to 5.32 students
per desk, which is not a good ratio.
I used 13,000 shillings for fuel to get to Nyarusunzu and 3,000
shillings for a new spark plug for the motorbike to get it started.
Is it possible for ACE to cover this?
Dec 6th -
Mukibugu PTA meeting. If you would like to ask any questions to
the parents of the students at Mukibugu this will be a very good
opportunity. A good information-gathering occasion.
That is about
it for now…
his third report, sent on 8th December 2007.
The term has
just ended here in Uganda; I have been at Mukibugu
Primary School for 5 weeks. I was going to write a report about
what I have had achieved over those 5 weeks but instead I am going
to write it from the perspective of the children and what they
have gained by me being here over the last 5 weeks.
make up the journey that we call life and the children have had
many new experiences lately.
This is the
first time they have had a 'white' teacher at their school and
been able to interact with one over a period of time. One of the
first lessons I taught was about where I come from. I had maps,
pictures of home and postcards to illustrate this and thought
that this would enable the students to relate to me and my world
better. I had a big surprise when I put up the map of the world
on the board. It was the first time they have ever seen the world
and planet that we called Earth. Afterwards I found out that most
of the children had not been to the next town, let alone another
country. There was me telling them about Cornwall and lands far
away. I could have told them I was from another planet and they
would have believed me. Can anyone remember being told there was
a whole world out there as a child full of wonderful places and
School didn't have a playground when I first arrived. So, this
was the first time the kids would experience what it is like to
have facilities designed for them. First a volleyball court went
up, then another one, after that monkey bars, a sand pit, then
a netball court, four Tarzan swings, a traditional playground
swing, and finally just as the term was finishing a balancing
beam, all these items that make up our childhood for the cost
of dinner in Britain.
was amazing, the students used to sit around the grassy areas
and lounge around, as there was nowhere to play. Games were made
using balls made of rubbish, or sticks/stones from around the
school. The boys did have a football but the only ones that seemed
to play were the older boys. Now when break-time comes there is
a roar and kids pour out of the classroom trying to get to the
swing first or trying to grab the volleyball out of the teacher's
hand it is a great sight to see.
have never seen monkey bars, a netball court, or swings before.
You should have seen the commotion the first time they used the
monkey bars. I thought a riot was about to start, kids pushing
here and there trying to get on the bars first.
is now a hive of activity thanks to ACE and a few ideas from a
young Cornish man.
is not supplied to the school or the surrounding area. This means
that most children have not experienced what electricity can provide.
Now imagine a book that lights up, then all of a sudden a picture
of a Gorilla (my desktop background) pops up, next the screen
goes dark, and the words
on the screen.
film started I stated there are only two rules, 'be quiet during
the film and sit down'. At the first moving pictures of Baguira
the Leopard, those two rules swung like a chimpanzee out of the
window. It reminded me of a film called Cinema Paradiso.
In it a small Italian village just had the first screening of
a film in the village church. The look on those villagers' faces
as the black and white images flashed before them was the same
as the ones in front of me in this small classroom in rural Uganda.
Pure and simple amazement, all the kids were wide-eyed and open-mouthed.
liked Baloo a lot, found it strange that the leopard did
not eat the boy Mowgli and cheered as Sheer Khan was chased
away by Mowgli and the vultures.
understood what the pioneers of film were trying to do when
they made 'Cinema'. It was magical experience for all in
that darkened classroom on Thursday.
7th December was the first time the kids experienced a 'Sports
along two local British people and we taught the students
the sack race, egg (potato) and spoon, the three-legged
race and how to run a relay.
kids didn't know quite what this was all about but once
they realized that this was a competition between two halves
of a school they got enthusiastic about it.
With the relay
to go and only one point separating the two teams the atmosphere
was incredible. The students kept running onto the racetrack as
they were so excited, a rope was put in place to hold them back.
two teams were neck and neck with the last person to go,
the kids were cheering so loud that many villagers had come
to watch. Blue or yellow who was going to win, I certainly
didn't know, and as I held my breath the yellow boy from
P6 class crossed the finishing line first.
team erupted into a spontaneous display of celebration, an African
jumping dance started and the kids all started singing.
the kids experienced over this last five weeks?
I hope a few
more smiles, a few more fits of laughter, some new experiences
and some new memories. Isn't that what being a kid is all about…?
help support ACE and the work I am doing in Uganda this Christmas
in providing better schools for these kids by giving a donation.
his fourth report, sent on 19th January 2008.
attending a colourful PTA meeting
It is January
here in Uganda and the weather feels like summer in England. Daytime
temperatures range around 20-23C and the norm for a day is long
sunny spells with passing cloud. Totally different to the continuous
deluge of rain that was October and November.
first week of December schools have been on holiday but I have
been lucky enough to be allowed to teach at Mukibugu
Primary School during the month of January. The first question
was what to teach… I came to the quick conclusion that it should
be all the things that the pupils wouldn't normally be taught
during term time. Also, it should be things that I could only
teach as I was here for this time period only. I had a blank page
in the front of me and the first thing that I wrote down was Art
took me back to my days at Trythall Primary School. I could distinctly
remember that every week I was making, painting and crafting things
with my hands. I really enjoyed those lessons and I wanted the
children here to enjoy those types of lessons as well. Unfortunately,
due to financial constrictions, they can't teach Art or Craft.
Using an Art and Craft book sent by ACE, which I found in a cupboard,
I made a programme that included an Art and Craft lesson everyday.
result has been children drawing their school, trees, and
the surrounding countryside.
they are making collage with plant materials.
I have never seen kids so proud of making an origami bird
or a 'twister' decoration.
'twisters' are now hanging from the ceiling of their once
wind blows gently through the classroom, the twisters turn
and spin above the students' heads.
another day we went on a field trip up the hill next to
Mukibugu and did an Art lesson there.
of the kids had never been up to the top before!
view was quite spectacular and having 75 kids climb up
the hill caused quite a stir for the villagers below.
to teach the students some Japanese, as it is a language that
I speak. I have been taken aback by how quickly the students are
mastering the language. They know little about the country, and
are 6,000 miles away, but they can now introduce themselves in
Japanese and can say the Japanese for most classroom items. They
even bow at the end of the class! The Ugandan teacher who helps
me teach is struggling to keep up much to the amusement of the
basic English is generally very good and they understand English
well although they have trouble listening my British English.
If a Ugandan speaks English they understand it immediately - there
is certain way Africans speak English that isn't the same as we
do in the UK.
What I have
noticed is that students' spoken English lacks confidence and
because they translate from their native language many of the
things they say are very direct/bordering on rude. It seems that
'please' and 'thank you' are words that they failed to learn during
their English lessons.
are changing the way that they talk and thus their spoken English
is improving as well.
was created to teach the students all the things that they need
to know outside of school.
the Dangers of Early Marriage - many girls get married
very young at 15-17.
Hygiene - many of the children don't know the dangers of having
an unclean body - dangers like ring-worm, fungal infections, septic
wounds - all things I have seen on children here.
a lesson on First Aid recently and I hope that they will
use what they have learned one day. The 'Kiss of Life' drew several
rounds of laughter from the class! They have never had any teaching
about First Aid before.
books that ACE sent to the school were not being used regularly
so I decided to create a lesson where they had a book put in their
hand and were made to read. The students requesting more time
with the books by the second class surprised me.
started inside the classroom.
when you have 70 kids crammed into a room, and they are
all talking about the book they have just been given .....
After 2 weeks
they were ready to take the books home to read and on Friday (18th)
75 students took 75 books home for the weekend. I am sure that the
whole family will be reading/looking at that book this weekend.
there is no choice but to send them outside and spread them
I have asked
the students to write a diary everyday. The first week they did
this the diaries were poorly written, some were unreadable. What
did I expect, they had never written a diary before!
I have read some fascinating stories about life at home. It has
certainly given me a glimpse of their domestic lives. Entries
telling of fetching water from the well, helping mum with cooking
potatoes, getting involved in roadside accidents, and stories
of thieves roaming villages at night looking to steal have made
has improved significantly and I would say that there are certainly
a few budding authors amongst the children!
Primary School now has two volleyball courts, a netball court,
sports kit and balls (all supplied by ACE) a structured sports
training has started during Games period. The boys enjoy their
Karate lesson a lot, and the girls love volleyball.
the actual lessons the change in the students' attitude and behaviour
has been significant. The students were constantly coming late
to lessons last week, not doing their diaries and generally not
being serious about the lessons. I guess this is normal behaviour
for many of them if there isn't a stick being waved at them while
The two teachers
helping me with the lessons said to me last week, 'What shall
we do? Shall we beat them?' This is how indiscipline is normally
solved in Uganda.
warnings last week I told them if they didn't get serious about
these lessons I would cancel everything, they could go back to
digging and the teachers and I would take a holiday. Well, that
made them change and result has been punctual students, good diary
entries and increasing student numbers.
25 students on the first day and now there are seventy-five (90%
of P5-P7 class students) and the numbers are still growing, former
students have even come back! Remarkable considering attendance
is voluntary and this is holiday time.
When the new
school term starts in February the other teachers will probably
ask 'Are these the same students?' especially if the whole school
is waiting for them on the first day of term. Usually only half
the school turns up on the first day!
to teach seventy-five students freely with no restrictions has
been one of the most rewarding things I have done in my life.
It is wonderful to give birth to something and to watch it grow
happy children are taking a break from Eden's lessons
Eden has also supervised the construction of a new playground
at Nyakabaya school.
to see it.
This is his
fifth report, sent on 2nd February 2008.
the January holidays have finished and the extra lessons have ended.
As the noise of children excitedly leaving school and going home
fades away I smile and think 'wow, what a four weeks.'
had to postpone the start of the January holiday lessons from 3rd
January to the 7th due to the crisis in Kenya effecting transport
in Uganda. I was on an island in the middle of Lake Victoria for
the New Year festivities and, when I planned to leave on New Year's
Day, there was no fuel on the island for transport. In fact, there
was no fuel on any of the islands in the area. On 2nd January, as
most people on the island had to leave to go back to work, or catch
flights home, the captain of the island boat took a chance and decided
to pilot the boat back to the mainland. I managed to reach Kisoro
on the morning of the 3rd but too late for the beginning of lessons
and the decision had already been made in my absence to postpone
lessons until the 7th.
7th I arrived at school at 8am but only 4 students had turned up
and eventually 20 or so students came to school. On day two, 35
students came to classes. By week two, we had over 70 students.
Our highest attendance was 75 students. This was an extremely good
figure considering it was the holidays. It was higher than in term
time, and a number of ex-pupils had come back to school.
would have thought that the students would learn Japanese so fast
and with such interest? The teachers were so surprised at their
ability and progress. During the last lesson, when I asked a boy
called Sylvan (who scored highly in his Japanese test) to take over
the lesson while I showed visitors around the school, he did so
with confidence and skill. I laughed as I walked in to take over
again and he was copying the way that I taught, even to tapping
the floor with his foot, and asking 'What is this?' in Japanese.
and Craft lessons were great. I think the highlight was going on
a school trip to the top of a local hill and drawing the surrounding
countryside. One look at the craft hanging up in the classrooms
or the art adorning the walls and you can see how far the kids had
progressed from their first lesson to the last.
Maths and Science lessons were good as well. I am glad that students
are now asking for things politely in English from the teachers,
instead of demanding and saying 'Give me ball!' at game time.
Lessons about 'AIDS Awareness', 'Computers' or 'Dangers of Early
Marriage' were successful I believe as the Ugandan teachers kept
saying after lessons 'I have never had so many questions asked from
pupils during a lesson.'
lessons - the children were forced to have a book in their hand
in the first lesson and told to read, but by the end of January
they didn't want to give the books back.
- they enjoyed the structured training and different activities
they did - long distance training by running up the road towards
the National Park like a shoal of fish, skipping while singing African
songs for the girls, and learning how to block punches in Karate,
all received shouts and cheers from the kids and were the highlights
were the ups but there were downs as well..... like almost cancelling
all the lessons because the students turned up late everyday for
the first week of lessons, and did not do their assigned diary writing.
During some lessons I must have said 'Be Quiet!' fifteen
to twenty times without the children responding. Some girls refused
to participate in games. The teachers wanted to beat them but I
had to stop the them doing so. Eventually they all took part in
games. There were times when I was so happy with the students and
other times I felt like screaming.
were made and when rules were broken pupils were punished. I even
had to send late pupils home on one occasion. By week three the
pupils knew the rules and they obeyed them (well most of them anyway).
I lost my voice during the last week because I was shouting with
a very sore throat. The kids would not play 'Pictionary' without
cheating - 10 times they cheated! - and half the class was sent
out of the room.
I said there were 'ups' and there were 'downs' but when the Secretary
of Education for the District and the School Inspector arrived on
Friday (the last day of the lessons) and toured the school all they
could say was, 'This is very good… it is what I like to see…
and we must use elements from this school in other schools in the
district.' They were mightily impressed, and, as I stood and
watched them go I turned to the Deputy Headmaster (who had helped
me during the last four weeks) and said 'There will be more visitors
to this school in the near future, as others will want to know what
is happening at Mukibugu Primary School.'
both knew the reason they were impressed. It was because we had
worked extremely hard for four weeks and poured our hearts and souls
into the school. We had also opened a few kid's eyes to a few new
(Year 5) gave this assessment of the January lessons -
liked these lessons a lot as they were different, they were centered
on the students and had many activities.'
ACE trustees are delighted that Eden has agreed to extend his period
at the schools for a further 4 months.
held a meeting of the ACE trustees on 30th January at which
we discussed Eden's achievements so far and his request that,
if he extended his stay he would require some financial support.
The trustees have been so impressed with what he has done
that four of them have agreed to personally donate enough
money to cover Eden's accommodation costs and basic living
expenses for this period. Any small shortfall will be made
up from ACE funds.
trustees agreed to allow Eden to spend up to £200 per school
on projects at the schools he has not yet assisted. They are
asking him to spend approximately 2 weeks in each school,
organising resources and teaching as he has done at Mukibugu.
They hope that he will be able to set each school up as it
should be, and then, at the end of the 4 months, return to
Mukibugu to see what has happened there.
were delighted to receive this response on 3rd February -
have decided to stay.
are so many people who want me to stay, both here and in England.
So many schools, children and people would gain if I stay
here and continue working for the charity. The only person
who would have to sacrifice a little is me, and it is a sacrifice
that I take willingly and gladly.
has been a great 3 months, far beyond anything I could have
possibly imagined. I hope that the following months will be
as amazing and that I can bring a little more joy to these
thank the committee members for all their support. I can feel
their kind words and hopes for me and what I am doing here.
us hope that ACE goes on from strength to strength this year.
is Eden's 6th Report, sent on 1st March 2008.
End of my Time at Mukibugu
week was the last week for me at Mukibugu
Primary School. I have been at the school for 4 months
(doesn't time fly!). It has been an amazing experience for
me and I have learnt many things during my time there. When
you come to the end of something you often recall the beginning
and looking back I can see that ACE supporting these schools
in Uganda and sending me here has made a difference to these
I first arrived at Mukibugu many things I saw at the school
surprised me. Things like the way the teachers taught, teachers
writing on the blackboard and then drilling the students
on what had been written. The students didn't seem to have
much input into the lesson and a lot of the time simply
repeated what the teacher said. It didn't seem like much
thinking took place for the children. I then realized that
if you have 100 students in a classroom then this 'rote'
learning style worked best. I was used to classes of 20-30
students, the names of whom I knew and could ask direct
questions to. I quickly learnt not to judge these people
by our standards.
Yes, this does go on here (just like British schools in
the Victorian days - a few of you may remember it taking
place when you were at school). I was a little shocked to
see it the first time, a boy being caned on the backside
for being late. However, it seems to be the only way to
control the students in many cases, and it is what the students
know. You break the rules, you get a caning… simple. After
a couple of times of seeing it, I could see that some of
the students actually enjoyed the teacher - pupil disciplining.
Some smiled and laughed as they tried to dodge the cane
and scampered away once they received their punishment.
lack of materials to teach also astounded me. Most lessons
were taught with a stick of chalk and a blackboard. There
simply wasn't any money for paper, textbooks, equipment
surprises but it was to be expected as I had been brought
up in a modern western society.
what has happened during my time here?
I first arrived the newly built two-block classroom was
unused. After a few carefully placed words like 'Why
isn't that new classroom being used?!' and 'If Angela
knew the new classrooms weren't being used she would hit
the roof!'. An afternoon later, two hundred students
from P1 class moved in.
have read in my previous reports Mukibugu now has two volleyball
courts, swings, monkey bars, and several balancing beams.
On Friday 29th February the netball court was finally finished
and the first game of netball took place under the guidance
of my friend Hannah from Hampshire who had come to visit
the school for the day.
said afterward, 'They don't understand the concept of
rules very well.'
'Yes, they seem to have trouble with them.'
library books are where they belong, in the hands of the
classrooms are now decorated with art, colourful charts,
origami birds and attention-grabbing pictures. The kids
like the classrooms being so colourful especially with art/craft
that they have made themselves.
lessons, Japanese lessons, computer lessons, library book
reading lessons, karate lessons, structured PE lessons,
and even a lessons on politeness (they don't have a word
for 'please' in Rufumbira language, it is difficult for
them to ask for things politely). New lessons that the kids
found interesting and eye-opening. They still can't quite
understand my laptop computer but they love it when I show
them pictures and video of them, I guess it is just a 'magical
box' to many of them!
what has this all meant for the kids at Mukibugu?
them I believe they have had their eyes opened to many new
things, they have had new experiences, and most of all they
have had some new memories.
laughed when they have done PE holding a ball between their
legs in a relay race and jumped like demented fish to go
faster, they have laughed as I tried to sing their songs
and got the words completely wrong, I have smiled as I saw
a pupil create an origami bird and look so proud, they have
smiled as I showed a picture of the Cornish coast and the
sea, all memories that have been created because ACE and
I are here.
I toured the school on my last day, I saw a game of Netball
with 100 students watching it being played, colourful craft
hanging from the ceiling swaying in the wind in many classrooms,
children with library books, 550 students in school (last
year there were only 400), boys and girls waiting impatiently
to ride on the swing, an organised school office, and children
chasing balls here and there yelling as they did so.
my work was done, the goal of creating a fun, and interesting
place of learning was complete. The future now lay in the
hands of the pupils and the teachers.
and pupils have changed in my time here, many don't even
know it has happened but I have seen the change, and it
has been wonderful to watch. Pupils taking more responsibility
and growing up, teachers trying new things in class, pupils
talking new languages to me, teachers laughing as they do
PE outside, pupils not wanting to leave school at lunch-time,
but the real change at the heart of it all is this…
pupils and parents alike are HAPPIER in their hearts.
they know that Mukibugu is going places…
future is in their hands now; I have a feeling that Mukibugu
is going to get better and better in the years to come.
stop is Nyakabaya Primary
School where I start on Monday 3rd March for two weeks.
I will make one or two suggestions to the teachers there…
Day in Rwanda
off early, as I knew that I would only have the day in Rwanda.
As I stepped out into the turquoise blue canopy of the outdoors
I was excited and a little apprehensive. I was going to
a new country, a country that was the other side of Mount
Muhabura, what sights would it hold and would I be able
to get back into Uganda again with a three-month visa?
a Boda boda motorcycle driver to take me to the border and
with my friend Augustine's help I managed to get the Ugandan
fare for the journey (a difficulty for those with white
skin). The road was dusty and bumpy, but I didn't mind as
today I was going to Rwanda.
off the bike at the border a horde of vulture type creatures
descended on me, they were the local money changing guys.
'Rwanda francs, Rwanda francs!' they repeated at me.
note of their exchange rate and moved on to the visa office.
A grumpy looking man with stubble greeted me and asked me
many questions. When he found out I was a volunteer, he
shook his head and said 'Why don't you have a work visa?
You must go to Kampala and get one.' My heart sank;
this was exactly what I didn't want. All I wanted was another
3 months tourist visa and this guy was telling me that I
had to go to Kampala and fill out forms, which meant red
tape and difficulties. I knew that what he was saying was
a whole load of hassle. I had to go through him to get my
3-month visa when I returned to Uganda, the situation looked
heart a little lower I proceeded on into Rwanda. I
looked for transport to my next destination, the town
of Ruhengeri 25 km away. An empty mini-bus was parked
next to the border office. In my experience a mini-bus
doesn't move unless it is full of passengers in Africa.
I calculated it would be 1-2 hours before it would
fill up, I decided to walk to the local trading centre.
I didn't know how far it would be but it couldn't
be more than a thirty-minute walk. Under the shining
sun I started walking.
Rwandan road in front of me surprised me; it had a
tarmac surface, and road markings, it stretched like
a grey runway into the distance. So it was true what
people had told me about Rwanda, it was more developed
than Uganda. Kisoro had a potholed, mud and stones
job for what could loosely be described as a road.
children and a young mother joined me on my walk. In my
broken Rufumbira language I found out that she was also
going to the trading centre and that she lived around here.
In her colourful clothing she looked like any other peasant
I had seen in Kisoro. She smiled widely and had a friendly
demeanour, and I was glad of the company in the warm sun.
before reaching the trading centre after walking thirty
minutes or so (I didn't take a start time) my companions
bade me farewell and walked along a footpath adjacent to
the tarmac road to their destinations.
people in the trading centre were sat around on the street;
it is just like places in Kisoro I thought to myself. After
inquiring, I found out that no public transport was moving
until midday and for that reason people were sat around,
they were waiting for transport to move. I looked at my
watch it was just after 11am, realising there was nothing
to do I sat down with everyone else.
people were getting impatient it seemed, passengers were
getting into mini-buses, I decided to join them. After one
false start (we were stopped by traffic police and told
to wait) we were moving, it was 11.45am. Of all the mini-vans
I could I have picked I selected the local football supporters
bus. So as soon as we were moving the whole bus was rocking
to the sound of football songs. As we slowed down for traffic,
the football flag placed on the front of the bus fluttered
in front of the windscreen, I should have been more vigilant.
I had to smile though; there was certainly an atmosphere
on the bus.
minutes later we reached Ruhengeri my destination. I got
off the bus and started walking around the town. I was surprised
at how pretty Rwanda had looked from the bus window. Trees
everywhere (more than in Kisoro and Uganda), flowers by
the roadside and neat ordered fields. This first impression
carried on as I walked through town. I kept thinking Rwanda
is more organised than Uganda. Little rubbish on the streets
and plastic bags were banned to aid conservation of the
met a boy of thirteen along the way called Ebola who
spoke English. I was surprised as French is the language
they use here. He seemed like a nice boy so I allowed
him to accompany me. We went towards a church in the
distance. On reaching it, it was a huge church that
looked new or was it just very clean, I was not sure.
it was a concrete amphitheatre leading down to a grassy
area with a neat footpath snaking it's way around it. Beyond
that was a smart stage with potted plants decorating it.
I was impressed by all of this as we walked down to the
grassy area. We then walked towards a basketball game (the
first I had seen in Africa) and passed through the gates
leading to it. There was a proper outdoor court with a girl's
school game taking place on it and a crowd looking on. The
school that I had just entered had very good sports facilities.
I looked at the gymnastics equipment and volleyball courts;
it was unlike anything I had seen in Kisoro town. The home
team was demolishing the opposition as one basket followed
another much to the glee of the home supporters.
back into town and went into a supermarket. As soon as walked
in I exclaimed 'Baguettes!'. There in front of me
were some freshly baked baguettes. A relic of the Belgium
colonial days, but I was glad for it and quickly bought
one as I couldn't get baguettes in Uganda. I left the supermarket
excited as I had bought a baguette, Rwandan coffee from
the shores of Lake Kivu and a wheel of cheese (something
that is difficult to get in Uganda).
for lunch and I treated my young friend to some hot food.
He told me about his family, and as I listened I found it
a sad story. He was the second born in the family, but didn't
have any brothers and sisters alive. He lived with his elderly
grandmother of 61 years. He was at secondary school, I asked
him how did he could afford to go (school is expensive here
if you are a farmer) and he said a neighbour paid for his
schooling. I asked about his parents, were they alive, did
they live away from his grandmother because of work? He
looked uncomfortable, and a bit upset and then quietly said
his mother died during the Rwandan genocide, his father
had gone missing during the fighting, and his brothers and
sisters had also been killed in the genocide. His only remaining
family was his elderly grandmother. A long silence followed
and I hesitantly said 'I am sorry to hear that.'
that no one was untouched here during the Rwandan genocide;
approximately 500,000 people died (no one can be sure) in
the 1990's and millions were displaced. We all saw it on
the BBC news, week after week during 1994-1995. A short
sharp African history lesson had just been played out in
front of me.
touring the town further it was time to go back to the border.
At the bus park I said goodbye to my 13-year-old friend
and gave him my address. I said to him 'If anything happens
to your grandmother, contact me.' I knew that his grandmother's
death would mean he would be an orphan, without a home and
without any support for the future. In effect his future
would be bleak.
to the border; I now had the mission of getting a three-month
visa from a grumpy looking immigration officer with stubble.
towards his office and saw him slouched in a chair under
the afternoon sun. He was dozing and as he heard my footsteps
woke up and pointed at a door in the distance. I had to
register with the police as I entered Uganda, I had signed
out at the same office when I left the country.
the easiest and African thing to do with a grumpy and stubbly
immigration officer is offer the bribe and walk out of the
office with your three-month visa. That's the last resort
in my books and something I didn't want to do (and is at
the root of corruption), so I talked to him about what A.C.E.
was doing to help Ugandan schools.
that fell on deaf ears, I told him how the Resident District
Commissioner (a big man in Kisoro) had said that he wanted
to fully support A.C.E. and my efforts. He just said that
was not his concern, and this was an immigration office.
I realised then that this man was not under Kisoro District
jurisdiction and that meant I had no leverage. I also realised
apart from being grumpy and stubbly, he was also drunk.
It looked like a trip to Kampala was on the cards, and with
it big problems.
said, 'I will give you two months to sort matters out.'
After telling him that others had got three-month visas
from him and it would cause problems if I only got a two-month
visa, he started writing the visa out in my passport.
minutes of silence passed by as he wrote out the visa. I
thought, I should have just given him the bribe; it is going
to cost fives times more money and mess up my schedule for
the coming months.
up and murmured 'I have given you three months. Next
time, come with a letter from the Ministry of Education.'
out of his office into the afternoon sun and wanted to jump
in the air and say 'YES!'
travelled back to Kisoro in the golden afternoon sun I thought,
'What a great day…'
that showed me the soul of Africa.
is Eden's 7th Report, written on 15th March 2008.
Sports and Painting at Nyakabaya
last two weeks, phew…it has been quite two weeks. I had
been given the assignment by A.C.E. of improving Nyakabaya
Primary School in the short time of two weeks. A lot
can happen in two weeks, then again very little can happen,
all depending on what you want to do with fourteen days.
are your books?' I asked.
the storeroom.' Donatta, the head-teacher, answered.
ventured in and saw a 5-stand bookshelf full of books.
I was impressed; it is a rare thing to see a relatively
organized bookshelf full of textbooks in one place
in Kisoro District.
are the other books?' I inquired.
frowned, 'What books?'
'The books sent by A.C.E. a few years ago.'
in the teachers' accommodation' she replied.
opened the door of a small room in the teachers, accommodation
and saw what looked like a rubbish heap. On closer
inspection of the rubbish heap there were papers,
ACE books, Ugandan textbooks, cardboard boxes, teaching
materials and random items like a desk and a school
you organise some pupils to take everything out, and
put it in front of the office storeroom, we will sort
it out there.' I said.
building a set of shelves, sifting through all the
papers, books and boxes, and 72 hours later the work
a guess you have about a thousand books.' I stated.
that the library was complete.
want a netball court.' Donatta the headmistress
and if one is built who will teach netball?' I
will and… Florence.'
'You can play netball?' I was a little surprised
as Donatta was pushing fifty years of age and I could
not quite picture her in a skimpy Netball outfit.
the Teachers College I used to play a lot.' she
if it is built I want to see a game of netball on
it with you and Florence playing.'
we will play' she replied.
preparing and levelling the ground for the new
to her word, when the netball court was finished,
she and Florence (another teacher) were prancing around
the court teaching the girls to play. They didn't
do too badly either, although I think the netball
tired out Donatta but she hid the fact well.
girls enjoy the game!' she exclaimed.
I could do was smile.
this is P1 class?' I asked.
I said. I was thinking two things -my god the walls are
filthy and if we had some paint, perhaps light green or
blue (the same as the school uniform) we could paint the
classroom and make it look like new.
I bought some paint and some brushes, could you organize
some pupils to help me paint it?' I said.
but do you know how to paint?' An unsure look
on her face formed as she said this.
have done it before.' I responded.
I had painted my room when I was eighteen, and several
large doors in my time.
organise ten pupils to help me tomorrow…'
afternoon?' she interrupted.
that will be fine.'
and down, up and down, nice and slow. This is the way to
paint.' So now I was teaching African children how to
paint a wall. I seem to have many roles here in Africa -teacher,
school committee member, playground designer, drainage engineer,
African correspondent for ACE - interior decorator is just
another one to add to the list.
team start painting and I will supervise.' I said.
The five boys took up their paintbrushes and rollers
excitedly and started painting.
Slowly!' I shouted. Paint was flying everywhere,
most of it on the floor.
good, that is the way to do it.' They were now
brushing slowly and smoothly.
you supervise this group Smith?' I asked the teacher
he said hesitantly.
Stop! What are you doing?' I shouted. The other team
of five boys had started by themselves and now there was
paint all over the wall, above the line demarcated for painting.
They were painting on the white washed walls that I had
said not to paint, as they were relatively clean.
clean it!' I barked at Smith. I ran out to fetch the
paraffin. The damage was luckily reversed and painting resumed.
hour and a half later we were finished. The boys had paint
all over their hands and specks of paint were on their bare
backs. A crowd was pushing at the classroom doorway, eager
to see the new classroom.
comes in.' I ordered. I knew that if the kids came in
then the first thing they would do would be to touch the
new paint, ruining what we had done.
paint took a day and a half to dry. The P1 class children
were very excited about their new sky blue classroom, as
was the teacher. I was amazed at the difference a coat of
paint made to the classroom.
is like a new classroom!' Donatta exclaimed.
was already thinking, what other schools could I do
the same at?
were a few other things we did at the school but that is
another story. You will just have to see for yourself if
you ever visit Nyakabaya Primary School in Kisoro.
always amazed at what a little bit of money, some support
from local teachers and eager children can do at schools
project is to build a school bus out of bamboo poles…
well that would be something...!
is Eden's 8th Report received on 29th March 2008.
The Green Open Fields of Gitenderi
just finished my two weeks at Gitenderi
Primary School. Spending only two weeks at each school
means that I have to work quickly and be focused on what
the school needs.
my first day assessing Gitenderi School I had two words
in my head: 'Sports' and 'Library'.
are green open fields surrounding Gitenderi Primary School,
making the school look like an island in a sea of green.
Many other schools in the district aren't so lucky with
their land allocation. Two solitary goal posts made of metal
stood in the main field like two lost old men. From what
I could see there wasn't a marked pitch and on further investigation
I found there wasn't a single functioning ball in the whole
school. I also found two volleyball poles standing in an
area, no marked court and again no ball. So, for 1,024 pupils,
there was little in the way of sports facilities or equipment.
pupils acted like a field of cows at break time as they
wandered here and there aimlessly. Some had invented their
own games; others were using toys made by them, for example
vines as a substitute for skipping rope.
school has big open fields, two young sports teachers and
lots of pupils. This school is made for sports'. I thought.
of David Epidu, sports equipment arrived from Kampala for
Gitenderi, the football pitch and volleyball court were
marked out, and the first games were played two days later.
Kenneth and Gideon, the sports teachers, were eager to do
sports at Gitenderi but had lacked the equipment. They were
very happy when the equipment arrived and enthusiastically
supervised the first volleyball game of the new school year.
are these?' I asked.
poles' the headmaster answered.
aren't they outside being used?'
have no ball and no court' the headmaster hastily replied.
will build a court and I will get a ball. Who can teach
netball?' I said.
is the sports mistress. I think she can teach it'
I walked out of the dark and dirty storeroom. A day or two
later the netball court was complete.
what?' Gideon the sports master stuttered.
could build an athletics track here, around the outside
of the football field. Look, there is just enough space
but we may have to make the football field a little narrower.
It is very large anyway…'
was 100m long and 80m wide, a full size football pitch.
know that this school could be the best school at sports
in this whole area' I added.
Gideon just looked at me blankly. I couldn't blame him,
the school didn't have a single ball and there was me telling
him that the school could be excellent at sports.
a great deal hard work, and a lot of trial and error,
in the last hour of my last day at Gitenderi a large
cheer was heard as the first athletics race started.
Half a dozen bare-chested boys ran round the outside
curve of the athletics track and into history.
couldn't believe my own eyes, nor could the rest of the
school, but on an incomplete (the curved track on the far-side
wasn't finished) athletics track children were competing
to the cheers of all. A large crowd had gathered around
the start line, children were eager to run on the new track.
mountains in the background looked on as a group of
boys sprinted as fast as they could past me.
Even the mountains were surprised, I think, that Gitenderi
had constructed an athletics track out of nothing,
the only athletics track that I knew of in the whole
was blessed with the amount of books that it had.
At a guess there were over 1,500 books.
it was not blessed with was any sort of organisation
of the books. There were books everywhere around the
school. Some books were in the classrooms, some in
cupboards, some in cardboard boxes, some even scattered
on the floor.
we will sort out all the books, then we will build a large
set of shelves for the school to put them on and we will
put it…' I looked around the school office. 'Here!'
I pointed to the wall next to the office door.
'We shall move the cupboard and clean up behind it!'
the teacher enthusiastically added.
The P7 class, two teachers, and a friend of mine called
Kat came to school on Easter Monday and sorted all the books
in the school. It took the whole morning; books were everywhere
in this one class, but by lunchtime the books were roughly
organised into subjects and years.
set of shelves arrived on the back of a lorry on the
Wednesday. A coat of varnish and an afternoon later
all the books were where they were supposed to be,
organised and on a bookshelf.
The librarian looked so proud as he adjusted a book
here and there, for the new library for Gitenderi
I find that sometimes in life you are lucky enough to see
the fruits of your labour in a single magical moment. I
have been lucky enough to experience this magical thing
many times while working here in Uganda.
As I looked around late in the afternoon on Friday, the
school was alive. Children ran here and there chasing balls,
there was a queue of forty children waiting to ride the
new swings, the carpenter and a teacher were putting the
final touches to the monkey bars, and it was well after
the end of school.
A cheer went up, I looked round, but I could not believe
my own eyes even though I helped make it, bare-chested boys
were sprinting round the outside curve of the athletics
I smiled as I thought 'They started races before it was
Gideon and Kenneth, the sports teachers, were so eager to
see the new track in action that they started races before
the lanes on the far side were complete.
school will be alright' I thought. The teachers had
found the belief in creating a better school for the children
My work was complete for Gitenderi…
is Eden's 9th Report, sent on 28th April 2008.
'Celebrate the End of Term - ACE Sports Day'
came from the north, the south and the west to Gitenderi,
each school proceeding down the narrow driveway like a battalion
of colourful small soldiers. They spread out like ants across
the playing field, each school one to two hundred strong;
they had come together to celebrate the end of term and
they had come together to celebrate football, volleyball,
netball and athletics.
a lot of organising and hard work on the part of those involved,
but, in the end, it was all worth it as teacher and pupil
alike thoroughly enjoyed the day. Five schools - five schools
that I had passed through in the last eight weeks, five
schools that had changed in so many positive ways, they
had all come because they were part of something; they were
part of ACE and they were part of a bigger family in Cornwall
four thousand miles away.
not expect so many people to attend. There must have been
one thousand people at the event at a rough estimate. Normally
just the sports team would come to an event like this in
England but here in Africa when a sporting event takes place
most of the school come to support their team. It certainly
adds to the atmosphere of the day as children cheer on their
illustrate a few highlights of the day:
hard-working teachers and my friend Liz from England supervised
netball on the newly constructed court at Gitenderi (including
a certain fifty year old Donatta from Nyakabaya
- see previous report!). For many of the girls participating
it was the first time that they had played so I asked the
teachers to run the games like a training session. The girls
enjoyed playing so much that every-time they scored they
would proceed to do cartwheels across the court.
said to me afterward 'These are the craziest schoolgirls
I have ever seen!'
I could say was 'Yep, welcome to schools in Kisoro!'
School seemed to get the biggest cheer of the day as
the netball girls screamed and danced on the grassy court
after they beat another team surrounded by an audience of
six hundred. Not bad for a team who had never picked up
a netball before today.
teachers who were involved thoroughly enjoyed the day and
kept asking me when the 'next sports day' was.
sometimes had trouble controlling their students as a goal
produced somersaults and cartwheels by the pupils as the
supporting school invaded the football pitch in euphoria.
It happens in the adult games as well from what I have seen.
It certainly adds to the atmosphere of the game and is a
great show to watch.
think that all the teachers saw how much the kids love
playing sport and I hope that they will be that much
more motivated to teach sport to the kids using the
new facilities built by ACE at their schools.
way to summarise the feeling from the teachers that day
is this quote from a teacher from Nyakabaya School -
have to go, my pupils are playing against Gitenderi School
and I have to support them!'
people from the surrounding area came to watch the games.
It was funny to see the local villagers shouting at
their girls as they played netball. They probably wanted
to join in too but couldn't, due to a baby on their
back or a hoe in their hand.
that the local shepherds were also watching the games, as
there were a noticeable number of cows and goats mingling
with the crowd. I had a feeling though that the cows were
there more for the grass than for the volleyball!
songs went up and dancing started at the end of the day's
sport, all I could see were smiling kids and happy teachers
before me. All who had come had thoroughly enjoyed the day
and they all wanted to know when the next 'Sports Day' was.
I said it would be next term and that they should train
for it, and everyone said that they would.
a day to celebrate the end of term, the end of exams, and
the end of my time at these schools. I wanted all those
who came to go on from this event and regularly play sport
on the new facilities at each of their schools. The kids
enjoy sport and enjoy playing sport at school. I believe
that, if a child enjoys going to school, and doing something
like sport it is one more reason for that, the child is
more likely to stay in school and not drop out. It is disheartening
to see only 20% of pupils complete their seven years in
primary school here in Kisoro. I hope that at ACE schools
the completion rate is higher than that and with Angela
Peake's love and devotion I believe that it will be.
that the children here suffer to the full, suffering in
the stranglehold of crippling poverty. It is on days like
today that the children forget all the hardships of home
and just enjoy being a kid for a few hours…
is a nice thought.
28th 2008 Eden Quayle in Kisoro, Uganda
is Eden's 10th Report, sent on 31st May 2008.
Mud Huts and Pumpkins: Home Stay on the Border of the
is life like for the children at ACE schools? What happens
when the school bell goes and the children return to the
had these questions in my head since I arrived and began
teaching at schools in Uganda. I know what life is like
at school for these kids and realised early on that some
of the school children actually like being at school and
were reluctant to go home sometimes. A school is a place
where buildings are made of brick and floors are made of
cement, there is readily available water, and school is
a place where children enjoy sports and learn interesting
things. 'Home' is generally a mud and stick structure, soil
is the only floor, and fetching water is just one of the
many chores that children have to do when they get home.
I could easily understand why some children were reluctant
to go home.
the children of Mukibugu
Primary School if I could do a home stay and experience
their domestic lives. A boy called Popius from P6 class
raised his hand and said I could go to his house and stay.
No one else raised their hand to offer their house so I
next day I was walking up the hill towards Kabenero Village
after the school bell had gone with Popius and other children
from Kabenero Village.
first thing I noticed was that Popius was carrying twenty
litres of water in a yellow jerry can on his shoulder.
He had filled up his jerry can from the school water
tank and he was taking it home. I knew that other children
did the same and even had to carry water for an hour
or more as water sources were far away from the family
next thing I noticed was that I was out of breath. We had
been walking for twenty minutes and the school was getting
smaller and smaller. The other kids looked as fresh as daisies
but I was suffering. I wasn't used to walking so fast up
far to your village?' I asked.
there, next to the Mgahinga National Park!'
up and it still looked someway off. I paused and looked
around. I saw fields of beans, lines of potato plants, mud
houses dotted around, and stone walls made from volcanic
rock. It was a lovely sight to see as we walked in the evening
time I reached Popius's house we had acquired quite a crowd.
I felt a bit like the Pied Piper as I entered the farmstead
as fifteen other children had joined us. Popius's mother
and sisters greeted me, his mother was dressed in typical
peasant clothing. She wore a pink bandana, a pale sarong
around her waste, and a woollen sweater. She smiled at me
and I greeted her by saying, 'Mezute!'
laughed and replied 'Ndaho!'
strange white man was speaking her language!
farmstead was made up of half a dozen structures mostly
made from mud and sticks topped with a corrugated iron roof.
One structure had brick walls and cement. I asked about
it and Popius said 'It is my uncle's house - he lives
in Kampala, and works in business'. He was probably
the family member who provided for all the family members
who lived in the compound.
wooden fence made from crudely cut tree branches surrounded
the compound. Two goats were tied in up in one corner
and a granary stood in the other corner. I lifted
up the granary roof and peered into the darkness but
nothing was inside except a few husks of wheat.
is what most farm houses in this area look like.
the national park! We have made it!' I gasped.
house lay in the distance below us and the light was fading
fast. Apart from Popius we had accumulated twenty other
children. We all sat on the edge of the national park and
took in the view.
are views when silence and quietness are the only words
you need and this was one of them. An orange halo on the
horizon, Lake Mutanda in the distance, columns of smoke
like streamers from the ground marking farm houses, hills
like turtle backs everywhere you looked and the sound of
utter silence. I just sat there speechless.
Town was turning on its lights as the darkness crawled across
valley like a quilt. It was the only place with electricity,
I thought of my house and the electricity I had and felt
a little embarrassed. I was living a very different life
than of Popius and his family.
brought some beans, sweet potatoes and a large pumpkin for
Popius's family. We sat in the living room waiting hungrily
for the food. There was a single paraffin powered flame
on the table in the middle of the room and I soon found
out that this was the only light for the whole house. They
could not afford to burn paraffin for every room. On the
table was a book from Mukibugu's ACE-funded library titled
'The Aztecs'. Popius and his sisters were taking
turns to read it. It was nice to see and I guessed that
this was the only book in the house.
food came out and the whole family gleefully ate. It was
a treat to eat sweet potato and pumpkin for Popius and his
family. I thought of the food that children in the U.K.
ate and felt humbled that this family could delight in such
basic food while kids in my country were demanding ice cream,
chocolate bars and Coca-Cola.
sister Phiona likes the pumpkin very much!' Popius says
glad she likes it' I replied.
is also her first time to eat it' he says as he spooned
in some pumpkin himself. Phiona was six years old and this
was the first time she had ever eaten pumpkin. I was a little
do you usually eat?' I asked.
potatoes…usually' he replied.
you ever eat meat?'
at Christmas, it is too expensive' he said with a forced
smile. I was offered Popius's mother's bed and felt obliged
to take it. She would sleep with the children while Popius
slept with the goats. I put my head down on my bag and slept
on the padded matting, it was 10pm.
at around midnight and felt something biting me. I switched
on my torch and looked at the freshly laid blanket Popius's
mother had kindly given me. There were black dots jumping
around and I guessed that they were fleas. On further investigation
I saw a larger insect with a bulbous body on the sheet.
I shone the torch on the adjacent wall; there were many
more bulbous insects moving on the wall. I guessed that
this one insect had fallen from there. I tucked all my clothing
into each other, put my socks on and wrapped the blanket
tightly around me.
see if the fleas can get through that!' I thought to
they did, as I woke every hour or so to the sensation of
morning light came to my rescue and I got up.
breakfast of last night's beans and a goodbye photo
later, we were headed back to Mukibugu school.
certainly experienced life in the village. I had eaten their
simple food, seen the beauty of their countryside, understood
the heart-breaking nature of poverty, and felt the hospitality
and generosity of people who had very little. I also had
been bitten dozens of times but could not complain as I
had been given the best bed in the house.
nice to enter school the same way the children did. The
teachers were astounded and amused that I had spent the
night in the village. They told me that the bulbous insects
were bed bugs and regaled me with stories of how they used
to sleep with 'the goats'.
was going to class a girl called Jastine looks at me, she
is standing awkwardly, but wants to say something to me.
Jastine, what is it?'
you stay… my house too.'
is Eden's 11th Report, written on 12th June 2008.
Kabami: Three Classrooms and a Garden
school used to have a "Grand Design" in the old days. Look
here, you see how there are there is a roundabout and a
driveway. The old entrance to the school would have been
where the plastic water tank is now and would have led passed
the church to the main road.'
start of my two weeks at any school is one of excitement
as I try and think about what I want to accomplish in
that short time. For Kabami
Primary School the discovery of faint outlines in
the grass was the source of excitement, leading to my
theory that the school had a 'grand design' long ago.
has many old classrooms that were built decades ago
that are sadly not used any more due to falling into
as I walked down the old driveway I could envisage how the
school used to look, a central driveway leading to a roundabout
that would have been the centre of the school. The
classrooms were in a concentric 'C' shape around this central
roundabout and a flagpole would have been flying proud and
high on that roundabout right in the centre of the school.
will dig flowerbeds around the roundabout and put flowerbeds
either side of the old driveway, this design should be rekindled.'
I announced to the deputy headmaster.
used to be a headmaster long ago who loved Boys' Brigade.
I remember marching around the flagpole with the brass-band
playing when I attended the school as a boy.' The deputy
was reminiscing a time from long ago, as was I, as I tried
to imagine what the school used to look like.
a lot of work, two hundred pupils with hoes, and the help
of the teachers. But when it was complete the school had
an elaborate set of flowerbeds that, with a few roses, tulips
and pansies could have been on 'Gardeners' World'.
perhaps not - but from the hill above, with the newly
completed playground and volleyball courts finished,
the school looked splendid.
bishop is coming on Wednesday!' I exclaimed.
here is his programme'.
coming on Wednesday - it was in black and white on the sheet
of paper handed to me. All that was running through my mind
as I looked at it was 'Can we finish in time?'
classrooms were being completely renovated by ACE with the
workmen nearing 80% completion. I had started renovating
an old staff room and another classroom. They were not in
bad condition - a coat of paint, repairs to the floors,
and repairs to the roof and shutters and they would be usable.
picture shows the classroom before renovation began.
was the inside.
the workmen heard that the bishop was coming the following
Wednesday they all pulled out a can of spinach like
Popeye, squeezed the can, the spinach went in the air
and into their mouths.
was what it seemed like as their sloth-like movements
on Thursday vanished like a cured sickness and they
rushed round the site for the next three working days.
Wednesday morning, the classrooms only needed a coat
of blue oil paint, they were in all intents and purposes
side, all the old staff room needed was a coat of white
paint and the old classroom also needed painting.
left halfway through the bishop's interesting, but totally
incomprehensible, local language sermon to the parents
of the school, grabbed ten boys and by the time the
buffet lunch came at three o'clock we had finished painting
the old staff room (right).
paint on various places of my body and a T-shirt on. I walked
into the office and changed into something more appropriate
for a buffet lunch with a bishop. When I emerged five minutes
later in a suit and tie, the parents sat on the grass looking
amused. They had seen me walk in with paint on my bare legs
and now I was walking out in a smart suit and shoes. I heard
them chuckle and talk excitedly as I walked past them towards
where lunch was being served.
bishop was very impressed with what he saw that day, and
commended the work done by ACE and me.
all the classrooms were complete, as well as the staff room.
final project was the library. The library was in a room
that had all the shutters nailed shut and one stack of shelves
was actually in front of a window making it the darkest
library I had ever been in. I have no idea how the children
were supposed to read but I could notice by the cobwebs
on the walls that perhaps this wasn't the busiest library
in the world.
arrived the desks were adjusted, dust swept out, and a final
photo was taken. We had finished on the ring of the closing
is a school next to the waters of Lake Chahafi, a few kilometres
from the Rwandan border in the south western corner of Uganda
that now has two volleyball courts, two football fields,
a splendid set of flowerbeds around a grassy roundabout,
two swings in a play area, two gleaming new classrooms built
by a Cornish charity, one renovated classroom painted blue
and white, an old staff room like new, and a nice brightly
called: Kabami Primary
This is Eden's
12th Report, written on 27th June 2008.
Bagira and Bukazi Primary School
hundred children were squeezed into a classroom the
size of a large garage, some were sat on the floor,
others were sat six to a desk but they all watching
the same screen in front of them.
roar of laughter went up as the bear on the screen started
dancing and shaking his large posterior. The film on
the screen was a classic Disney film in which a young
boy befriends a bear called Baloo and a black panther
called Bagira. The film was 'The Jungle Book'.
loved the film and as I watched their three hundred faces
all I could do was smile.
battery on my laptop died just after Mowgli had escaped
the clutches of the jazz mad King Louie. All the children
then filed out of the classroom into the evening sun. They
started playing on the swing and messing about in the compound,
they didn't seem to want to go home and just wanted to enjoy
the evening weather.
I watched, a boy climb the flagpole to untie the Cornish
flag that had got caught up at the top of the six-metre
pole I knew it was time to go.
boy with the skill of a vervet monkey came down the
pole with the Cornish flag, donated by ACE, following
was one of my last schools in this ACE project and,
as I looked down the compound to the netball court,
the football pitch, the dry-stone wall completed that
afternoon and the two swings standing like giant stick
insects I was happy with the work done.
as grand as Kabami but still a job well done' I
mason was finishing the blackboard in the old P2 classroom.
I had only discovered that the classroom didn't have
a blackboard and no paint on the walls earlier that
had been a rush job to get it finished but it was
amazing what a coat of paint, repaired window shutters
and a new blackboard could do to a sorry looking classroom.
was empty when I first discovered it but next week
it will have children from P2 class in.
schools under the ACE programme are blessed as all of them
have a positive glow about them these days. Work continues
this very moment to make them better for Ugandan children
and teachers alike. That is due to the hard work of all
those back in England who give their free time and love
to help those less fortunate than themselves.
contractor Paul said to me on Saturday -
you have done for those schools is great work.You have increased
the enrolment in all of the schools you have been to and
attracted children back into school.'
wanted to tell you that is what everyone in ACE has done.
Children who didn't want to go to school, children who had
dropped out, children who had been taken out of school by
their parents - they are now coming back to school.
Primary School attendance for the school year 2007-2008
= 456 pupils Mukibugu Primary School attendance for
the school year 2008-2009 = 650 pupils
be here in Uganda and attracting kids into the ACE schools
but I wouldn't be able to do any of this without the support
of those back in Cornwall.
up the good work and good luck with 'Open Gardens 2008'!!
This is Eden's
13th Report, written on 10th July 2008.
between a Rainforest and the Congo
not easy travelling on a 125cc motorbike for two hours along
a murram mountain road, with a Ugandan carpenter on the
backseat and 10 kilograms of nails strapped to the back,
but that is what I had to do to get to Nyarusunzu School.
school lies directly north of Kisoro, twenty miles past
the beautiful Lake Mutanda, sandwiched between the 20,000-year-old
Bwindi Impenetrable Forest and the Congo border.
first thing I noticed was that it had been raining at the
school. I didn't understand how this could be so as it had
not rained in Kisoro for one month as we had entered the
African 'dry season'.
rain is due to the forest!' the head teacher replied.
Having a large expanse of rainforest on your doorstep certainly
causes things to be a little damper than usual. True to
the region, just after lunch we had rain, it was nice to
see rain again as after one month of dryness. I was beginning
to miss the patter of rain drops.
the schools I have been to, I felt the most welcome at Nyarusunzu.
The teachers made me feel very comfortable and took care
to answer my every request. I was served meat everyday,
which is a luxury for most Ugandans in this area. They even
requested that I stay 'forever' but all I could do was smile
and to reply that I would be back the following week. They
seemed to be happy with that although I will make sure I
leave my details with someone before I head to the school
next time in case I am 'adopted' by the natives.
in a classroom that ACE had built and found that having
no electricity or running water was actually quite nice.
The sun went down, the stars came into view, and lanterns
came out. We sat round three cooking fires and watched our
food cook. It felt like I was camping but for people in
this locality it is as normal as switching on the gas cooker
or turning on the microwave.
next morning, two parents turned up, and then another two,
then three more. As the morning sun climbed into the sky
more and more people came. It was the first time I had been
to a school and had parents help develop the school. It
was wonderful to see and I think the children were proud
of the parents for helping out.
school is built on a slope and I thought that having
any kind of sports facilities would be impossible
but with an enthusiastic, five-foot tall, headmaster
and fifty hoes I guess anything is possible.
lunchtime we had finished levelling terraces into
the slope to make enough room for two volleyball courts.
the balls ACE had provided an exciting game quickly
have plenty of trees here', the head master said.
We will need some', I replied.
were trees everywhere and also tree stumps standing around
like giant mushrooms. Now I am a great fan of adventure
playgrounds, so a few improvisations and a vivid imagination
later, we made one at Nyarusunzu School. Rope swings, balancing
beams; tyres hanging from trees, and a monkey rail were
have seen monkeys climb trees but when I saw these
kids clamber over and under the balancing beams and
along the monkey rail I had to keep reminding myself
that they were humans.
boy even managed to reach the canopy of one tree and
sat on a branch eight metres up. I was waiting for
him let out a monkey howl but he just smiled and climbed
Origami (Japanese paper-folding) craft making to one class.
We hung the completed origami birds from the classroom beams,
making them look like a flock of birds heading across the
desks below. The classroom looked great after we had finished.
surprised me on the following day. As I was teaching an
English lesson, I walked past a desk and saw an origami
bird on one pupil's desk. It was made from lined paper,
which was not the paper I used the day before.
did you make this John?' I asked.
I remembered from yesterday' he confidently answered.
found out that John was the brightest kid in the class
and had answered many questions that I had asked that
remember how to make an origami bird after one attempt
is predicted to get high marks in his final exams.
sincerely hope that he is able to go to secondary
school, as he could easily be a doctor or engineer,
given the opportunity.
would have thought it, but this school, sandwiched between
a rainforest and the Congo border, really surprised me.
Teachers live 5 hours walk away from the school but decide
to work here and sleep in the classrooms. The children performed
very well in their exams last year, out-performing schools
with better facilities and equipment.
headmaster is probably the most active and hard working
headmaster I know. He has created a school from one blackboard
in a mud and stick, banana-leaved structure, and now the
kids have the best playground and sports facilities in the
area. ACE built a three-classroom block last year that brought
the standard of the school to a high level.
area is often very misty due to the rainforest. It
is often shrouded in cloud, but it shines like a bright
star in the north of this district.
has been largely due an energetic five-foot tall headmaster
called Emmanuel and blonde haired lady from Cornwall
with a charity called ACE.
This is Eden's
14th Report, written on 16th August 2008, back in Cornwall
'Goodbye' to Kiroso was a strange feeling, all people
could say to me in reply was, 'When are you coming back?'
I guess it was not really 'goodbye' at all but rather 'farewell'
and when people were saying 'When are you coming back?'
they were really saying 'We'll be here waiting for you
when you return'.
that in life it is hardest thing to say 'goodbye' to something/someone
you love. When you are in front of 1,500 children from six
of your schools, and all the people who have made up the
memories of your time in Kisoro are standing there, well
it doesn't come much harder than that to say goodbye.
I could see was children's faces that I knew, faces
that had names, faces that had smiled and welcomed
me to their school when I had visited.
thought I would feel sad but all I felt was happiness.
that I had come to a remote place in south-west Uganda,
happy that I had tried my best to bring about positive
changes in these schools, and most of all happy that
I had made each school I touched a better place.
then, but when I stood in front of Mukibugu school a few
days earlier, (the school dearest to my heart) there were
a few tears. The whole school assembled for me and I remember
saying the words,
tried my hardest for you because… because… I know what your
lives are like. Children in my country don't have to suffer
the burdens that you do. They have good food; they have
running water, and live in stone houses… (I thought
of the home-stay I had done at Popius's house) Your lives
are hard enough…'
I was about to cry but Teddy the nice female teacher at
Mukibugu beat me to it as I heard her weep quietly behind
my head high and then said,
you for the memories Mukibugu, I won't ever forget you.'
about the future for these schools?
like there has been a refreshing spring breeze blown through
these schools. Certainly the amount of dust I found in some
of the school libraries, a strong breeze was most definitely
felt I was being too candid with the schools, that I had
pushed too much, but I only had a short time at each school
and there were so many things to accomplish. Also, when,
as a school, you have accepted standards that don't do justice
to the children who come every day to your school, then
you have to ask the question 'Why?'.
probably didn't think I was going to do the things I did,
but when you have the approval of the Kisoro Education Department,
and Angela Peake you feel pretty confident about what you
are doing. Not quite as confident as Michael Phelps, the
Olympic swimmer, but pretty confident nonetheless.
learnt many things and the schools learnt many things.
I think the main thing the schools learnt is that
it is possible to develop your own school.
you have fifty hoes, and creative teachers, you can
do a great deal to improve your school. Many of the
teachers already knew this but lacked the support
to do anything.
hope the spring breeze has blown away some cobwebs
and brought renewed confidence to the teachers. They
are the hope for these schools in the future.
I saw how hard those children worked in improving their
own schools I knew that good things were going to result.
It was great to see the children rush onto the volleyball
court, after they had made it with their own hands, or for
children to peer into a newly painted classroom to see what
the head boy and his team of painters had done. I am grateful
to all of them and to the teachers. Without their help,
I would not have been able to do the things I did.
future is bright for these schools as a fresh breeze has
passed through them. That breeze originated in Cornwall
and I hope that Cornwall continues to send its love to Uganda
in the future.
last nine months have been amazing for me. Being back in
Cornwall I have met so many wonderful people associated
with ACE who make the charity what it is. It is heart warming
to know that you were all wishing me well in Uganda and
following what I was doing. I thank you for all your support
and I thank Angela for her confidence in me and what I was
trying to achieve.
you could have seen what I have seen, met the children,
laughed when they laughed, smiled when they smiled and found
that we are all one people. They have the same hopes, fears,
joy and anguish that we do. I only hope that, with the stories
and pictures I show you, I can give you a glimpse of what
a beautiful world out there, and miracles happen every day.
All you got to do is believe it!
very dear to me sent this poem to me in Uganda, and I wish
to share it with you. It is called Desiderata
and was written about 1920 by Max Ehrmann.
placidly amid the noise and the haste,
and remember what peace there may be in silence.
far as possible, without surrender,
be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly;
and listen to others,
even to the dull and the ignorant;
they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons;
they are vexatious to the spirit.
If you compare yourself with others,
you may become vain or bitter,
for always there will be greater and lesser persons than
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.
Keep interested in your own career, however humble;
it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs,
for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;
many persons strive for high ideals,
and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially do not feign affection.
Neither be cynical about love,
for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment,
it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years,
gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.
But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.
Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline,
be gentle with yourself.
You are a child of the universe
no less than the trees and the stars;
you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you,
no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God,
whatever you conceive Him to be.
And whatever your labors and aspirations,
in the noisy confusion of life,
keep peace in your soul.
With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.
2011 - Return to Uganda
who has spent the past few years teaching in Japan has been
revisiting the ACE schools. He has sent these blogs -
1 - 'Memories and a few Surprises'
mist cleared in the morning sun and there below me is the
Kisoro valley. The view… is… simply stunning. I could make
out the hulking mass of Mt Muhabura ("The Guide") behind some
white clouds in the distance. I had forgotten quite how big
the dormant volcano was at 4127m. It was massive and incredibly
imposing as it towered over the valley. Below me was the mountain
road, it looked as though God himself had used his finger
to draw a chocolate coloured line all the way around the valley.
was my first surprise, the road between Kabale and Kisoro
had been in progress for the last few years and what was once
a small road clinging to the mountain side was now 15 metres
across. It was not finished but very impressive none the less,
massive earth works dotted all around the valley.
had forgotten the makeup of the fields here in Kisoro… Every
mountain side had a patchwork of multi-coloured squares. The
dry season is now fully entrenched here in Kisoro and the
mountain sides are bare brown, a gale would easily take off
the top soil and deposit it in a far away land. Too many people,
not enough land, I thought to myself. I had forgotten so much
but it was flooding back as we twisted and turned into in
the valley proper.
figures moved along hillside paths, some carried water, others
a sack, and some held a walking stick.
I recalled memories of my time in Kisoro my next surprise
hit me. We started along the valley floor, when all of a sudden
a steady droning sound seeped into my ears. There in front
of me was one of the best roads in Uganda. I could not believe
it, this was a pot holed mess two years ago and now it looked
like a smaller version of the A30. We were soon crossing the
Kisoro airport. As I was still admiring the road, we stopped.
we in Kisoro?" I asked someone. The lady replied "Yes" as
she picked up her things.
had once lived here for nine months and now I couldn't recognise
the place. The new road had transformed the town centre and
a new bank was being built right in front of the bus park.
I searched for recognisable features… yes there was the post
office, the petrol station and there… Augustine's shop!
"Wow, things have changed" I thought.
stepped off the bus. The usual medley of boda boda taxi drivers
mzungu (white man) you come!" they shouted.
calmly said in reply "Mezute (How are you?)" in the local
language. That stunned a few and one stepped forward with
a sly grin on his face said to me directly…
(How's it going?)" to which I replied "Sour (Fine!)"
drew a wave of laughter and cheers from the taxi drivers.
This mzungu knows our language they all excitedly chattered.
with that I had arrived in Kisoro.
2 - 'From the Best Road to the Worst'
grey runway of a road stretches before me as far as the eye
can see, the wind rushes past my face and the trees fly by.
It is good to be on a motorcycle on a day like this I thought
glance in the mirror and make a left; up ahead I see the end
of the tarmac and the beginning of the dirt road. Dust is
swirling in the distance, and I can see the silhouette of
a lorry. Now this is how I remember the roads in Kisoro, I
isn't so bad" I swerved round a pot hole or two. Rocks the
size of my fist were laid across the road like a marbles scattered
on a floor. I could see in the distance that the rocks were
getting larger and rocky outcrops were appearing.
minutes later, I had changed my initial thought of "this isn't
so bad" to "this road is bloody awful." I can only describe
the roads heading up to ACE schools as a river bed. Bang,
bump, swerve, straight, bang, bang, bump is the tune of a
motorbike on a dirt track in these parts. The marble like
stones I described earlier had multiplied by ten and only
certain parts of the road were traversable.
finally arrive at Gitenderi School, my back is sore and I
have a slight headache.
district has some of the best roads and some of the worst.
I like contrasts but probably not this one.
teacher rode on the back of my bike back to town and saw me
navigate the roads.
are tough! How know how to drive these roads! Are the roads
like these in your country?"
I could do in reply was give a wry smile…and reply "No."
3 - 'What is in a Name?'
I came to Uganda, I was coaching a girl in Japan for a speech
contest. The title of her speech was a dilemma for us, after
talking to her and thinking long and hard, we came up with
the words of Shakespeare and "What is in a Name?" Her speech
was about the meaning of her name and how she has tried to
live her life in the harmony with her name. Her name meant
'Love' and she has tried to love life and people in the way
that reflects her name. It was a heart-warming speech.
drive the roads in Kisoro and I hear the familiar but slightly
annoying "MZUNGU! (White person)" from everywhere I go. If
it is from a child it is said with the feeling of wild excitement.
If it is from an adult male it is often said with a tone that
leaves you a bit uncomfortable (I won't go into the details
about this in this story).
as I drive it is "Mzungu!" "Mzungu, how are you?" "Mzungu,
give me money!" "Mzungu, where are you going?" "Mzungu!" "There
goes a Mzungu!" "Mzungu give me a lift"
drive further towards the mountains and it starts to change
as I travel along certain roads. It goes something along the
lines of this…
"Mzungu, how are you?" "Edeni?" "Mzungu!" "Edeni!" "Edeni,
how are you?" "Luke?" "Luke!" "Edeni!" "Edeni, welcome back!"
look into the eyes of the people who say my name or Luke's
and they are bright and shining. A smiling face is what accompanies
those eyes. The feeling I get is one of love and it is like
the feeling you get when you see an old friend.
I think about the difference between "Mzungu" and "Edeni (they
add an 'i' to my name) or "Luke" it is apparent that the feeling
it is said with, is totally different. I believe that is because
of the work we did and the memories we created with those
children and people. There is a depth in the sound that is
pure and good.
believe that in some small way that the names, "Luke" and
"Angela Peake" and any others who come here and work with
the children will become part of folk-lore and the origin
is in a Name? Ask the children here in Kisoro and they will
tell you what someone's name meant to them…
4 - "Man Plans while God Laughs" but sometimes in life "God
Smiles as Children Try"
Saturday morning and I open my eyes. It is still gloomy
outside and there is a sound that makes me think "Oh no…"
That sound goes something like this
is the sound of heavy rainfall.
it stops soon I think to myself. It will really disrupt
today's plans if it doesn't…
is my last day in Kisoro and it was decided that we would
hold the ACE Sports Cup at Gitenderi School at 9am. I look
at my watch, it is 7:15. I open the door and peer outside.
My porch is awash and big puddles fill the hostel grounds.
I text all the headmasters to tell them to proceed to Gitenderi
once the rain stops.
the rain still hasn't stopped although it is lighter than
before. I phone William, the inspector of schools. He had
gone to Gitenderi to assess the situation there and to see
if anyone had turned up.
teachers are here and a few pupils. I would say around thirty
in number. The pitch is waterlogged and not in good condition."
at the mountain covered in rain clouds. "We will hold the
Cup next term" I announce.
it is better. I will inform the students." The phone went
be helped I thought. I texted all the headmasters to let
I receive a call from Ezra a teacher at Mukibugu. "We are
nearly at Gitenderi. Are you there?"
him if he received my message to which he replies "No."
go to Gitenderi at 1:45pm. If you are already there you
might as way play a friendly match" I said.
road was very bad and huge puddles spanned the road. It
was also dangerous and slippery. Riding across mud on a
motorcycle is never the sanest thing to do especially on
roads in Kisoro. But for ACE, we do whatever it takes.
I reached Gitenderi. The pupils now numbered two hundred.
Rukongi, Gitenderi, Rurembwe and Mukibugu had turned up.
However, Bukazi and Nyakabaya had not arrived and in the
end, those schools never reached Gitenderi as they had told
their students not to go after the initial cancellation
consulting the headmaster of Gitenderi we decided to hold
a series of friendly matches instead of the actual ACE Cup
as Nyakabaya and Bukazi weren't here. This was announced
to the waiting children. A big cheer went up as they realised
that they were going to play football against their arch
rivals. I said a few words of farewell (I had to leave in
the late afternoon for Kampala) and said a few broken words
in their Rufumbira language. That made everyone smile and
laugh as I messed up my pronunciation and had to be corrected
by the headmaster of Gitenderi.
with that I left the ACE schools playing football
on a Saturday afternoon on a mountainside in south
plans while God laughs" a message sent to me by the
headmistress of Nyakabaya later on in the evening.
replied "God smiles as children try" and explained
that football had taken actually place in the bad
intents and purposes the ACE Sports Cup was dead and buried
on Saturday, but the Ugandan children brought it back to
learned a lesson about life from them today…
5 - Moonlit Voyage
bus was heading up the mountainside. The engine heaved as
the hulking mass carried 60 passengers over the mountains
towards Kampala, the capital of Uganda.
grey silhouettes of the three mountains stood in the distance.
Muhabura (The Guide - 4127m), Mgahinga (The Pile of Stones)
and Sabinyo (The Old Man's Teeth). Those three mountains
forever watch the valley of Kisoro and the people beneath.
They were once volcanoes that spewed lava and rocks but
now they stand silently.
view at night from the hillside was beautiful.
clouds parted and revealed the moon. I could see that the
moon was full and bright. I peered at the mountain side
through the bus window. It was like a charcoal painting
outside… I never knew that there could be so many shades
of grey. It was one of those nights that the moon is so
bright that it casts a shadow on the things it touches.
The trees were especially beautiful as they were not grey
but silver. The moonlight reflected off the trees' leaves
and produced that magical colour.
yearned to be outside the bus, sitting, just sitting and
looking upon the charcoal landscape for time eternal.
an hour with this picture perfect scenery the moon disappeared,
sleep filled my eyes and I dozed off into an entirely different
6 - Children in Kisoro
in Kisoro is to see what it must have been like for people
150 years ago. The sun rises; people work the fields, eat
food harvested from the land and then relax by candlelight
in the evening.
children are born of this land, they play in this land and
most probably they will one day return to this land and
be buried. I look at their legs and face after they have
been toiling in the fields helping their mothers and they
are covered in dirt. Brown earth upon brown skin, I sometimes
can't tell which is the colour of the earth and which is
the colour of their skin as the two become blended over
their facial features.
the children smile their eyes sparkle. I compare these
children to the ones in Japan and when the Japanese
children smile their eyes do not sparkle like these
children from Kisoro. I find myself asking why…
there are whole host of reasons which are too many to list
here. I will state one or two possible reasons though.
the main reason is that the children in Kisoro are 'children'
in every sense of the word. They are living their childhood
one day at a time and always living in the moment. Japanese
children are 'children' but they have a whole host of things
piled upon their shoulders. They have their parents' expectations,
the expectations of their teachers, they must be top of
the class, they must practice the piano three times a week,
they must complete their homework every night, and they
must enter a good secondary school so that they can get
into a good university. In a sense, they are living in the
future, a future that has already been laid out by their
parents' and society's expectations of a child. The pressures
on a child growing up in the developed world are immense
and not easy to deal with. Even if a child achieves good
grades the parents tell them to get top grades next time.
No wonder their eyes don't sparkle if there other things
to always be thinking about instead of enjoying the moment.
reason for the sparkle is their purity. As there is no electricity
there is no television to imprint things onto their minds,
in its place only the environment and nature. The soul can
cleanse itself in such an environment and this clear beaming
soul shines through when they smile. It happens when they
sing, when they dance and when they laugh also.
a photo, flip the camera and show the children. A shrill
of voices rises up, eyes are wide, and shining smiles are
reflected behind in the 2.5 inch plasma screen as children
say "There's you!" or "Look at Annet!".
taken pictures of Japanese children and flipped the screen.
I usually only get a faint smile or a raised eyebrow. It
is something they have seen before so it isn't interesting.
It must always be 'new' with children in the developed world,
our society has taught them that is the way.
the children's eyes in Uganda sparkle. Smiles are true and
pure. The children are free to be just 'children.'
that is the secret to a sparkle in your eye. It isn't 'I
must be this or that' and it is instead simply to 'be'.
To be nothing else but you. To live in the moment and enjoy
it whatever it may be.
have something to learn about what 'happiness' is from these
7 - The Modern World Encroaches…
became starkly apparent to me inside the night bus I was
taking to Kampala on Saturday night. The bus was full of
people, however I didn't spot any animals on board this
time. Sometimes you spot a chicken or two but not on this
journey. Women in traditional clothes, men in farmers' jackets
and children in the best clothes which meant their uniform.
There were of course people returning to the city also…
they were the ones wearing collared shirts, business trousers
and the women were wearing jeans.
television screen that I hadn't noticed before was suddenly
switched on and it began burning brightly inside the dark
bus. A gasp went up when it was switched on. All eyes turned
to the screen.
music video night by the looks of things. A Ugandan music
video was playing, I averted my gaze and looked outside.
I returned to the screen a slick music video by Jennifer
Lopez was on. I glanced at my fellow passengers, I found
they were wide eyed and their mouths were slightly open.
The women in tradition clothes looked shocked as Jennifer
bounced along a beach in a bikini and then splashed sexily
in the surf. For them that was tantamount to being 'naked'.
I had never seen a thigh, shoulder or even a stomach in
all my time in Kisoro and there was Jennifer bearing all
for the camera. What must have they been thinking as they
me a young girl of ten years was gazing at the screen. The
look in her eyes was not one of shock but rather one of
interest. The modern world and all its attractions were
captivating this young girl. I could imagine that in ten
years time she might be in jeans and wanting to go to the
beach in a bikini and not to the local weekly market in
traditional clothes like her mother.
next video was Rhianna… Even I was open mouthed at this
video. She was on stage singing at a concert in a playboy
bunny outfit. Nothing unusual about that… What was unusual
was the two 9ft tall mechanical robots out of Star Wars
dancing with her. I could not even figure out if a person
was inside them or they were being controlled by a remote
control, they were that lifelike.
started 'grinding' with Rhianna. That raised a chorus of
laughter from the passengers. People were excitedly chatting
about what these machines were. The biggest laughter came
when one of the robots tickled Rhianna's bunny tail with
a rap of its mechanical fingers as she bent over seductively.
time the entire bus was captivated by this encapsulation
of our modern world.
turned to the new tarmac road that had arrived in Kisoro,
with it I knew that people's lives would change forever
in the coming years. The modern world is rapidly encroaching
on this corner of the earth. Women will swap their traditional
clothes for more western items, and the youth will want
a piece of modern life for example, an iPod or a new phone
in the future.
end of the traditional way of life was already happening
in Kisoro but the new tarmac road has just sped up that
so privileged to have had the experience of seeing this
traditional world before it disappears forever. There is
something magical about it.
8 - Kampala - Down Town Bus Park Area 7:15am
with a start. We had apparently arrived in Kampala while
I was fast asleep. I checked my watch, it said 4:04am. We
had arrived slightly early. I was about to get off but then
noticed everyone else remaining in their seats.
found out that people were not getting off as it was
too early for transport to start going out to the suburbs.
It was also a little dangerous to walk around at this
time of night I was told. So, with nothing to do I took
5:40am I finally arrived at the down town Kampala bus station
so that I could get to me to my next destination, which
was Soroti. A swarm of bus touts greeted me hurriedly saying
are you going? Where are you going?!'
as the words "Soro…" left my mouth. Two men said
if a bus is not full it doesn't leave. I took my time and
inspected both buses. Both were fairly empty. I didn't like
the way one tout had tried to grab my arm so I took the
other guy's bus.
waited on the bus.
45 minutes I realised I had chosen poorly. The other bus
was filling up fast and looked ready to leave. I just watched
as it pulled away.
Kampala come to life in the morning light.
sell anything and everything here. I have seen men carry
ten jackets on their shoulders one on top of the other and
walk around like a giant coat hanger trying to sell a jacket
or two. Telephone credit, newspapers, mints, socks, belts,
sunglasses all these are sold by local hawkers who move
from bus to bus or car to car. It is a sight to see.
ebb and flow of trade is what gives Kampala its tune.
7:15am I am looking out the front windscreen of the bus
watching the world go by when a brawl suddenly erupts. I
am not sure why it started but there were now ten people
fighting right in front of my bus. It looked like two groups
of men were battling it out. Fists were flying, then a stool
was picked up and it was flung against someone who then
fell to the ground. One
guy was on the ground and had a couple of kicks pumped into
him. Another guy had another man on the ground by his leg
and was about to let a kick fly when another man lumbered
in with a punch to the one holding the leg. The man fell
to the ground.
saw that it was the bus touts, conductor and driver of my
bus involved in the fight! The man who just fell to the
ground had now got up but was bleeding from just under the
eye. That incident ended the fight as he was one of the
leaders of one side by the looks of things.
minutes later my bus was leaving. Our driver was nursing
a gash across the bottom of his eye as he put the bus in
is a dog eat dog city, for many you have to be tough to
survive on the street. This is the reality and this is life
in Uganda. People struggle to survive here but that is just
how it is.