It has been a while since I visited the school at Kasaka and I was amazed. “What is that?” “That is the canteen” – I opened the door to find a builder hanging up his trousers (he had another pair on). The canteen will be a small shop where children (and possibly others) will be able to buy small snacks for lunch, (eg small bag of peanuts, or a local bun made by an enterprising parent, or a piece of sugar cane perhaps) and where the teachers will be able to buy credit for their phones etc.
I saw the bore hole, complete with pump, and a good fence around it. I had a go at pumping, and was surprised by how much water came out with each fairly hefty pump.
Then I wandered around to the clinic – well, not wandered exactly, more like scrambled on dusty mounds of earth where giant tree roots and scrub were in the process of being dug out in readiness for future construction. This building, which Alan told me was at wall plate level last week, had a tin roof on it. It is brilliant, and beyond our dreams at this stage. This clinic is being funded by a group of medical students from Birmingham University who arrive here in 1 week’s time. They will also be funding the nurse to work there for 2 years.
I went into the shell that will house a nurse, and then clambered over bricks and assorted buildingy stuff into the waiting area which separates the accommodation from the clinic. The next room will be divided into two by plywood, and will be the examination room, and the treatment room. All as prescribed by the government regulations here.
Of course a well is no good without drinkers, and the clinic will need a nurse and patients. I believe there will be no shortage of patients at all, and we will start advertising for the nurse very soon.
In a similar vein, the school is just a building without staff and pupils, and after wandering round the site we went into some classrooms. All seems so ordered now, and if the standard is maintained, we should soon have an excellent reputation. Of course, I can always see room for improvement, and no laurels are being rested upon.
The teaching style is teacher/blackboard/questions and a forest of arms waving around. I suddenly had a vision of the donkey in Shrek shouting “Pick me, Oh pick me”. I wondered though about the row of boys who looked like they had no idea “How many sticks Cate picked”, and what was more they did not care!
The teacher had mentioned that she had just had the class up singing a song because they were in danger of falling asleep. I guess it had been a long maths lesson. My sympathy was with the boys in the 4th row.
Reaching home I had a cup of tea, and thought through the morning. It wasn’t the buildings I remembered, or the maths lesson, or the one classroom that was filthy, it was one little girl.
We have a few children for whom we are fully responsible who live at the school during term time. We have a brilliant young lady looking after them, but a couple of children had been sneaked in without our knowledge, and Alan had sent them back home to live. I did a check on which bed belonged to which child, and came across a name I did not know. I asked to see the little girl. Meanwhile I phoned the office to check the story. Yes, we had given permission for her to stay, because she had received a cruel punishment at the hands of a relative for stealing.
The little one has a visible scar. As I sat with her I could see that that scar was pretty unimportant in the great scheme of things, but the one in her heart was dreadful. Her little face was so sad and her eyes were deep. Rovence translated as we talked, and as I prayed for her. I do not have a good memory, but if I could draw, I would be able to sketch her as she has captured my heart.
Over the next few weeks we have UK visitors who will visit the school, and do some fun things with the pupils. This is one child that I hope will catch more than a ball during games, or learn more than maths during a lesson. I hope that she learns that not all adults are cruel, and that love can conquer all things.
Having returned from Kasaka, I had asked our visitor to swing by the bakery to get some bread for lunch. As Alan drove them back they saw a teacher hitting children with a stick as they left the classroom in a school over the road. For several reasons it was not possible to physically intervene – not least because at that distance, it would not be possible to identify the teacher. This is an everyday occurrence here in Uganda, and when and where possible, we act – when our children are beaten in school, we complain and make a huge fuss. Beating children is against the law here, but continues none the less. It makes our blood boil, and we feel powerless on many occasions, such as this. Please pray that we would always have the wisdom and courage to know where and when to intervene. It is a hard mindset to change, because there are parents who endorse this harsh discipline. One teacher told us –“We have to beat – I have been to Liverpool and the teachers there wish they could beat children!” On another occasion Alan and Noah complained to a head-teacher “If you carry on like this, a child will die”. His answer was “If a child dies, it is between me and my God”.
This is one of our main motivations for building and running schools – to run establishments where children are safe from harm, and where teachers can teach children who can learn in an environment that is conducive to fear-free learning. We want to teach other ways of disciplining children – which in the end will lead to self-control.
Would this be Beryl if I didn’t moan? Three weeks now without water. Country wide 24yr power cuts mean that there is no water in our town. Little water is being processed, because power is off, and because of where we live – up a hill – above the level of the town tank , we are very very low in the pecking order. Until today, judicious use of the water we had, and large rain water tanks, and a delivery by water tanker, means that we have eked it out. Now though, the last drop has gone, and it is THE LATRINE, and baby wipes for washing, until the next tanker load arrives.
Not being able to bathe or wash up may be many a teenager’s dream, but after a day the novelty wears both off and me down. How do you even prepare food without a tap? On the plus side we will all smell like a baby’s bottom – (the fresh and clean ones until the baby wipes run out!). We cannot wash our floors, our feet or our clothes. Lively debates are around the best way to reuse underwear, and our lovely visitors think it is all great fun. I will reserve my judgment in case my awaited tanker does not come.
My lovely father used to give us rainwater from our underground tank each Friday with which to wash our hair. I felt like a princess. Yesterday Alan bought a large pump to transfer the remaining water from the rainwater tank up to the main tank so that we could shower and flush the loo. It was quite a performance to prime the pump, and someone had to climb the water tower, and several somebodies had to hold up the pipe. In all the melee, and calling for more jerrycans to fill the bucket that the pump was sucking water from, it was noticed that one lad was filling the jerrycan to feed the pump with water from the tank that we were trying to fill! Sometimes I feel like a princess with my soft rainwater shower – and some times I feel like I am starring in a Carry On film (minus the naughty bits). TV? Don’t miss it much. We have it all here – comedy, culture, and more than a little drama.
Please do not sympathise or spend much time worrying – we can drive the 20 mins to the school to collect water from the borehole if we need to – doesn’t that bring me back to where I started? Ever decreasing circles!
Have a good weekend,
Beryl (& Alan) Went
Love in Action