We are giving space to Gayle, currently in Uganda with Simon, Sally, Aine and Joy (Headteachers from Haydon Wick school and St Francis School).
Uganda is a colourful country, from the bright orange soil of the dust track roads, the yellows and greens of bananas and melons for sale along the roadside, to the deep pink purple skies of evening.
As we arrived for our first school visit on the Monday morning, children were already assembling outside for Collective Worship. They stood in their classes, in height order and we all enjoyed a time of singing and worship. Finally a group of pupils danced for us and then invited us to join in, in the blazing heat. It probably looked like a collective Theresa May moment of uncool Brit dancing!
We then shared the story of Moses, a blue scarf improvised as the river Nile, a borrowed basket safely housed an appropriately black-skinned baby Moses. (Why do we assume he was white?)
At lunch time we were surrounded by children wanting to greet us. It started very calmly with handshakes, but high 5’s quickly became the favourite mode of energetic greeting.
In the Church of Uganda this year the focus is ‘Compassion for Children’. At each of the four Church schools that we visited Áine and Joy (our Swindon Head Teachers) led a discussion on The Compassionate Teacher. Teachers were very interested in pay and conditions in the UK, and wanted to find out about the challenges we face in a secular society. The call to teach was shared.
We spent time in a reception class. The teacher had a very energetic and enthusiastic style, with songs, repetition and use of counters which were bottle tops. In another school I joined a Primary 1
class for a writing lesson. The teacher had about 60 children in her class. Just making sure everyone had a pencil that was sharp enough to write was a mammoth task!
Contrasts in Wealth and Resources
We visited a school in a slum area. The discussion in that school was extremely inspiring and moving. Gertrude, a young Head Teacher was clearly a motivating leader wanting the absolute best she can offer her students even with the huge financial and resource constraints they work under. As we were leaving Áine offered her a ‘Jelly Baby’. She loved it and asked for the packet. She then proceeded to eat a couple more and then as she walked back into school she popped a jelly baby into the mouths of the children she walked past.
Straight from the school in the slum we went to a top private school. The size of the school and the resources were breath-taking, a complete contrast to what we had just seen. Students in this school had science labs, computer rooms, cooking rooms, art rooms, music rooms with loads of traditional instruments, and an Olympic size swimming pool!
African Worship – in Africa
We attended a service of worship. And what an experience it was! It lasted approximately 3 hours 15 mins. It was essentially an Anglican Communion Service, but with extremely energetic singing, dancing, jumping, praying, giving of testimonies and praising God. Our ears were ringing at the end as if we had been to a school disco! Sally preached, with her sermon being translated into Ugandan.
The School at Bwaziba
We also visited Bwaziba school about 8 miles outside Luwero along an orange dust road with lush green vegetation all along the route. The school had a most beautiful view, but it was definitely in need of buildings and resources. The Head Teacher is very new to the school, but seemed to have good plans to improve it. They hope at some point to be able to use solar power to provide them with some electricity. They would like to build a kitchen and some accommodation for the teachers. Many of the staff have to journey a long way each morning. The Head Teacher is currently sleeping in a room next to her office during the week.
They hope to lay concrete floors in all of their buildings, plaster the walls and to paint them with pictures appropriate to the year group. In the younger classrooms they would like to get plastic tables and chairs to be able to use the space flexibly.
On Thursday we travelled to the National Park in the safe hands of Quraish our fabulous driver. After many hours of travelling we reached Murchison Falls, stretching our legs at such an amazing site of beauty. Even in the intense heat it was a wonderful experience. The next step of our journey was to cross the river Nile. Having told the story of Moses 4 times in the week there was something incredibly spiritual about crossing the Nile. We came face to face with some of God’s creations that I never thought I would be privileged to see in the wild. On the opposite bank an elephant was waiting to greet us. Local fishermen stood on their boats only metres away from the hippos – a dangerous job to catch talapi for tea.
We had a boat Safari on the Nile. I still can’t really believe how many hippos we saw, crocodiles lurked on the bank, beautiful birds flew overhead and elephant families delighted us along the bank.
A Surprising Message
We have just been invited to return to the Kampala Diocesan office to have a meeting with the Archbishop of Uganda to discuss developing our Uganda link. Clearly the Archbishop has heard good things about the visit and wants to find out more.