I have been in Uganda for almost a week now, but it feels as though I have been here for longer! When I was planning this leg of the trip, Uganda wasn’t included. Initially, It looked like I would be in South Africa for longer than 90 days which would cause problems with my visa, so I decided to stop for two weeks in Uganda first. I chose Uganda because it was the only African country I have really had any ‘contact’ with, having seen the Watoto Children’s Choir perform in Canada on a few occasions. That and, Uganda encompasses what I think of when I think of ‘Africa’. Rural red dirt roads, and adorable children. Once Uganda was added to my itinerary I was very excited to go! That being said, this stop is more about serving and trying to be of use than about being a tourist. I have read a lot of conflicting articles about the benefits vs harm of short term mission projects. I came here with the intention of experiencing another part of the world, and also investing in long term solutions on the ground. For me, the long term investment comes in sponsoring a child’s education.
Through Love Volunteers, I was placed at a government run school in a small village outside of Mukono. The walk to school is about twenty minutes long where I pass proper houses, and proper mud huts, and many variations in between. The kids who attend my school live in this village as well, while some are more well off than others, all of them are among the luckiest in the village to be attending school at all. My first few days, I grew attached to a little girl named Jackline. She is very quiet and works very diligently. Every time we catch each others eyes she gives me a shy smile before walking away. I knew she was the right little girl one day at break, their teacher said to finish copying what was on the board then they could go outside. I looked up and Jackline was one of only two kids sitting and writing, everyone else had gone out. I peeked in some of their books and they had in fact not finished their work!
I later found out that Jackline and her two sisters are in fact orphans who are living with their aunt. Even though it is a struggle, the aunt has invested in the girls’ education, and Jackline is self motivated to complete her work, which leads me to believe she will continue to work hard and excel, and be supported my her family.
After talking with Jackline, her aunt, and my host (I didn’t really talk because I don’t speak the language) they decided the best thing would be to move her to the private school in the area which I am in favour of as well. My concern was that she would miss her friends, and she seems a bit young to be away form home. This morning we all drove over to her new school for her to take her entrance exams. At her current school she is in P4 (the equivalent to grade 4 in Canada) but based on her test, her level is P2 (grade 2) I was heartbroken for her because she seemed very sad, but on the same note, they don’t know her exact age so that could very well be where she’s meant to be. She is also very small so she won’t stand out in her new class.
side note: My host was telling me it’s not at all uncommon for village children not to know their exact age. it used to be that school entrance was based on the length of your arm. If you could reach your right arm over your head to touch your left ear, you were old enough to go to school.
Over the weekend, we will go shopping for her supplies and she will start at the new school as a boarder on Monday. My host here will help facilitate things after I leave, and will attend visiting day with Jackline’s guardian each term. It’s incredible to me how yesterday and today are so very different for this girl and her family. I am so excited to watch her thrive in the years to come, and fully intent to attend her primary school graduation (approx 2020).