Another part knows that what I saw today only barely begins to tell the story.
We began our day with breakfast at the hotel and then took a van to the UNICEF office where we had meetings with various representatives who spoke about statistics in Ugandan health, economy, and education, and UNICEF's role in helping move things forward effectively. To sum up, vocational training is desperately needed in the first eleven years of public education; wireless access in community youth centers can help with education; the voice of youth needs to be heeded if change is to occur; and to help residents get the medical attention they need, health services are being brought to the people, specifically to churches and mosques. That's right - they go to church, they can get a vaccination. More on this tomorrow, probably, since our agenda calls for us to attend this very setting.
After lunch, our plans changed at the last minute. Rather than attend an urban health clinic, we
We met with the Head Teacher, Olivia Muhumuza, who has turned the school around in the ten+ years she's been there. She believes that the curriculum should be relevant to those who are there to learn. In other words, the children who attend this school are learning what is pertinent to their lives in addition to the set curriculum. For instance, health is spoken of in terms of preventing HIV/AIDS, and that includes helping kids understand not to accept gifts (even those of school books) in exchange for favors. Sobering indication of education in this arena abounds.
Even so, there are signs which could easily be found at any school with which you or I have ever been familiar.
And the children . . . oh, the children. They are happy. They love being at school. They love their Head Teacher, and call her, "Grandmother." As we visited classrooms (14 rooms to accommodate just over 1300 students), students sat up straight, smiled, welcomed us with song or dance or poem. Each welcome was given and received with love and respect.
Their eyes sparkled and they were eager to show us their school work and get their pictures taken.
Our visit to the school culminated in an on-stage performance of each level (grade) to express a message. There was a mini-play about sanitation performed using the four Fs (feces, flies, food, fingers). There were presentations and songs sung about the importance of vaccinations. Students danced as they sang while drums were played in the corner. One song included the lyrics, "Sanitation, you are our goal. Sanitation, you are special."
As we left, I couldn't stop smiling, and to any child who would listen (especially the girls), I called out, "Stay in school! Please stay in school!"
I am in Uganda on an observation trip with the United Nations Foundation as a Shot@Life Champion. The updates I give during the trip are summaries and more detailed posts about specific aspects of the trip are likely to be published in the coming weeks.