Uganda hold’s the world record for closing schools for the longest period due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This week the First Lady (also the Minister for Education) announced that schools will reopen on January 10, 2022.
All schools were closed on March 18, 2020. Some classes returned for a very short stint this year, only to be closed again, but many year groups never returned at all. The first three years of primary school (P1, P2 and P3) are three of the year groups who never stepped foot into a classroom in almost two years. The majority of those children haven’t read or written anything in that period. These are the main year groups READ for Life supports: we train and mentor teachers to improve reading and writing levels in lower primary children.
This is the calm before the storm… before children return to schools and we find out what the carnage of almost two years without formal education looks like and the triage begins.
Without a doubt one of the highlights of this year with our neighbourhood class was a storytelling morning where each of our class members performed a retelling of a story to quite a large audience: their mothers, aunties, grandmothers, siblings and ALL of the staff from READ for Life and Connect Education Centre who were the judges.
It was such a beautiful morning to not only enjoy stories as a community, but also for our children to showcase so much of what they had learnt throughout the year (with their speaking and performing skills).
The children worked very hard to practise their stories and we are so proud of them. Not long after our morning performance there was a birthday party at our neighbours for two siblings – it was a very big affair with a cake, speeches, soda and a ‘programme’. Featuring on the program were four of our students performing their stories. Although I loved the first event, it was potentially more beautiful to see this being honoured by the local community in their own celebrations.
Storytelling in our local community is another thread of the silver lining throughout this year of school closures. We hope it will continue…
Here’s a video of some highlights from the Storytelling morning…
Ten-year-old Jerry joined our neighbourhood class at the beginning of the year. Last year he was in South Sudan and this year he lives just a little up the road from us. Schools are still closed here; they have been closed for almost two years. Jerry started our neighbourhood class with very basic reading and writing skills, he certainly gave me a few challenges for how to pitch the lessons for him as well as the other children in February this year.
However, I am absolutely blown away by how much progress Jerry has made in eight months. When it comes to storytelling and story writing, he is one of our most thoughtful and creative students.
Last month we completed in a story writing unit and each child entered their stories in a national competition.
I have attached Jerry’s below:
It’s quite incredible to think that this child has barely been in school and no-one has taught him from home. And it’s wonderful to look back now and reflect on the fabulous year of learning Jerry has had and the incredible amount of progress he has made.
Neighbourhood schooling has been a rollercoaster journey; however thankfully there’s a lot more highlights than lowlights.
We are particularly thankful for finding a local artist who is certainly way more talented than us in this field, who comes weekly to teach our children art. Last week the children learnt to make their own flower pots. They loved it!
Several months ago we applied for a five-year adoption visa for Myron to visit Australia. This is pretty much the Australian Government’s way of recognising his adoption and would give Myron ‘residency’ of Australia. When we applied, we were told that most of the applications were approved within two years. We knew we would have a long wait ahead of us.
This week we were asked for ‘more information’ for Myron’s visa. We need to go back to a health centre in Kampala for three more health tests. We did plan on driving to Kampala this morning, however our road was impassable and by the time the sun dried it out it was too late. We are planning to leave this Sunday for the health tests. One step closer…
A few nights ago a man wielding a brushhook (see picture) lay in wait for Dan and his ‘so-called accomplice’ near their vehicle. Nope, I’m not exaggerating, just rushing to the juicy part. So let me back track and start at the beginning…
We were just heading to bed around 10.30pm when our friends called us from Entebbe Airport (our national airport – I won’t mention any names, but some of you will guess who they are). They were about to fly back for an overdue stay with family but… they realised at check-out that they had picked an expired passport instead of a current one. It’s that moment that we all dread isn’t it… but this story just gets better and better.
Dan organised with a neighbour (who also works as a driver) to go to their nearby house and break into their locked shed to retrieve the passport. It was well after lockdown but we had no choice. One of our colleagues was staying in their house. I tried to call her but she never answered. Our friends also told us they would ring their close neighbour to tell her what was happening (this never happened).
Dan grabs a hammer and a chisel, the driver picks him up and they set off…
The driver initially tried to wake our colleague/house sitter inside. She woke quite easily, but stayed silent inside… not sure of the strange voice calling out to her and fearing the worst. It wasn’t until Dan yelled out that she recognised his voice and came outside.
The shed door was double padlocked (inside and out). The outside padlock was easy to remove, although it was loud. The inside padlock, however, was impossible to break with a small space to work with – so they decided to break the door out. It took the guys more than an hour to chisel the door out of the brickwork.
During this time our colleague/house-sitter had attempted several times to go across and alert the neighbour to what was happening, however she thought she was asleep and didn’t want to wake her. Meanwhile inside her house, the neighbour was certainly awake, frightened and had been calling for help. She called the LC1 (the local leader who handles pretty much everything), and she had even called a radio station searching for the police inspector’s phone number. The LC1 had sent a security officer to go and inspect.
Whilst the guys were chiselling out the door, the security officer approached the neighbourhood with a brushhook. He doesn’t get too close, jumps to the conclusion that they are breaking in, and thought he would lay down, hide amongst the grass near the suspected getaway car and attack them on their exit. Thankfully he was waiting quite a while and thought he would go and survey the size of the ‘assailants’. He crawled closer and stayed low. During one time when our colleague/house-sitter came out to try the neighbour again, the camouflaged security officer coughs and enquires in a whisper voice as to what is happening. That’s the moment when the air was cleared and everything came to light – thankfully. And… still wielding his brushhook, the security officer goes over and helps them cut the door out.
The passport was delivered safely, and our friends are now on the other side of the world.
As a family, we have just finished reading/listening to the Chronicles of Narnia – all seven books. The Last Battle was certainly a mad dash to the finish line before the audio book disappeared from our online library, but we made it just in time (listening over breakfast, holding a portable speaker up while travelling in the car, listening while cooking…).
Why didn’t we read this series in our childhood? (Well, Dan and I anyway…) If you haven’t read the series, please do. All seven books. The stories and characters have been woven into the life of our family, and we know we will return to them again and again. But the last book, phew! What symbolism and imagery! Lewis received a Carnegie Medal for The Last Battle, and from a huge fan, I can see why.
There’s been more than 100million copies sold, in 47 different languages – so obviously we’re not the only ones who think this series is just stellar!