Today, Thursday, we went to Masese Co-Educational Primary School with Gospel Cross, an organisation that delivers Preventive Health Care training to poor communities. It was a rough ride along the dirt track up to the top of the hill overlooking the Masese slum area.
The school has around 900 children, many of whom are from the Karimojong people, a tribal group who have been displaced from their region in north-eastern Uganda and settled on government-owned land. They are feared and despised, are not allowed to farm the land and eke out an existence in the slum.
The top four year groups gathered eagerly under the trees, dressed in their yellow and blue uniforms. We were welcomed with a rousing song, then the Gospel Cross team introduced the theme of Healthy Eyes, at one stage causing hilarity as 2 of them blundered around in opaque goggles, trying to catch someone jingling bells. The challenge was to organise 200 children into 8 groups, then to introduce them to the game of Snakes and Ladders which reinforced the teaching. Whoops of glee and howls of disappointment rose from each group, they loved the game.
The students did remarkably well, we were impressed by their level of English, quick grasp of the rules of the game and of the points it raised. A hand-shaking exercise with glitter illustrated how germs are transmitted from person to person, then from hand to mouth to eyes.
Our team was welcomed into head teacher Christine’s office. The school motto is No Surrender. After the fun of the game it was sobering to hear that some of these children were heads of household. For many years a charity had provided a daily meal for the children, but the charity had moved on and the kitchen stood deserted. Many children had left as a result, taking to the streets to forage for food. Others did not have the means to bring food to school, so went hungry all day. The teachers did their best and there were inspiring stories of former students who had gone on to further education. The children pay around £10 a term and there are various sponsorship schemes. Macedonian Vision Africa is the biggest sponsor, supporting around 20 of the children. If this is for you, you can contact MVA’s UK team Rachel Muter, Paula Gabbott or Nigel Harris.
We listened to Christine’s dreams and wished we could help. Geoff and Julie will return later this week to discuss a possible twinning with an Altrincham primary school. We mulled over all that we’d seen and heard on the bumpy journey back to our hotel.
Just as we were setting off for lunch a torrential rain storm began. It went on until the evening, grounding some of us at the hotel. As our tummies rumbled we thought about those school children who went all day without breakfast or lunch.
This entry by Sue