Visiting Each Ugandan School – Day 2 (2024)

The team were told to meet for breakfast at 7am, aiming to leave the hotel by 7:30. This was a very early start after a long day of travelling but we had six Ugandan schools to visit. The plan for our first day was to stay as a full team of 15 teachers and visit all six Ugandan link schools together.

Joseph and Sam were right on time at the hotel. They ate breakfast with us, a range of sausages, omelettes and fruit… as well as some more traditional dishes like ‘sauteed chicken gizzards’. After breakfast, we all got into two smaller taxi vehicles and headed to our first school, Nauyo Primary School. This was the school that teachers from Pentrepoeth were linked with. Miss Batrouni, Mrs Drummond and Ms Williams were particularly excited to see what their school was like. The roads were very bumpy and dusty as we travelled and we hit our heads on the roof of the vehicle many times as it navigated the pot-holes in the roads. The journey was so worth it though – when we arrived at Nauyo Primary School, 2400 children were stood in the field in their assembly, screaming and cheering for us as we arrived. We really felt like celebrities. Many of us filled up with tears, overwhelmed at seeing so many Ugandan children welcome us with cheering, smiles and waves. As we stood on a small platform, Headteacher Francis Khawkar silenced the children and then welcome the team. He handed over to Mr Mansfield to start the introductions. Mr Mansfield used some of his best Lugisu (local language in Mable) which the children took great delight in hearing. Each member of the team introduced themselves and the children stood there smiling and laughing at our strange and unfamiliar accents. Joseph, our guide, then also spoke and welcomed the team and called up ‘Jeremiah, Joanna and Joshua – his own children who attend this school. Mr Mansfield and Mr Prewett knew the children well, but hadn’t seen them for some time. They had grown so much and gave us big hugs as we stood in front of the sea of children dressed in purple. Each teacher had to use their loudest voice just to be heard.

Nauyo Primary school is one of the largest primary schools in Mbale with 2400 registered at the school. Each class has roughly 100 pupils in, sat on ordered desks in rows.

Francis, the headteacher, was particularly proud to show us his solar panel for electricity and also a small tented area which had been installed by a charity. Mr Mansfield enquired about the tent, which Francis explained was an internet tent where people from the community could come and sit in shade and use free internet. Mr Mansfield was very impressed and hadn’t seen this in any other Ugandan school he’d visited over the years.

We briefly met Francis’ staff and listened to their various job roles before signing the visitors’ book, having a banana and a bottle of water and getting back on the road. Mr Mansfield had prepared a strict programme which we had to stick to if we were to visit all six schools in one day. This left us with only around 45 minutes in each school including the travelling time.

Next up was Nyondo Demonstration school – called that because it has a teaching college based on site and is used as a school to train new teachers. Nyondo was linked with St Andrews Primary School and teachers Mrs Brewster and Mr Martin were really excited and anxiously awaiting to see the school and meet the staff and children. This school is headed up by Headteacher Jacqueline Namakhonje, who Mr Mansfield knew well from previous visits. She had also had the opportunity to visit the UK in 2019 after our visit to Uganda that year. Jacqueline is an enthusiastic and confident headteacher who is always dressed very well.

As the two taxis pulled up to Nyondo Demonstration School, hundreds of children surrounded us singing welcome songs and dancing. It was absolutely incredible. They met us at the bottom of the bumpy road leading to their school and danced us all the way to their playing field in front of the school building. Two older children carried a large banner which read ‘Nyondo Demonstration School welcomes St Andrews Primary School’. It was so wonderfully well rehearsed and made us all feel incredibly special as the smiling children took great pride in their performance.

Jacqueline emerged from the crowds of children and welcomed us with her loud Ugandan high pitched cheer. She stood on a small raised platform to address the children and welcome us to the school.

Each of the team then spoke briefly to introduce themselves. Children then did some more singing and dancing for us to enjoy.

After that, we were taken into the Headteacher’s office to sign the visitors book and then into the staff room to meet the staff. They were all so welcoming and Mrs Brewster and Mr Martin shared some information about their own school, St Andrews Primary. We were enjoying sitting and chatting when Joseph gave a sharp reminder that we had to get back on the road to the next school.

The next school was Malatsi Primary School, linked with Ringland Primary. Teacher Sam Griffiths and Headteacher Tavis Prewett were eagerly awaiting to see see what was in store for us as we arrived at their school, excited by the welcomes we’d received at the first two schools. It was certainly no disappointment! They had prepared a ribbon across the main entrance of the school for Mr Prewett and Miss Griffiths to cut. As they did so, members of the school’s ‘Wildlife club’ came to present each member of the team with a small hand-crafted animal which they had carved out of wood. They then sang and danced us along the school drive-way down to the buildings, where they performed more traditional dances and sang welcome songs to us. They were all constantly smiling at us throughout as they performed. We then greeted the children and introduced the team. It was Miss Griffiths’ birthday today and so the school had kindly prepared a birthday cake which was all shared with some drinks as we met members of the school staff and management committee.

After that, we took a group photo graph and Mr Prewett and Miss Griffiths planted two trees on the site. Right on cue, Joseph prompted us to get back onto the vehicles ready to get to the remaining schools on time.

We set off to visit our next school, Busiu Primary. Busiu Primary is the school that we, St Julian’s, linked with in 2015. Mr Walyaula was the headteacher at the time and then Mrs Napokoli took over in 2018 and now a new headteacher had recently taken over four weeks earlier, Moses Wambi. Both Mr Walyaula and Mrs Napokoli were now retired, but were still keen to be involved in welcoming our team from Wales.

As we travelled to Busiu Primary, we video-called back to the classrooms in St Julian’s Primary. We gave children an update on our trip so far and then they experienced the welcome we received as we arrived and streamed the whole thing to them. As the vehicles arrived at the school gates, the school’s scout group were lined up along the path saluting the group. They were proud to show us that they had recently won a scout competition and were representing the school at national level having done so well. They were a little bit like soldiers outside Buckingham Palace as they stood perfectly still as we entered the school compound. Moses Wambi then appeared, greeted the team and then took us to see children dancing and singing welcoming songs. Another group of children then came out with a bunch of flowers for us and they had hung a large banner over the entrance to the school which read ‘Busiu Primary School welcomes St Julian’s Primary School’. During our last visit, we had painted our school logo on the side of their building and they had given it a fresh coat of paint ready for our arrival this time. As we continued live-streaming back to school, Moses took us into his office to greet us and requested that we sign the visitors book. Mrs Meakin and Mr Mansfield were then taken to plant trees on the site before being taken to sit under a large mango tree to meet the children and staff. We had some more dancing from the children, including a traditional dance with traditional costumes.

After enjoying some sodas, we were back on the road to visit the next school – Nashisa Primary School. This school has been linked with Tredegar Park Primary School. Once again, we arrived to crowds of children greeting us on the roadside near their school and escorting us into their site. Some of the children had dressed up as Ugandan police officers with fake Bamboo guns and hats to make it appear like a proper police escort showing how important we were. The deputy headteacher welcomed us and led the ceremony, introducing the children singing the national anthems and performing dances. They invited us to introduce ourselves and provided snacks and drinks for us on a nearby table, which we enjoyed as we watched the performances of singing, dancing and poetry.

They threw flower petals at us and gave us a great welcome, including assigning us our own Ugandan names! Mr Mansfield was ‘Mountain’!

Mrs Beecher and Mrs Nichols then went off to plant a tree whilst the rest of us got involved with the dancing and then made a conga line back to the vehicles to head off to our final school. We were against time now! This last school was up a steep mountain road and the clouds were coming in. If rain started, it would be difficult to access the school. Not only that, but many of the children had left the school to go home as we were running late, but the staff kept the other half of the children and staff at the school to welcome us. Nabsolo Primary School is linked with Maindee Primary School. We appreciated them waiting behind so much. Headteacher Charles Eswapu welcomed us – he was nearly as tall as Mr Mansfield. The children performed some more singing and dancing and it started raining as they did so. We felt so guilty for keeping them waiting but loved them so much for still putting in so much effort to welcome us. Charles then gave us some of the history of the school and sent the children on their way so they didn’t get stuck or injured on the way home up/down the steep mountain in the rain.

We had a quick photograph, before heading back to the hotel. We changed quickly, because Joseph and his family had agreed to host us for our evening meal.

As we arrived at Joseph’s house, his wife Jacinta and four children – Jerry, Joanna, Joshua and baby Jonathan all came out to greet us. They were so welcoming and had other ladies over from the neighbourhood to help prepare food for us. We sat in the living room enjoying chatting as the food was being prepared. Joseph gave a speech to welcome everyone, thank them for the day and for joining them. He recalled memories from past visits and said how much he valued his friendship with Mr Mansfield and Mr Prewett, and loved meeting new members of the team. We had a tour of his house and then sat down to eat. Rice, chicken soup, fresh avocado, beef and hot chapattis were on the menu, and they tasted wonderful. We appreciated all the effort they had gone to. We gave the J family some gifts including some footballs and colouring pencils and notebooks, some cuddly toys and old electronic tablets. They were over the moon to receive them. For Jacinta, we gave her lots of nice bath soaps and shower gels, which she loved. For Joseph, we were so excited to give him his present. When he’s not showing us around and taking care of us, he’s a barber with a small salon in one of the villages. Often, the electricity goes down in Uganda and this makes it really difficult for him because his hair clippers rely on electricity. He has told us many stories of people having to leave with half-finished hair cuts where the power has gone down and said they never come back to pay him. To help him with this, one of our parents, Mr Askar, who as a barber shop here in Wales, kindly donated us some battery operated hair clippers, and a range of other hair cutting products. We presented them to Joseph and he immediately went speechless. He was so grateful to receive them and told us how they would help him to support his family by cutting hair even when the power’s down.

As we left the J Family home, we felt so full of joy about the day we’d had and also the welcomes we’d received at the school and from Joseph’s family.

We sat briefly as a team, reflecting on the day and sharing our high points, before heading up to our rooms to sleep.

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