Tag Archives: children

Power-saving mode

On the way here, Gerald the driver told me he watches Who Wants to be a Millionaire? and The Weakest Link on BBC Entertainment. Why did so many places in England have names ending in ‘shire’ and why was she only the Queen of England if she ruled the whole United Kingdom? I didn’t know.

Busembatia is only an hour’s drive from the expat-friendly, tourist-magnet town of Jinja, but it feels far from that world.

“Bye Mzungu!” squeal all the kids.

“Mzungu – it’s that colour that you have,” a man called James explained, slowing his bicycle alongside me to introduce himself. White people have stayed here before, but that doesn’t seem to have dulled the excitement.

Resources feel precious now. Continue reading

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No to nostalgia

RainWe finished the film, even with 4+ days without power; our main actor walking off set mid-scene; and people never turning up when they said they would. We screened it on my laptop in a dark classroom on my last evening in Kazo, to about 20 people, and it was kind of special to feel proud of something that I had not done: the guys had done virtually all the actual shooting, acting, editing.

But there’d been too little time (or energy, or electricity) to do all that I could/should have done. I could have done a camera class with the teachers and P2 class, could have helped Eliab with his CV, could have helped Godfrey with his dance website and Joseph with his exam prep, could have helped Shakul and Baker create flickr accounts, could have given Poul more time on my computer to play with Photoshop, could have done more editing with Daniel, could have taught Juliette how to use Excel and Word, could have made that brochure for Ronald, could have done more photo sessions with everyone, especially the latecomers, could have pushed further on the AIDS issue that was always sort of there but never properly discussed. I could have done more for so many good-hearted, courageous people. Maybe I need to come back.

Before the nostalgia sets in, I’d better remember the worst bits. Continue reading

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Burn it

Putting the bins outJennipher (age 9) looks after me – offering to clean my shoes, bringing my tea. There’s something to be said for the hierarchy of age that reigns in this part of the world, though when it extends to gender, it’s less appealing (e.g. girls kneel before their elders when greeting or thanking them, in a sign of respect, but boys don’t).

Anyway, one evening, Jennipher takes the rubbish from my room. ‘Now we burn it’, she says, brightly.

Next thing, I find myself crouched on the garbage heap next to our house, along with Jennipher and a few other kids (younger still), all knelt over the match that refuses to light. The plastic bag I’d tied up has been ripped open and a week’s worth of my waste is scattered at our feet: empty water bottles, dirty tissues and, well, personal stuff. I can’t remember now if it’s bad to burn plastic (fumes?), but it sure as hell is a bad idea to stand in a heap of waste picking up bits of used tissues. Continue reading

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I for Inventive

WATER (1)The P3 class needed a bit more structure, so we started working on a photographic alphabet. This has had the advantage of the kids realising that what they see and try to capture isn’t necessarily what others see in the photo (I for ‘insect’ was a difficult one – bugs aren’t great at being visible; and ‘inside’ wasn’t so obvious either). Continue reading

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On day 12


At Makerere University

Everything ran late, of course; the boys didn’t ask any questions; and we spent about four hours on I don’t know how many buses. But I think it was worth it.

First, we had to get the filming done – by now though, I can delegate most of it to the students, who get to practise focusing and close-ups while the schoolkids wiggle their little hips yet again to that same school song, grimacing worriedly at the camera because all the teachers keep commanding them to SMILE!

Next, to Makerere Art Gallery, inside the wonderfully peaceful grounds of one of the oldest universities in Africa. Continue reading

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P3 pictures

Lesson two with the Primary 3 class this morning (postponed from Wednesday, when I was summoned to film ‘baby class’ dancing for the soon-to-be-released music video – more on that soon).

Often, the kids didn’t remember who took what pictures and my system for allocating cameras each time is a bit haphazard – here are some I was able to credit with (hopefully) the right names.

DSCF4689-by Jonathan

Photo by Jonathan

Continue reading

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Edit suite

Edit suiteThe guys are getting into editing, even if we still haven’t been able to find a desk, never mind a room. In the meantime, I started teaching the primary 3 class (7-10 years old).

It’s quite weird working with people who have never actually held a camera before (lesson number one: on/off button), and kind of special when you hear the “wow” that comes out when they see something through the viewfinder for the first time. Kids – these ones, at least – are not too bothered about seeing what they’ve actually photographed, so we haven’t learned that part yet; just being the one to press the button seems to be enough. Continue reading

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In their hands

Photo by Daniel

It’s been four days now, each day inevitably starting with my frustration at someone arriving an hour or two late, someone joining unannounced, or someone not turning up at all. But so far, the people I’m working with – late teens to early 20s living in the neighbourhood, many of whom have dropped out of school – have lifted my mood pretty quickly. They speak good English, some have done film-making before, and they do listen – even, some of them, to my pleas to stick to some sort of timetable.

Our resources are pretty limited: we sit on benches under a tin roof that deafens out any hope of discussion when it rains, next to a school full of endlessly chanting/screeching 3-7 year-olds; we have access to one power socket when the P1 classroom is free; and we’re relying on my DSLR plus a few point-and-shoot cameras donated by generous London friends. Continue reading

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Family tree

family treeLet’s start with the people, whose multiple names and relationships confused me so much I tried to get one of the kids to draw me a family tree. It hasn’t helped much, but this much I know:

There is Daudi or David, the father (and the head of the family, I am reminded by the others), who has been running a poultry medicine business for 20 years. He is wiry and probably looks older than he is, maintains a quiet presence in the house and even sits on the floor sometimes. He and his wife (Rose or Nera), who spends most of the time in the kitchen and sits only when everyone has been served, speak little English, and confer worriedly among themselves in Luganda when I don’t finish the three dishes piled high with beans, banana and pork they place in front of me. Continue reading

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Teaching science with a heart

“We as science teachers are feeling really tortured”, says Demetria Swai, a Biology teacher.  She’s one of only four science teachers at Moshono secondary school in Arusha: of the others, another teaches Biology, one Physics and one Maths. The school has 1000 pupils.

To fill the gaps, temporary teachers are brought in where possible. But in the meantime, Mrs Swai spends two days a week teaching at a neighbouring school – which has no Biology teacher at all.

Science education is in a bad way in Tanzania. Yet the issue that brought Swai to Dar es Salaam was not the lack of teachers but the methods they were using. Continue reading

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