Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Elliot and I went to Mityana to visit two schools. One is a primary school and one is a secondary school. The primary school is a private school called Little Angles Primary School. It is part orphanage and part school. About 20 orphans (mostly from AIDS) sleep on seven beads in two rooms and a hallway. The school can only afford to feed the kids some maize porridge twice a day with some sugar cane for lunch. School is conducted in 8 tiny classrooms made out of a hodgepodge of wood, metal and reeds, which is an improvement over the tree they used to sit under for class (especially during the rainy season). As you can imagine the school is quite poor. Project Kesho was able to buy some much needed items such as bed nets, school supplies, soccer balls, and food. In the future, Project Kesho will be working to build a new bathroom, as the one they are using now is almost full, as well as try and upgrade the water source for the whole community. The water source now is open stream at the bottom of the hill and it is susceptible to diseases like cholera, as well as being a breeding ground for mosquitoes. For more on this school look here. The secondary school is also a private school and is called the Mityana College, Kikumbi. It was started by Emmanuel Ssenoga in the early 1990’s to improve the available local education choices as well as prepare students for university and for life after that. Uganda has the highest percentage of university degree holders in East Africa, which has unfortunately lead to the market being saturated with degree holders. Many people, degree holders, secondary school students, university students, have all told us that they know many people who have a degree but are struggling to find a job. Mr. Ssenoga is very concerned about this problem and is working to set up a counseling center in his school so that his graduates can avoid this problem. The school started with one student, but today it has 400 students, with a vision for many more. Mr. Ssenoga works fulltime in the local government as well as puts in many hours for the school. The school has built 4 large classrooms and is adding more. It is also attempting to upgrade the dorms for those students that board so that they can attract more students and raise their revenue. One main roadblock to the success of the school is that it is lacking text books and other reading books that are required for a secondary education. Project Kesho has secured some books in the States and will be facilitating their arrival in Uganda, as well looking to other organizations that specialize in library creation. Both of these schools are prime examples of African solutions to African problems. Project Kesho is very excited about partnering with these schools to improve their capicity to provide an education to their students.
Elliot and I made it safely to Kampala after a 32 hour bus ride from Dar. The bus ride started out good but deteriorated rather quickly. We had to switch buses about 8 hours into the ride to a bus that had seatbelts, since they are required in Kenya but not in Tanzania. We also switched drivers from a good one to a mad man. The roads got worse once we crossed into Kenya. They became very narrow and full of pot holes. Passing oncoming trucks was quite tricky as there was barely enough room for both vehicles, and apparently slowing down to reasonable speed was not an option. We got to Nairobi, in Kenya, around midnight and after switching drivers and a sort break we left. Outside of Nairobi the roads got worse and our new driver drove even faster. Around 6 the next morning after abusing the tires one to many times on the pot holes we got a flat tire. After fixing that we resumed our trip and made it to the border with Uganda. After crossing into Uganda we breathed a sigh of relief as the roads were paved (with no pot holes) and there were even lines painted on them! But our relief was short lived as soon the pavement disappeared almost completely and the crazy driving on partially paved mostly dirt roads continued. So no one was surprised (except maybe the driver) when we got another flat tire. With our only spare being used we were forced to continue on with only the five good tires instead of six. Fortunately Kampala was close and we made it to the city without further incident. However, being driven all the way to the bus terminal was too much to ask as we ran out fuel before reaching the bus stand. Elliot and I took the opportunity to leave the bus for good and hopped into a taxi. We stayed in Kampala for two bights before heading to the town of Mityana about 50 kilometers west of Kampala. Pictures and video will be posted once I return to the States in a couple weeks.
Sunday, August 19, 2007
One of the many effects HIV/AIDS is having on communities in Africa is the increased number of orphans due to the death of one or both parents. Traditionally orphans were absorbed into their extended families, and while it was unfortunate that one or both of their parents had died, they experienced about the same quality of life than they would have had with their own parents. However, by 2005, there were approximately 12 million orphans as a result of HIV/AIDS living in Sub-Saharan Africa. This high number put too much strain on the ability of extended families to take care of all these orphans. Now many of those who are orphans are forced to fend for themselves. Lundamatwe Village, along with six other villages, is located within the Kilolo District. Kilolo District has about 3,000 orphans as a result of HIV/AIDS. Project Kesho has been working with the Lundamatwe School to identify and develop a plan of action for making sure that the orphans in the village are able to maintain a decent standard of living and also keep attending school. We meet some orphans during our first week here. When we were passing out shoes to the kids at the Lundamatwe School we noticed two young boys whose feed were literally being eaten by chiggers. Chiggers are a small worm-like animal that lives in the dirt but needs to bury its eggs in a host, generally in the feet of humans. The egg sacks are easy to spot and remove before they hatch. However, if the eggs do hatch they can infest your body. One little boy, Usepho, had chiggers so bad on the heels of this feet that whole chunks of skin were just hanging off the back of his feet and they were so bad around his toe nails that the nails were ready to fall off. During the past month or so Project Kesho has been making sure that he and his brother Narasco, have been receiving the medical care that they need as well purchasing supplies for them such as socks, soap, eggs, new school uniforms, and Elliot also donated his sleeping bag so that they would be warmer at night. We were told that they were orphans living far from the school with their aunt. We decided to visit their house to see what their living situation was. On Saturday the three of us piled on Elliot’s motorcycle again to ride out there. They live in a part of Lundamatwe called Ruaha, in the far southwest part of the village. We decided to clock the distance to see how far they were walking everyday. It turns out that they live almost five miles from the school! The community of Ruaha is located in the upper right hand corner of the following picture where the ridge in the background angles down and ends. The picture is taken about 1 mile or so south of the Lundamatwe School. After asking numerous people for directions, parked the motorcycle and walked the last half mile are so on foot to find their house. They were busy playing with friends from a neighboring house. We got them all to pose together for some pictures. Usepho and Narasco are on the left in the pictures. Usepho is taller. The three girls that are in the picture also walk the ten miles each day to attend school in Lundamatwe. Not only are their feet almost completely heeled, but their skin in general is much healthier and their hair, which was patching and falling out, is healthy and growing like it should be, and their eyes are no longer hollow.
Since Elliot had arrived on Wednesday with his new ride, we decided to put it use to visit other parts of Lundamatwe that were impractical for us to walk to (and back) in a day. So in the morning the three of us (Elliot, Abbas and I) piled onto Elliot’s motorcycle. I’m told that I need to get a picture of this and post it which I will do soon. I’ll admit that it looks pretty funny, especially to people in the village as they do a double take when they realize that not only are two white people on one bike but that there is an African sandwiched in between them. On Wednesday we road out past Lusaula to the community of Isole, which is at the base of the ridge you can see in previous pictures posted below (its right below the road that leads to Ibofwe). We spent a few hours talking to villagers there and then we attempted to ride up to Ibofwe. We got a ways up before the road got to steep and Abbas and I were forced to walk up a particularly steep section. I have some good video of Elliot trying to ride up it that will be posted soon. While he was trying to do that I snapped the following picture looking north over Lundamatwe. You can see the road snake back to the center of Lundamatwe. The village extednds to the low mountains in the back of the picture (about 10-12 miles away).
On Tuesday, Abbas and I visited the community of Lusaula, which is about two miles southwest of the Lundamatwe School, but still within the village of Lundamatwe. Abbas and I spent a few hours in this part of Lundamatwe talking to residents. We found that many of the residents of this part of Lundamatwe had similar views about education and similar desires for their kids. Many of the people, especially those older than 40, had only gone to four years of school, as that was the norm then. However, they all felt that getting an education was much more important now and that they wanted their kids to attend at the seven years of primary school and at least four years of secondary school, despite the costs of secondary school being about ten times more per year. It was not only a good chance for us to make Project Kesho’s presence known in a different part of the village, but it was also a good chance for us to learn about the needs and desires of the people there as well. The following pictures were taken just north of Lusaula looking south. The village of Lundamatwe extends all the way to the base of the ridge. On top of the ridge is the village of Ibofwe. Ibofwe is where I had a homestay with some villagers in 2000 during my study abroad in Tanzania. The following two pictures are zoomed in on Lusaula with Ibofwe in the background. In this last pictures you can just make out the road that snakes its way up the ridge to Ibofwe. We would find out in a couple days just how steep and narrow the road is.
While Elliot was in Dar waiting for his license plate, Abbas, our translator, and I took the opportunity to spend some time in other parts of Lundamatwe that we had not visited. The village of Lundamatwe is roughly shaped like a square about ten miles long and ten miles wide. The paved road that goes from Dar to Iringa cuts right through the middle of the village. The Lundamatwe Primary School is located on the paved road almost dead center in the village. The Ulonge Primary School is located on the paved road about 3 miles west of the Lundamatwe School. Abbas and spent a few hours on Monday (the 13th) near the Ulonge School in the northeast part of the village. As we talked to people there, we found out that many had kids who had attended the Ulonge School, but since that school only had room for Standards 1-4 their kids had to walk to the Lundamatwe School for Standards 5-7. Many of the kids had to walk close to 4 miles each way to school! Later that day we asked the headmaster of the Lundamatwe School if he had any idea how many kids were coming from the Ulonge area. He said that he was not sure but that he would find out for us. On Tuesday the headmaster told us that there are 159 kids (about 50 in each Standard) from the Ulonge area (these kids had all attended the Ulonge School when they were in the younger Standards). The headmaster told us that the long walk from Ulonge means the kids cannot return home at lunch time for food and so they are more tired at the end of the day and as a result their performance in the classroom falls below that of their peers. The extra kids from Ulonge also cause overcrowding in the Lundamatwe School. Standard Six, at Lundamatwe, has two classrooms with almost 90 kids in each. If the kids Ulonge were able to attend the school in Ulonge, then there would only be 60 kids in each classroom, which is still a high number, but much more manageable for the teacher. A fifth classroom is under construction at Lundamatwe, but the village funds have dried up. Project Kesho is committed to working with the Ulonge School to finish the classroom before the new school year starts in January, and funds permitting, to build two additional classrooms so that no child from the Ulonge area has to walk to Lundamatwe for school.
I've been requested by a certain someone (with whom I happen to be married to) that I need to post some more pictures of classroom paintings. The following pictures are all from the Ulonge Primary School because the lighting inside the classrooms is much better. All those pictures were taken without a flash, as was this one from Lundamatwe: Comparing the pictures one can really see the difference that having glass windows makes. While they have windows (without glass) at Lundamatwe they often need to be closed because the wind is so strong that it makes it too loud to hear and blows in dust from outside.
Tuesday, August 07, 2007
After seeing the group off at the airport, Elliot and I stayed in Dar to renew our quest to find the perfect motorcycle (at least the perfect one within our budget). We had started out our search the week before when we were in Dar to drop Cathi off at the airport and had found one that we liked. We hired a mechanic to check the bike out before purchasing it, which turned out to be a wise choice as the bike had numerous problems that we had not noticed before. In fact all the bikes at this shop had problems, but fortunately the mechanic new of another shop. So we took a taxi across town, through traffic much like below, to the shop. After checking out numerous bikes we found one that we liked that looks similar to the following picture. I also added some character to the bike by dropping it...twice--once on each side just to be fair. With the registration for the bike going to take at least a week we headed back to Iringa to see how things were going. We were pleasantly surprised to see that both the bathrooms and the classroom painting were completed! Thanks again to the Project Kesho donors for making this a reality for the students at the school! Completed girls bathroom. This building has 8 new bathrooms for girls, bringing the total to 16 for the girls and 16 for the boys. Elliot with Abbas, our translator, and the Headmaster of the Lundamatwe Primary School. Students in the science classroom with the new paintings on the back wall. The back wall was previously bare cement, but it is now a useful teaching medium.
After about four weeks of working in the village, but before heading back to the States, we decided to spend a few days relaxing in the sun. We headed to the Lazy Lagoon resort, located on a small and uninhabited island in the Indian Ocean. We spent three days swimming, snorkeling, and lying in the sun. We also took a ride in a traditional East African sailboat called a dhow. It was a great chance for the group to relax after working so hard the previous month. A dhow returning from a day of fishing. Sunset after another perfect day. We stayed in bandas that were situated along the beach. The beach a low tide as viewed from our bandas.