We have just arrived back at our guest house for our final night in Uganda. It is a strange feeling; we have had a wonderful time here and it is difficult to be sad after such an amazing day today.
We woke up early again and had lots to pack before our final journey to Busiu Primary School. We took all of the things we had purchased from the stationary shop yesterday with the money parents and children kindly donated to St Julian’s as part of non-uniform day. We also had a case packed with school uniform donated by YC Sports in Cardiff, balls donated by Tesco, bubbles and skipping ropes donated by Morrisons and T-shirts donated by Macey Sports. People’s generosity meant all of the teachers could barely fit on the minibus but we didn’t mind being squashed as we knew how well all of the gifts would be received.
We arrived at the Church we have been meeting at each day to find perhaps our most exciting gift waiting; a goat! Our guide this week, Joseph, had managed to arrange for us to buy a goat to give to Busiu Primary School. He told us that this was one of the greatest gifts we could give the school as the children would be excited and it would mean they could begin to breed more goats to sell. He had even managed to transport the goat on his back as he drove his motorbike (or ‘Boda boda’) to meet us! (This is the traditional way that goats are transported in Uganda!).
We were excited to meet our new goat but, for some reason, he was not as excited to meet us! He had a fierce temper and gave Joseph an almighty head butt before chasing Mr Mansfield and I away. I would like to pretend that we stood our ground but in reality we ran as fast as we have ever run before, screaming in high pitched voices as the goat appeared determined to catch us! Eventually he settled down enough that we were able to get him on the minibus with us. This was a new experience for us, as we have never shared a lift with a live animal before! The goat was in the back so Mr Mansfield was quick to strategically choose a seat at the front of the minibus. As has been a theme on the trip, this meant that I had to step up to the mark and sit in the seat closest to the goat! Fortunately the goat settled down and we didn’t hear a peep out of him until we arrived at the school (not that this stopped me from keeping my feet raised up on my seat for the whole journey!).
As we arrived at school, we were greeted with a buzz of excitement. News that we had brought a goat with us travelled quickly and many children rushed out of class to see what the commotion was. Sam, the Headteacher was delighted at the gift and the children all wanted to get close to their new goat. We unpacked all of our gifts and went into the Headteacher’s office to sign their visitors book and discuss the plans for the day. We asked Sam if it would be okay to teach in as many classes as we could in the morning session so that we could see as many of the children as possible. He was happy to let us go around the classes so we jumped at the opportunity to visit P7 (Year 7) followed by P6 Kampala Class, P6 Victoria Class and, finally, P5.
Mr Mansfield and I were so enthusiastic at being given the opportunity, I think that some of the classes thought we were a little mad! In each class, we started off by introducing ourselves and teaching the children a little bit about Wales. We spoke about the flag and then taught them about daffodils and leeks! We taught them how to say ‘Bore da’ and then together we sang the ‘Bore da’ song we often sing in school. They were amazing at it, so much so, that by the time we got to the last class, they already knew it from listening through the classroom walls! After the singing, I then took the opportunity to do some counting with the children using the hessian bag hundred square we had made earlier in the week. They seemed to particularly love joining in with different voices; we did loud voices, quiet voices, squeaky voices and even deep voices! Mr Mansfield then did a great job of working through some tables activities using our number stick; the children joined in enthusiastically, embracing the opportunity to get involved and participate in the activities! They clearly thought it was lots of fun and the children all had big smiles on their faces whilst we were teaching.
We were exhausted by the time break came, having had a whistle stop tour of the classes. At playtime, Sam introduced us to some of the Governors of his school. We had not realised at the time, but they had been in our classrooms watching all of the lessons we had taught. It was great to know that the Governors had come down especially to meet us and this was a real honour. As with our school, the governors of Busiu Primary play a really important role in running the school so it was great to get to meet them. They were very complimentary about our teaching and it was fantastic to get lots of positive feedback. They really seemed keen to embrace the teaching ideas we had brought with us and we were very grateful for their kind words.
Having taught all morning, the main event was yet to come…deciding upon who would win the goat!
We wanted to hold a mini ‘Sports Day’ for the children so we discussed with Sam the best way to arrange a tournament. He decided that we should work with classes P4 and P5, the two groups of children we had spent the day with yesterday. With the help of the school PE teacher, we managed to arrange the classes into teams. The rest of the school all came out to watch what was going on so it felt like a major event! We began with some straightforward races like sprinting and skipping before moving on to some more ‘unusual’ races, including ‘over and under’ races and hopping.
The main drama, however, came as Mr Mansfield and I looked up from the action on the track to notice our goat running across the field! He had escaped! One of the older boys set off in hot pursuit but the goat, rather cleverly, darted off into the tall cover of some maize crops in a neighbouring field. As the boy chased him into the field, he slipped and fell. This sent many of the other children into a frenzy and lots more began to chase after the escaping goat! All Mr Mansfield and I could see was the tall leaves on the maize plants swaying in the distance, with children running in and out of them below. After a few minutes, a boy emerged, looking triumphant with a goat around his neck. He tethered the goat back up and we were able to continue with the tournament. This goat was proving to be both fierce and determined!
For our last race, Mr Mansfield and I chose two children in each team to take part. We began tying two of their legs together in preparation for a ‘three-legged’ race. Initially, the children looked a little bemused by what was going on. Once Mr Mansfield and I had demonstrated a good technique for the race, they seemed a little more clear. We set the children off and they did extremely well at an event they had clearly never tried before. The race lived up to expectations and we nearly needed a photo finish to decide on a winner.
After the race, Joseph, our guide, read out the scores. As is often the case with sport, there was one final twist to the drama; things had ended in a dead heat! Having prepared for this eventuality, we decided to hold a deciding race. The two teams were to compete head to head…on space hoppers! The children found the idea of bouncing up and down on the hoppers very funny. Mr Mansfield and I chose one child from each team to represent them in the final race. Just as we were about to get underway, Busiu Primary’s PE teacher stopped us. He said he had a ‘great’ idea…Mr Mansfield and I should join the children we had chosen and race in the final leg! We (gladly!) joined in. Mr Mansfield’s representative made an excellent start, gaining a large lead over my team mate before handing his hopper over to Mr Mansfield. By the time I received the space hopper, Mr Mansfield had a sizeable lead. I dug deep, summoning all of my energy and courage to try and catch him. The gap narrowed; I had cut his lead down to half. As I edged closer and closer to him, I was devastated to look up and see Mr Mansfield’s team all jumping up and down in celebration. They had won the honour of looking after the school’s goat! Sam called them to the front and pronounced them as the winners of the tournament. There was however one final twist to come; Sam called my team up to the front and, in recognition of our efforts, announced that the children could also take a share in looking after the goat. After some more prize giving, the school asked us to take a photo. As is apparently tradition, Mr Mansfield was asked to hoist the goat upon his shoulders in celebration.
With a little help, he had the goat placed around his neck. Not wanting me to miss out, Sam then also asked me to do the same. Having a goat around our necks was definitely a new experience for the both of us!
The competition had gone fantastically and we all went off for lunch together. The buzz of excitement remained and, as we sat down to eat, we still had a few hundred children gathered around us. As was the case throughout our time at school, we were spoilt with the food on offer. Every delicacy that had been mentioned to us throughout our travels in Uganda was offered up to us. By now, we were getting used to eating some more ‘unusual’ foods and so I thought nothing of the strange looking piece of beef on my plate. Just as I ate it, Sam asked me to ‘guess’ what it was. Thankfully I had finished eating it by the time he told me it was cow’s intestine! I was not surprised to note that, at the end of the meal, Mr Mansfield had a similar piece of meat on his plate, left untouched!
Once we had eaten, we went into Sam’s office and presented him with a laptop that we had brought out with us. He was delighted to received it and said it would be of much help for him at school; he will now be able to keep records much better, he said! We had time to give him a quick lesson on Microsoft Word and Excel before lunchtime ended. (Thanks to Julian Rees from Seer Computing, for donating the laptops)
After lunch, Mr Mansfield and I were very keen to do some more work. We had brought some blackboard paint with us to the school and offered to paint a board in one of the classrooms. The Heateacher suggested that we paint the board in P7. He said that they have some very important exams coming up and that it would make a big difference to them. He told us that the boards at the school had never been repainted and it was clear from looking at them that they were in need of a lick of paint. Some of the boards were so faded that you could barely see the chalk on them. As Mr Mansfield and I painted, much of the P7 class came into the room to watch. They appreciated us painting their board and we were thanked by many of the children. Hopefully, this will help serve as a more permanent reminder of both our visit and the kindness of the families in St Julian’s who helped donate money to fund this. Sam said that his caretaker would now paint the rest of the boards over the weekend.
Having painted the blackboard, Mr Mansfield and I sat down in the shade with Sam, thanking him for allowing us to visit his school. It was nearly time to go and our minibus was on its way to collect us. As we sat and talked, we heard a growing noise. We looked up to notice that all of the children were emerging from their classrooms and walking towards us. The music teacher explained that this was their way of saying goodbye; they had some songs to sing us. As appears to be the case in Uganda, nothing is done in a downbeat way, their goodbye was full of singing and dancing and clapping. They performed a fantastic repertoire of songs and we were overwhelmed by their efforts.
Mr Mansfield and I both said a few words of thanks before requesting they sing our favourite song from our time in Uganda; ‘I will sing Hosannah’. The children sang the song and, much to their enjoyment and our embarrassment, we danced along. At the end of the song, Mr Mansfield confidently asked the children to cheer for their favourite dancer. Astonishingly, the cheer appeared to be louder for Mr Mansfield. I was devastated, broken; all my dreams shattered. Sensing something must be wrong, the school’s History teacher stepped in. He translated Mr Mansfield’s question into Lugisu (the children’s local language) and asked for a show of hands for each teacher. As he said ‘Mr Mansfield’, a smattering of hands went up, maybe 20 in total. ‘Mr Prewett’? he asked. The remaining 1350 hands raised up in the air. Justice.
Once things had settled down, Sam came up to thank us for all our hard work. He was so kind about what we had done and said how much the children had enjoyed having us there and how much he would miss us. To our surprise, Sam then asked the staff at the school to present us with a gift. They appeared with two presents wrapped in shiny blue paper. We were completely taken aback. We had witnessed a teacher strike this week over pay and had also seen children throwing sticks to dislodge unripened mangoes from the trees; for some, this was their only food for the day. Therefore, to be offered a present was a hugely generous thing. We were overwhelmed as we opened our gifts to reveal two plaques to mark our time in Uganda. Holding back the tears, we thanked everyone for their kindness. We said a few more words and had some photos before Sam told the children they could go home for the day.
As the children left, our minibus pulled up to collect us; it was time to go. We were so sad to be leaving such a wonderful place. We have had a brilliant time in Uganda and especially at Busiu Primary School. The staff said goodbye to us and we said goodbye to Sam, telling him how much we are looking forward to seeing him in July, when he will come to visit St Julian’s. We waved goodbye to all the staff and children and set off for home.
All of the teachers on our minibus were strangely quiet for a while. It was sad to be leaving such kind, welcoming people but at the same time, we reflected on what a wonderful time we had had in the school. We are sad that it is our last night but have a visit to the local orphanage to look forward tomorrow before the long journey home.