A Day in Uganda
By Brian Vega
Words and pictures will not be sufficient to capture what I have experienced today. I will, however, record this account to help me remember as much as I can.
Physically, the school at Bungatira was in many ways similar to Koro, the one we visited yesterday: open fields, a few long & tired cinderblock buildings with dilapidated roofs, chipped paint, small classrooms filled with dark wooden pew-like desks and punctuated with barred windows (no electricity calls for many windows), crumbling chalkboards, and signs sporadically posted on the buildings. Like yesterday, the bleak environment quickly faded as soon as the hordes of children approached. Their pure excitement, smiles, beauty, joy and curiosity transformed the campus into something that felt like sunshine.
In a small, dark office, the headmaster of the school explained to us that Bungatira educates 1084 students with 21 teachers. The school fee of $4 a term is a source of contention between students and parents at best, and, ultimately, is a barrier to education for many. Through scholarships, fortunately, FoDU covers the fee and provides opportunity to many children to escape working at home, pregnancy, or childhood marriage to pursue an education.
After an assembly by the students, I was able to teach a lesson in two different classrooms. The second, which I will describe in detail, was with 108 P4 students crammed 5 to a desk in a small, spartan classroom.
The lesson that I taught in each room was based on a project that Kara, one of the volunteers, has developed, and it revolves around the mantra that FoDU has instilled into the students: The World Needs Me. I started with a discussion of what the mantra means to the students. “Why does the world need you?” They were quick to explain to me that each and every one of them has dreams, gifts, strengths, and blessings with which they can impact the world one day. The students were given a colored patch of cloth and colored sharpies and asked to draw pictures which would represent their gifts. They drew hearts for loving, hands for helping, books for studying, soccer balls for footballing, and a wide variety of other pictures. I was in utter disbelief as 108 4th grade students, crammed into one tiny room, were ALL actively engaged, respectful, and eagerly working on the project. They were not distracted by any disruptive behaviors nor by the 20 students peering in through the windows begging for a sharpie. I took video as proof to show my teacher friends back home! We finished in about an hour, and I explained to the students that FoDU would collect each individual piece, have them sewn together, and that soon, one big, colorful and diverse quilt will be made that could be hung in their school. Their individual gifts will be a part of a large and beautiful piece of art.
After the lesson, I took some time to visit with some of the teachers. They were eager to talk about their successes, and to ask for advice with which they could address their struggles. I learned from them, and shared some tools from my toolbox with the hopes that one of them might help. We were all mutually thankful for the opportunity to share, and amused by how similar struggles educational struggles are across the globe. We are far more alike than we could ever be different!