The school is about 15-20 minutes by car from where I am living. Accommodation is quite comfortable – spacious rooms, shared TV that has been been showing a soapie (called “Hidden Passions”) that possibly originally from South America and is dubbed into English – the script and acting are so bad it’s almost good. Like most houses around here, the house is surrounded by a thick cement wall 2 meters high, entrance into the yard is via solid metal gate. The local village is maybe 500m (if that) away along a dirt track. I haven’t had a chance to investigate any of it other than than the “supermarket” for bottled water. I bought three 1.5 bottles and 2 erasers for school – the total bill was 4,000 ugandan shillings (roughly $2.00). The girl at the cash register didn’t have change for 10,000 shillings ($5.00) -I had to find a 5000 shilling note to make the transaction possible.

The school is very small – I don’t know the exact details but 4 classes of around 10 – 15 students would be near enough. I’ve been sort of let loose with a bunch of 7-8yo’s. It’s a challenge – not all the students understand english.

They can respond appropriately to “put your hand up”, but a request such as “Put your hand up if you understand me” gets nil response every time. I’ve been telling them the story of Goldilocks and the three bears, with lots of appropriate actions and voice changes, which they seem to enjoy. I doubt they know what a bear isbut they could answer questions about the story.

The school is also very basic. Electricity is not connected yet because setting up the connection is too expensive. There is a water tank connected to the mains supply, but at present the mains supply in that area is not working, which explains why washing up after meals is done in 2 inches (5cm) or less of cold water with generous slurp of detergent. I’m told the toilets are pit toilets – I haven’t checked – and the entire school library would be maybe 30 books presumably donated by various volunteers. The classroom shown below is part of a small block of three rooms (the one below is the largest) built from hand made bricks two years ago.

Students use cheap lead pencils that break frequently, and a considerable amount of school time is spent resharpening pencils with razor blades. There are a number of packets of felt pens, but using them is a special treat because paper is considered to be very expensive. Freda, the volunteer from the UK who is also here, starts at an orphanage next week that apparently makes conditions at the school look luxurious. So many students are crowded into small classrooms that the classroom becomes hot and smelly. Current government regulations require that all students take an end of year exam. For year 3 the  time allowed for the paper is 2 hours and 40 minutes. The format is a relic that hasn’t changed from the days when the British were still in power in Uganda. I’m told it doesn’t take the students that long too do – not suprising as the questions are ridiculous for the age group – “Why is it important to rotate crops?”  “Name the home of a rabbit”  “Why do people need to save?” “What is the best time for transplanting seedlings?” “Write any four causes of road accidents?” “Give any one danger of too much sunshine to people”  (The correct answer is too much sun means not enough rain to grow crops).


On Wednesday night we went to watch a local show demonstrating local dances and top value for 10,000 shillings. ($5.00)  at a very nice venue. Although there were only about 50 of us in the audience as the mid week performance is poorly attended, it was an excellent show. A lot of the success of the show can be attributed to the guy who apparently created the show. He intersperses the dancing with some excellent stand-up comedy, including jokes about Idi Amin. In one part of the show he wandered amongst the tiny audience finding out where people were from, and claimed that I was the first Australian he had met and shook my hand. It turns out that I have now shaken hands with “The First King of Scotland”, as I later learned he is the man who played the role of Idi Amin in the “First King of Scotland” movie.

Which reminds me – in a blackboard quiz given to “my” class recently by another teacher, one of the questions was “Name a national holiday”. Correct answers were also supplied, and the children write down the questions and answers in their books. A suggested correct answer was “Indipendence Day”, which a couple of children shortened to “Idi Day”. Students can read surprisingly well considering it is their second language, and make a pretty good stab at correctly pronouncing unfamiliar words.

I’ve already briefly seen some markets en route to the dancing show – a maze of people sitting on a blanket where their goods and wares are displayed, chatting on their mobile phones. Plans for the coming weekend include a trip to what is described as a very hectic market and a trip to the countryside. Stay tuned.


  1. Jenny Hefford says:

    Wow Mum! I am speechless. It’s boring to keep saying this … but what an amazing experience! I hope you are able to buy something from the markets that Australia will let into the country. I am very jealous of the experience you are having and look forward to my turn coming (one day).
    xx Jen

  2. Cath says:

    They look like a wonderful bunch! The thought of you getting right in to telling these kids the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears complete with character voices makes me smile. Like Jen, I want to come too!

  3. Sue says:

    Hi Marg, They are beautiful looking children and so many smiles. What do they call you? How incredible that they sit for such ancient exams and the time limit! – I couldn’t picture a Qld Grade 8 lasting that long. The kids will have to learn big numbers to manage their currency. It’s a different world, not just a different country. I think that Idi Amin in that movie was portrayed by Oscar Winner, Forest Whittaker – you should have got his autograph. Keep the adventures coming – but not too adventurous okay. XX Sue

  4. Paul Heff says:

    Did you seriously shake hands with Forest Whitaker?!

  5. Jenny Hefford says:

    Hi Mum,
    Thought you might like to know …
    Liam is studying ‘Around the World’ at school at the moment. He is really into it. He took your email to school and I printed off all of the photos of children and schools for him to take in. His teacher is thrilled to have access to such current African images and stories. The pictures are all on display in the classroom! Nice timing!
    xx Jen

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