DEO’s Office, Commissioning the Electric & Sing-Song with the Mwenyis

We had a bit of a lie in this morning because we had been summoned to the Mbale DEO (District Education Office) for a meeting with the District Inspector, Lydia Musungu. She gave us a warm welcome to Uganda and gave us some of the context to their education system. She asked us each to introduce ourselves and explain how we had become involved in working with our Ugandan partners.

After our short meeting, there was time for a quick group photograph before we headed off to school.

To save on travel time, we used three vehicles rather than all just piling into the taxi minivan we’d been using. Pastor Apollo kindly gave Miss Badat and Miss James a lift to Mooni primary, their partner school. 

As soon as we arrived at Busiu Primary, Mrs Lewis was very keen to get her logo finished. She had painted the burgundy circle for the background yesterday, but wanted to complete the logo before the important commissioning meeting that Mrs Napokoli had arranged for later in the day. As Mrs Lewis and Miss Butcher painted, a large group of children congregated to watch them paint and see the finished logo. They were fascinated with the hand prints in our logo and throughout the week, could be seen touching the hands with their hands and stroking the hands painted on the wall.

Whilst the painting was going on, Mr Mansfield had gathered the school staff to train them in using the technology gifts we had bought for the school. He showed them how to set up and connect the projector we had given them and how to display videos, photographs and educational apps from the iPad to the screen. The teachers become incredibly excited and immediately started coming up with ways they could use the new equipment in their lessons. As Mr Mansfield showed them all the ways they could use the projector and iPad to help support their teaching, hundreds of children watched through the classroom windows with huge smiles on their faces, looking forward to using it in their lessons.

Following the meeting, Mr Mansfield walked out into the field and was filled with pride as he saw the completed St. Julian’s Primary logo painted on the side of the school wall. It was a lovely thought that that logo will stay there for many years as a symbol of our partnership with Busiu and to think that anyone who visits Busiu will immediately see our connection with them.

All of a sudden, a little voice appeared and softly said “Mr Mansfield, Bore da”. It was Whinnie, a girl who had been a pupil in Busiu Primary when we visited in 2015 and 2018. She had originally failed her P7 test which meant she was kept back in Primary school last year but this year, she had passed the test and was now a pupil at Busiu secondary school! Mr Mansfield’s eyes filled up as she smiled telling us that she was now at Busiu secondary school and doing well. She said she had heard in the village that we were back in Uganda and had skipped her morning lessons to come and see us! Not that we advocate skipping school lessons, but we were so happy to see her! We gave her a small notebook with the Welsh flag on the cover along with a pen. She was absolutely delighted.

By this time, Mrs Lewis and Miss Butcher had made their way to the reception class of younger pupils in the school. The children showed them how they could count to ten and could recite the alphabet. Mrs Lewis and Miss Butcher had huge smiles on their face as they met the younger children and took a few photographs. They also really bonded with the Busiu reception teacher and shared lots of ideas together.

Mrs Napokoli was then keen to ask us to walk around the school visiting each of the classes. We were given a lovely welcome in each class with the children chanting “Welcome visitor to our class, we are pleased to receive you”. We had purchased some pencils and pens for the pupils in the school and it was so nice to give them out and hear each child say ‘Walyaula nabi’ (thank you so much) as they received them. The pupils remembered Mr Mansfield from his previous visits and were tickled at hearing Mrs Butcher’s surname. “Booo-Chaaa” they kept repeating, laughing to each other when saying it.

After the tour, we were ushered to the training room within the school where a group of members of the governing body and district office had assembled. They had drawn up an agenda for the meeting on the board and the headteacher handed over to Apollo, the deputy Headteacher, to chair the proceedings.

The Chair of the governing body was first to speak and thanked St. Julian’s Primary School profusely for our support to Busiu over the years. A local councillor also spoke and thanked us for making Busiu Primary school only the second primary school in the district to have a projector and the first primary school to have a projector and printer. As Mr Mansfield, Mrs Lewis and Miss Butcher stood listening to the messages of thanks, we felt so incredibly proud of our school and pupils for helping this community so much. The headteacher, Mrs Napokoli, also spoke to share her message of sincere gratitude to all at St. Julian’s Primary School and also extended her thanks to Joseph, who had been working tirelessly for Mr Mansfield to oversee the installation of electric posts, sockets and cables at the school, often until late in the evenings and in the pouring rain. The school’s CCT (a teacher trainer from the Mbale teaching college) also spoke and explained how she had been amazed at the developments taking place at Busiu and congratulated the school for building such a good partnership with St. Julian’s Primary School. She said how she was going to use Busiu Primary School to train schools and teachers from across the district. Finally, Mr Mansfield was asked to share a few words and conveyed greetings from all of us at St. Julian’s Primary School. He said how the parents and children had worked so hard to raise the money to buy the electricity and other equipment for the school and that it was a privilege to see first-hand how it would improve the school.

He also said how he was delighted that Miss Butcher and Mrs Lewis had also volunteered to visit Uganda and Busiu Primary and how he hoped many more would have the same opportunity in the future, thanks to the British Council. To close the ceremony, Mrs Lewis, Miss Butcher and Mr Mansfield were presented with some gifts and told we could open them on our last day in Uganda. The room then erupted in applause and cheers for what St. Julian’s Primary had done for the school.

The entire committee was then taken outside to the electric points which had been installed and officially switched it all on. Many photographs were taken and we saw all the work that Joseph and the electrician had done.

Following the commissioning of the electric, we were then told to return to the meeting room and many steaming pots were brought in and placed on the table in front of us. Beef, chicken, Matoki, chapattis, rice, potatoes were all laid out ready for us to eat. The headteacher announced that Mr Mansfield was the guest of honour for spearheading the work in Uganda and therefore, he should eat the gizzard. Knowing how much Mr Mansfield was not a fan of the chicken gizzard, Mrs Lewis, Miss Butcher and Joseph could not contain their laughter as it was pulled out of the put and handed to him to eat.  Mr Mansfield held his breath and put it in his mouth… somewhat like a bush-tucker trial on “I’m a celebrity”! He tried to chew it, but it was so tough that it took a great deal of biting before it was small enough to swallow. As it went down, Mr Mansfield reached quickly for a bottle of coke to wash it down in the hope that it wouldn’t come back up! Joseph continued laughing a lot before learning over and whispering… “You know, I don’t think that gizzard was cooked properly, It was so tough!” Mr Mansfield’s stomach turned as he jumped up, grabbed an other drink and went outside for some fresh air. 

We then received a call from the teachers at the other schools, saying they were ready to be collected. We said our goodbyes to the staff at Busiu and jumped on the vehicle to drive to the other schools. On the way, we had to collect a sewing machine, which the teachers from Eveswell had bought for their school Moonie Primary, to help them make and repair school uniform for their pupils. As we arrived at Moonie, Mr Mansfield and Joseph carried the machine and stand up the hill towards the headteacher’s office. They were so thrilled to receive such a valuable piece of equipment that would help them so much.

After collecting all of the teachers from their schools, the minibus was full of chatter with them each sharing stories about their day. Mr Mansfield however, just sat quietly praying that the uncooked gizzard which was swashing around in his stomach, would not come back up as the minibus bounced them up and down on the pothole-covered bumpy roads. 

The group headed back towards their accommodation for an hours rest and relaxation after the busy day. The girls decided to go for a swim/sit by the pool and they spent some time discussing all the food they were missing and dreaming of! Miss Butcher even Google’d how far away the nearest McDonalds and Pizza Hut was… the answer which came back brought them sharply back to reality when they realised that to get to the nearest McDonalds, they would have to travel for 14 hours and cross the boarder into Kenya! 

Whilst the girls dreamed of their favourite foods, Mr Rowlands took the opportunity to catch up on sleep and Mr Mansfield and Joseph video-called Mr Prewett to update him on the week. Mr Prewett was unable to come to Uganda this time, but was keen to hear about all that was going on.

At around 7, the group assembled at the entrance of the accommodation ready to be taken to Pastor Apollo and Janet’s house for an evening meal. As they arrived, they were given a very warm welcome and sat around in the living room. Joshua and Joan, two of Apollo and Janet’s children came to welcome the group along with two other girls that Apollo and Janet were looking after. A wonderful meal of goat, matoki, Irish potatoes, chapattis and G-Nut paste were brought out and we enjoyed eating and chatting together. As soon as the food was finished, we handed Apollo and Janet some small gift bag with presents we had brought for them from the UK. They particularly enjoyed the sun-glasses and started to pose with them for many photographs!

Shortly after, Joshua, who is a great musician, grabbed his guitar and started to perform a number of songs for the group with Doreen and Joan! We loved listening to the mix of African and English songs as they performed for us! It was a real highlight of the evening. When they had finished performing, they handed the guitar to our team and said it was our turn to perform. After a slight moment of panic whilst we wondered what on earth we were going to sing, Mr Mansfield took the guitar and started to bash out a number of Ronan Keeting and Ed Sheeran’s greatest hits. Although our singing wasn’t as good as the Mwenyi family’s, there were smiles all around the room as we enjoyed each others company.

We soon said our goodbyes and headed back home ready for bed. 

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