Monday, October 3, 2011

Interesting times

It is amazing to be here and the different opportunities that present themselves. Last Saturday I was able to attend the 100th anniversary of the starting of a private school here in Wairaka, Jinja. The group that I have been a part of Women of Hope were invited to sing.
So, the day dawned and Ron using the Village bus was all set to transport the ladies at 7.30. Of course in good Ugandan style, the traditionally dresses which had all been made in the same material, wee missing buttons. Judith was endeavouring to rectify the problem the night before but due to power outage had to wait until morning. Hence, their scheduled departure was late. In fact, I was picking up the leader at 9.00 and met them on the way. It was a little wet but I had been assured that the road would be fine. Due to the sewing Judith was not ready and other ladies who were coming with us were delayed. Hence,Ron was able to go up and discover that the road had become vey slippery and so as the wonderful husband he is, he said he would drive us and he could make his own way home.
the lovely JudithWhen we went it was a lot better so I was able to drive most of the way and Ron walked back. Though the conditions did deteriorate significantly later and many had to walk up the hill and about 50 cars were at the bottom of the hill at one stage, just outside our village.
The event was well prepared for with wonderful marquees and plastic seats for all. Our ladies looked wondeful and were so proud and happyto be there. They sang beautifully, danced gracefully and full of energy as only Africans can and looked fantastic. If it was only to see them it would have been worth while. However, there was so much more.
The primary boys school associated with the school, the school boys themselves and the associated girls school all performed a number of items. The dancing is amazing and so great to see. I often thing about the number of experiences I just 'happen' to be able to have. I am truly grateful. It of course was colourful, tuneful without accompaniment and a joy to witness.
Other parts of the four hour proceedings were also interesting and intriguing. There was a church service type of thing at the start with a great message from the Bishop. A person who is highly regarded in Christian circles here.
The school was started by the Church Missionary Society and obviously had English headmasters for quite a time. There were people there from the UK including an ex-teachers and relatives or significant headmasters. The school also had a connection with Manchester Grammar school and students come for their gap year to the school to assist (yes, you can probably hear my mind working!!!) The chairman of the board made a very interesting speech in terms of my experience with education here in Uganda. He suggested that the government (who were significantly represented) should supply teachers with a laptop and that students soon should be required not to have a calculator but to have a smart phone. His significant premise was that the school should not dwell on the past hundred years but look to the future and how to deal with the future. Many things that would be such a jump from what I have seen.
Another important peson, the head of the Old Boys' Association (more commonly the OBs) spoke of past students. The previous president Obote was a former student of the school. He had grown up a peasant and then through the education he gained able to lead the country. Surprisingly to me they also spoke of Museveni being infkuenced by the school. He was very involved with Scripture Union and came to the school and debated with a teacher who was there. The essence of the teacher's perspective was that politics and religion should not mix, Museveni disagreed, but went away convinced of this stwnce, what a great pity that was. Another strange thing ti boast of was that an ex-student was high up with Kony (leader of the LRA - the rebel forces that have caused innumerable atrocities including child soldiers). The bright side of this was that two other ex-students were in the government delegation to meet with him and through the school connection were able to come to a good agreement. Unfortunately, big time, was that Kony did not hold to the agreement.
The government representative who was there somehow had a connection to the school despite being female, it being an all boys school. Museveni could not attend due to being out of the country, in India, the deputy was at the United Nations conference and so in fact she was in charge of the country at that time. The most significant thing from her fir me was the promise from the president for 30 million shillings for the building fund. In Australian dollars this is not much but I know that many many schools would love a small part of this and have more need. Considering the wealth and depth of the old boys of the school one would think that the funds could easily be raised from them. Though to be fair the school is not in a great condition and so had obviously been neglected for some time.
Other important guests came from the Mathvani family. They run the local sugar mills and have donated large amounts to the school, I think enough for the library. I found this recognition hard to handle. Many local people work at the sugar mills and for the lowly workers the conditions are terrible. You may well say but they are employing people. I know of a lady who works there and earns 70000 shillings a month! This is sbout 2500 shillings a day which is a lot less thsn $1 a day and I have heard that if they do not make their quota when cutting cane that they don't get paid. However, donations to organisations and giving scholsrships to university is meant to compensate! Sorry for any cynacism but it is hard to see honour given in these circumstances. I hope that change can happen so that this is not the case. The sugar mill should bring prosperity to this area not added poverty.
All in all, such an interesting event to have been a part of. Our ladies, most of whom are in extreme poverty were guests for a lovely lunch and felt truly special. I am was so pleased for them. It will be a precious memory for them for many years to come and for that I am vy grateful. I too, will remember it as another special event I was privileged to attend.

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