This time last year, I had the pleasure of joining one of our volunteers at a school she worked at, during her short stay with The Real Uganda. It’s a small church funded primary school in Kabembe, Mukono District. The area is populated largely by peasant farmers and their families. Our partner, Balamu Community Organization, leads outreach activities there. On the day of my visit, we played team building games and did some physical education with kids aged 3 to 13. Marie (our vollie) then taught a public health lesson to the Primary Class 4 kids.
We also learned a few things that day:
1. This school is headed by a guy clearly committed to his students. He understands physical education allows his students to recharge their brains, builds confidence, and gives them an outlet for their energy. I even saw female teachers playing netball during their lunch break! We don’t see this in many schools.
2. This school practices what it preaches as regards public health. They add liquid soap to their hand washing water and make toilet paper available in each classroom. Again, actions I don’t normally see in village schools. Further, the place was organized, spotless, and beautifully landscaped. It’s a great environment for kids, all around.
3. The students are learning great things in school to help them stay healthy and make good decisions about their lives. Unfortunately, local cultural norms are keeping them from sharing with their families. Sadly, many admitted they were scared to talk to their parents about hygiene, sanitation, and medical treatment. This is something I’ve come across a lot in my years in Uganda. Parents and guardians are so busy with the pressures of everyday life that they don’t spend much time with their kids. Decisions made by adults are final. A child’s voice in the home is not often respected. Open communication is not encouraged. As a result, a lot of the great stuff kids learn at school stops with them.
The day after this school visit, I met with a colleague, Tony Wanyoike of Hopeline Organization, who expressed the same thing regarding the families his community based organization is trying to assist. Together we designed a project. It involves 24 weekly village meetings over a 6 month period, that concern communication between adults, and between adults and kids within households. Speakers from local NGOs, the ministry of gender, churches, and local government will be invited to chair the 2 hour meetings. Community members will discuss issues such as: proactive parenting, respecting everyone at home and in the community, maintaining violence free households, and encouraging family members to spend time together. We want to give kids an outlet for all the great stuff they’re learning at school!
Our budget came in around $1,300. It doesn’t take much money when you have a deep connection with the local population. We submitted our proposal to Kain Foundation, in Australia, and it was approved overwhelmingly. The funds reached our accounts in July and the very first weekly meeting was held last night in Kkoba Village, Buikwe. Can you imagine, 210 people came out!! The District Probation Officer chaired it. The importance of sending kids to school, rather than to work, was the topic. Apparently, it was a lively discussion. This could be the start of something really great. I’ll let you know what happens.
Do you want to volunteer with a community based organization working to support Ugandan families, or work at a school like the one mentioned above? If you have interest in supporting locally led initiatives, we’d love to have you.