The past several days have been alive with storms, and as such, there has been no power for almost four days now, save that supplied by generators. On Tuesday Osborn and I took a boda-boda (a sort of motorcycle taxi) to the nearest bank, several towns away (two on the back of a small motorcycle is nothing; I have seen bodas with as many as six people on them). Travel there was a straight shot on the highway – it’s the only paved road and consequently the main street of every town it passes through. Not only did we see the source of the power outage while en route (a downed power line laboriously being remounted by hand), but we had a nice view of the area in Uganda of which Bweyale and the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement are a part. As it was the end of a school day, we observed hordes of elementary-age children walking home from primary school along the narrow shoulder. Some were escorted by adults, but most flocked only among their peers. We passed small girls with jugs of water on their heads and younger siblings on their backs. At the bank Osborn and I each withdrew money from the ATM before making the return journey.
Rain falling on the tin roofs of the classrooms at St. Bakhita is loud enough to stop lessons until the downpour abates – really even light rain drowns the teachers’ voices. Since the weekend, though, I have sat in on and taught several more lessons, with several age groups. Yesterday I had a particularly successful class with P4, teaching all 80 of them first in social studies: about settlement patterns and trade; and second in mathematics: how to draw a bar graph given a set of data. In the absence of an eraser, the students used a crumpled piece of paper to clean the chalkboard between sections. I wrote their problem sets on the board for them to copy into their notebooks hand-bound with newspaper, since they have no workbooks or worksheets.
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Today I sat in on P5 and P6, resisting student requests that I return to P4 and teach science (the novelty of my appearance has yet to wear off), and learned about the Imperial British colonization of East Africa. I played games outside with the nursery students, and joined Osborn in his project-organizing. We are in the midst of installing a water collection tank to go beneath our gutters – it requires a foundation of laid brick and stone. Tomorrow we will tack plywood onto the uncut framing that supports the plastic and bamboo wall between two classrooms, in order to reduce the travel of sound across that barrier. Insulation of some sort, which we do not here have access to, can be shoved into the space in the future.
Tomorrow is our last day with the students. We are cramming every moment with energy and enthusiasm, in preparation for our departure from Bweyale this weekend. Still, our work will not be done – we have video footage and photographs, interviews and notes to sort and compile. Charlie will return to St. Bakhita’s this fall, continuing the efforts of Schools for Refugees.