Tag Archives: education

A few small bananas

My third day in Nakivale, Uganda’s oldest refugee settlement, and feeling ready to move on tomorrow. Meanwhile my guide and translator, a film-maker and actor called Alex, is in his ninth year of living here. Some Rwandans I’ve spoken to have been here 16 years. Some mention those who were resettled in the US, Canada, Denmark; many have disappeared to try to make it in Uganda’s cities. Most people stay.

And they come. New arrivals — about 3000 each month — put the current number of inhabitants at 110,000. The population looks set to keep growing:  Uganda is receiving refugees from not one next-door crisis, but three: DR Congo, Burundi, South Sudan.

I’ve talked to maybe 20 people, some for five minutes, some for several hours. Olga, a warm young Congolese woman who has galvanised a group of her peers to start making and selling crafts, tells me in well-spoken French that life is better here for simple reasons: securité, liberté. We can do what we want. Many others are less positive. Yes, we could go and live elsewhere, but how can we afford to? Yes, we can set up businesses here in Nakivale, but how, without capital? Yes, we could buy better or cheaper goods from the cities, but who pays our transport there? Continue reading

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Meetings

Nasser LaneArmed with my official — and pricey — press card, I set off today with Ignatius, my fixer, who’s a freelance radio journalist. (He also sells trees; most Ugandans don’t rely on one source of income.) He was an hour late for our meeting, but his friend was in an accident last night and the traffic was bad this morning and… I’m not going to argue this one.

We meet M., a Rwandan who has a few different businesses in the restaurant where he rents an outdoor barbecue: he pays a fee to the restaurant owner, then sells grilled meat to customers. Life is alright in Kampala, he can send his son to school, feed his family, but he’s worried about safety, has been threatened and intimidated and fears being forcibly returned to Rwanda. Continue reading

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Photo fortnight

Two weeks go by fast. We didn’t do a proper exhibition in the end; the timing felt a bit too tight to select photos and get them printed before I left, partly because there was no power to use computers when we needed to. Instead, I sent the group out to do some video interviewing (luckily I had spare batteries). Day one of video worked really well – they liked getting out to a new place and asking and answering questions on camera. Day two was hard work though. The group wanted to practice by interviewing teachers and school pupils but got caught up in the labyrinthine formalities of sitting in the headmaster’s office trying to explain their reasons. Finally, the HM, as they’re known here, sent three pupils out to answer the group’s  questions, but they were all so terrified and shy that they could barely be heard on camera, while the teacher has asked them to do it all over again when they’ve had more time to prepare. It was, I guess, a useful learning experience…

So, what was the real value of all of this?  Continue reading

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The teacher

Non-adults are also welcome

Non-adults are also welcome

Vincent travels about four hours by bus each way to teach an adult literacy class, getting little more than his expenses paid. He’s been doing this for over a year. Continue reading

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Playing by the rules

Polling station

Polling station

Yesterday there were primary elections in Uganda, ahead of the national poll taking place next February; candidates have apparently been ‘campaigning’ by handing out shoes, soap and other gifts. We were advised to stay at home after 4pm; there’d been some messing around in a nearby town and rumours of teargas.

It was less dramatic here, thankfully. After the polling stations closed, a gang of young lads sped recklessly up and down the highway in a truck, cheering loudly, a dozen of them crammed in or leaning out the window, plus a few lying back across the bonnet. After dark, a small crowd gathered noisily at the town council office across the road, but the sound was of celebration, not protest.

This morning as we were about to get started with class, a bunch of young teenagers in school uniform appeared. Continue reading

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Pig & blankets

My four students, Ugandan volunteers from their early 20s to about 50, arrived more or less on time (on African time) this morning. Susan promptly handed a bundle of blankets over to the boss, who sat at the desk next to us with the sleeping 1-month-old Elijah across her lap the rest of the morning. The shriek of a pig being slaughtered just outside was a bit more distracting, but otherwise things sort of went to plan (photos coming once internet more available).

The level of education, and of confidence, varies widely in the group. Zai has her own business – making peanut butter – and Vincent has two university degrees. The others are shy and unsure, with more of a language barrier too. We’ve got quite a lot to do, in less than two weeks: the idea is to get them started on gathering photos and interviews for the website, while giving them a chance to develop new skills.  Continue reading

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Return

In the Pearl of Africa

In the Pearl of Africa

Back to Kampala: to the hills, the trees, the rust-red earth and the steady flow of motorcycle taxis that keep this city moving. It’s good to be back, and reassuring to find the same sense of ease as two years ago. It’s urban Africa for beginners – unthreatening, unoppressive, walkable. Or #laidbackinthepearlofafrica, as one of the mobile providers puts in in their latest ad campaign.

Reassuring in a way, too, to be semi-prepared for the usual mild irritations: the Rihanna songs blaring from the building next door, the way too large ants in my kitchen, the reliably unreliable electrics and phone connections.

Some stuff has changed. Continue reading

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The luxury of leaving

Washing lineOn day 4, we stood in a circle and held hands while Lawrence – fondly nicknamed ‘the Pastor’ – asked that God bless my safe return. It was nearly dark: we’d waited a long time for Okwiri, who’d spent all day with a mechanic after some kids vandalised the friend’s car he’d borrowed to drive us into Dandora.

But there was still time for a prayer. ‘Does it feel like a ritual?’, laughed Okwiri, who seems – either from experience or instinct – to know where the great divides between Africans and Europeans lie. ‘No! It’s nice’, I said – and was glad I didn’t have to lie.

Their enthusiasm to work with me all week was heartening – though given that the chef at my hotel and my taxi driver seemed equally sad to say goodbye I don’t quite take it as a measure of success. Continue reading

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Contagion

I couldn’t think of a single follow up question. Or didn’t want to.

I was doing a quick interview with a woman on the street outside the school. Her kids often had to miss class because she didn’t have the money, she said. And suddenly, I was too tired of hearing it again. It was always the same, tedious story. Nothing changed. I couldn’t fix it, and I had no idea who could or would. What was the point?

Later, Okwany asked me for advice: his mother had lost both legs, his father was very old. They lived far away and didn’t have enough to eat. Later, when he hinted at the allowance we might pay them to cover their travel costs, I pretended not to notice, till the subject was changed. I wanted Okwiri to deal with that – even if we split the cost – I hated them thinking I was money.

But I wasn’t the only one.

‘They’ll all be saying, now you have money’, Teacher Alice told me, as we waited for the others to come back from filming. Continue reading

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Land of opportunity

Impromptu interview with Erasto, a filmmaker who took me on a brief tour of Kibera.

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