A NEW SCHOOL YEAR STARTS
School year in Uganda officially starts in February but we couldn’t wait! The Learning Centre started on January 13th. Meeting some children on the main street of Kibutika in the previous week, all were eager to know when we would start.
Two major developments marked this new beginning:
A stronger team or better say a team at last!
Between Christmas and New Year and in the first week of January I had started interviewing some candidates. It was not easy: neither the location nor the average salary was appealing to the few qualified teachers while the others simply didn’t qualify.
Teachers’ salaries are known to be low in Uganda and by any mean they are even by the country’s standards. However the candidates expect and request additionally accommodation, transport, meals and “benefits”, whatever this entails without being explicitly described, so that all in all the little additions eventually more than double the earnings. Besides, a normal school day in Uganda starts at 7:00 am and finishes at 4:30, 6:00 pm twice a week, Monday to Friday and 7:00 am to 1:00 pm on Saturday, for teachers and students alike. Our modest schedule from 8:30 am to 1:00 pm from Monday to Friday makes it an unattractive half-day job.
Boosted by the kind donation of my dear friend Lisa covering one year teacher’s salary, I recruited 2 teachers and 2 Congolese volunteers joined. However, by the end of the week the team was halved. 2 absences without notice at all or minutes before class was due to start plus one late start in the very first week didn’t herald reasonable teaching conditions that wouldn’t serve teachers and students and I preferred to let it at that.
The decision proved right and our little team with Nalumbanga and Joel is nonetheless a strong team. Their reliability, their motivation and dedication is exemplary and this is the most valuable. We opted for a weekly rotation between our 3 children’s groups, teaching both English and Counting, discussing the topic of the week that we choose, the challenges that we encounter, the results of the children. It works perfectly.
Breakfast is ready!
This was the second priority among this year’s objectives. The commitment of Happy Paws Charity organisation in Malta (www.happypaws.org.mt) to donate the revenues generated by the sales of children’s items (clothes, toys and books) for the benefit of the Kibutika Project’s children was instrumental to get started. The outlook of a monthly income securing a daily breakfast for the children reinforces the sense of stability that the Learning Centre aims at giving to the children.
The primary motivation is of course the fact that the children are underfed. It is not easy to follow up on the individual circumstances of the children’s families but their situation is never far from the day by day survival level. A bit of bad luck quickly turns the fiddly balance into an acute problem. Older student have occasionally missed school because they were sent roaming the streets with a few worthless jewellery or other cheap junk in the last minute to provide the next meal. Younger children patiently wait until their hunger cramps will be relieved. Whichever way, they miss school.
Malnutrition definitely affects their learning and their capacity to focus.
Our routine now includes washing hands, followed by breakfast from 8:30 to 9:00 and we are all ready to start class.