Letter from Mary Griffiths in Uganda, October 2005.
Off to Uganda again for just over two weeks, but this time with Alwyn in a group of nine people.
Just before setting off, I learned that the RDC, the President’s representative of the area wanted to meet me. Apparently, he had been very impressed by the children of our school on Independence Day, a week earlier. They had been invited to march and sing along with other schools in the vicinity. Our children were by far the youngest, being only 6 and 7 years old, but made a big impression on the RDC. He told me how confident they were using the microphone and singing etc. and five of them had been given special prizes.
Their performance had inspired him to visit our school, where he was very surprised at the beautiful environment created there and the facilities we enjoyed.
When we met up with him, he expressed a desire to help us and pledged that early next year, the Government would begin to build a tarmac road to make access to the school much easier. Power would also follow. He would endeavour, too, to help our charity obtain tax free status, so that all goods imported into the country for the school would not be charged tax.
The main purpose of the trip this time was to sort out the contents of the 40 foot container which had arrived in Uganda the previous month. The former head teacher of Bedwellty Comprehensive School, Sally Hyman along with Rebecca Evans and Amy Palmer, two of the former pupils of the school that had closed down in July had a special interest in this aspect of the trip. The school had paid for the container and donated a large amount of the contents. Many items in our first container had also been given by the school. It was such an experience for them to see the goods reach their destination and be used in a country so far away.
For the first few days everyone worked so hard opening boxes, identifying and categorising the contents and storing them appropriately.
John and Jean Rawlings, (brother and sister) were interested in helping with teacher training for the staff of our school and others in the area. They also spent time showing our staff how to use the resources that had been shipped out. It was encouraging to discover that the lesson plans prepared by our teachers were deemed to be as good as any teacher in Britain. One of the members of our Management Cmmittee pointed that the child that he has in our school in Primary 2 class is further advanced that his other child in another school in Primary 4. Everyone in the area is very pleased with the progress of the children. This is due not only to the staff appointed, but to the relatively small numbers in the class (30 as opposed to over 100 in other schools) and the resources available.
John Jean and Sally’s input was also valuable during the time spent interviewing further applicants for the posts of teacher and head teacher which need to be filled before the beginning of next term. One candidate was unanimously agreed upon. Her name is Grace.
Claire Rees, a journalist who had been following the closure of Bedwellty School and the link with our school in Uganda accompanied us for the first week of the trip. Her thoughts and impressions will be seen in print during the Christmas period.
Nicole, my niece, is training to be a teacher in Lancaster. It was a moving experience for her to see the difference in the opportunities open to Ugandan children as opposed to those in Britain. She was touched to see a pupil from our school chose soap as a prize for doing well in the end of term exams, instead of a toy.
Anwen, Alwyn’s niece joined us for the second week in Mbale. She is in her final year of training to be a doctor in Edinburgh. We had arranged for her to spend two months in Uganda to study tropical medicine. She, helped by Nicole, checked the health of quite a few of our children.
Everyone joined in enthusiastically with the jobs needing to be done, with Amy and Anwen helping David, our caretaker, to paint the classrooms. Becca was even out at the gate building the wall with the workmen. The girls also helped the cooks make the porridge and the next day took the British food they had brought with them up to the school. They thought they wouldn’t like the Ugandan food and had packed a load of pot noodles. The children at the school had pot noodles for the first time. (Not the healthiest meal they will have eaten)
The fence around our compound is now up and the wall to support the gate is almost completed. Our next aim is to build the second classroom block which needs to be ready for when the children move into Primary 5 in February 2006. We had had a few estimate for the job and it is going to cost about £58,000. We also need to erect a header tank so that the land can be irrigated.
Thank you for everyone who has contributed to the success of the project so far and special thanks to those who worked so hard on this last trip.