After spending two days walking through the slums of Kampala, stepping ever so carefully over the open sewers and holding our breath at the putrid stench that greeted us at every turn, we were grateful to spend our third day in the fresh air approximately 1 hour North West of the City in a Village called Mairye, in the Wakiso District.
Still the conditions were poor, but the ‘fresh’ air was a most welcomed change. We greeted that fresh air with as much joy as the children of Bulesa School greeted us – all wide eyes and big smiles.
Bulesa Church of Uganda Primary School has eight dedicated staff and over 350 students attending. The building is barely standing, the floors are dirt and the desks are minimal. Students attend in uniform if they can afford one, otherwise anything goes. Footwear is only worn by a few.
The government gives 500 Shillings (about 20 cents.. that’s right 20 cents) per student per term to the school. Hardly ideal given that the students exams cost 3000 Shillings (Just over $1) per term and the porridge is 5000 Shillings ($2) per student per term. You do the math. Families that can afford it pay the fee but the majority go without food and never get to the next level at school because they are ungraded.
Armed with this knowledge and the fact that Bulesa have never had a visit from Myzungus, we decided to do what we could.
On arrival, we off loaded the porridge and desks (picked up earlier that day at the carpenters on the outskirts of the village.) Headmaster Paul welcomed us into the building. T-Hen, Crowey, Nobs, Perce and Rosco took the front row like all good brown noses. However, rebellious Jonty, skipped straight to the back row trying (but not succeeding) to blend in.
A traditional dance was performed by some of the children to the beat of monitor skin drums. Perhaps one of the most moving gestures, it touched us all and I doubt that even Jonty had a dry eye.
Putting us straight to work, we split into two teams – The workers (Percy, Rosco and Crowey) and the “I think I could be a sports star, so therefore should run a clinic” Players (Jonty, T-Hen, Nobs & Moo). The workers worked – we started on the varnishing of desks. The Players kicked off with AFL footy drills, skipping ropes, grip ball and soccer. The rules of each were picked up pretty quickly and the kids embraced the variety of activities.
The Players didn’t take long before the kids had them worn out and they came begging to take over the varnishing of desks. Moo became MVP when she took out the bubble blower and attracted all students with their delighted squeals and laughter. Not to be outdone, Rosco and Percy reinstated Day 1’s Cartwheel competition which soon turned into a dance off. Bulesa students won hands down with their booty shaking but the effort to keep up by the girls was good to average.
An all-in Hokey Pokey followed by a game of What’s the Time Mr Wolf was received very well. However just as Jonty was getting used to his Mr Wolf role, the weather changed and the sun turned to rain.
We packed up the activities, brought the desks to shelter and then enjoyed a lunch prepared by our hosts.
Thanks to the generous donations made by Aussies, we were able to leave a large bag full of education materials like pencil cases, books and some clothes much to the delight of Headmaster Paul and the teachers who thanked us profusely and welcomed us to visit again while the kids peered on through the mud brick windows.
Our first visit to Bulesa Primary school was a top drawer day and visit again we will.
As the rain settled and the sun came out, we waved and high-fived our goodbyes. A truly excellent ‘excellent’ day.
PS: Yet again, another excited bladder incident from a small child – Nobs took one again for the team.