Nov. 29, 2017 Catching you all up on the happenings in Uganda!

Dear All:   

All of our previous posts have come from emails since we have had such a busy schedule with long hours every day. Posting the blog is a tricky and frustrating issue with lack of reliable internet connection here at the hotel. In spite of that, we have been really exhilarated on this trip by the affirmations we have received regarding our decision to administer Muko High School.

On Monday, Nov. 27th we met with the teachers at Muko High School. The children had all been sent home early because of the famine in Muko. Torrential rains had washed out the gardens causing a severe lack of food. Many schools were unable to feed their children. Most of the teachers had gone home to correct their papers so they came back especially for the meeting with us. They dressed up in their finest clothing for the meeting. We called forward the teacher of religious studies who had asked for the 100 Bibles and presented the Bibles to him. We will bring pictures home for you to see. Everyone was delighted! We went on to inform them about ACT’s plan to administer the school and they asked many questions. The teachers are concerned about their jobs and hope to be informed if they have a position before they leave on December 7th. Our hope is that we may be able to organize this if we have a Head Teacher to help us with that task and enough time to complete it.

On Tuesday, Nov. 28th we interviewed all day. We were prepared to begin by 10 a.m. with three Bursar interviews (they began about 11:30)  and then again at 2 p.m. (they began about 3:45) with four Head Teacher interviews. With many long delays because of transportation problems and waiting for everyone to arrive we finally finished about 7 p.m. Interviewers were Friday, Reverend Esau, Reverend Oscar, Geoffrey, and Benjamin from our new Board of Governors and also Generous, Guma, Dave and me. The interview team returned to Kabale to meet at our hotel, have dinner together, and then discuss which Head Teacher to choose. We did not finish up until about 10:30 that evening. 

We chose a Bursar from the first interviews who is the current Bursar at Muko High School. We found that her experience there would be an asset. She is very dedicated to the school and seems knowledgable and trainable. Her name is Grace.  ( I am dispensing with last names for now )

For the Head Teacher: We liked one candidate very much. However, it is not yet official as we are checking references and the Board wanted us to spend more time with him. Tomorrow we have called him in to the Act Empowerment Centre to spend a day with us talking and learning more about each other. We are hoping all of this will go well and we can announce his appointment tomorrow. Pray that all works out! 

For First Presbyterian of Battle Creek and First Presbyterian of Traverse City who donated hymnals, let me tell you that Rev. Oscar and Rev. Esau from the Diocese were very, very excited about receiving one each. I showed them how to choose a hymn based on scripture, first lines, or topics. Rev. Esau asked me to sign his as a gift from ACT. They were really happy to have them! The others we will take to Muko High School. We were only able to bring eight
hymnals this time because of their weight, however, each time we will bring more. Rev. Oscar told us that he is the pastor for a chapel, seating 600 people. 

Our driver and dear friend, Christopher, has worked very hard on this trip beginning with the long trip from Kampala to Kabale, then driving to Rwanda to pick us up in Kigali, then returning with us to Kabale. To understand this commitment, he drove from approximately 6 am to 1 am. Then, in addition, we have been spending very long days together. So tonight we made an effort to get back to the hotel by 6 p.m. so he could have some time off tonight. We were sold a tank of gas earlier this week that had been watered down and he had a little trouble with the van. He alleviated the problem by buying a new gas filter, luckily avoiding the trouble of draining a whole tank of gas. We drove over to the gas station that sold him this fuel and he rolled the window down, called over an attendant and said, “I would like to register a sincere complaint”. He said this several times and the attendant refused to accept any responsibility. I so admire Christopher as I watch him deal with people so calmly-a true gentleman who takes care of us so well with never a complaint. You know you are in trouble with Christopher when he says softly, “Wow, wow wow”. For those of you who have traveled here, you understand!!

We had a great meeting with the non-teaching staff at Muko High School this morning. Grace, our new Bursar, came in not knowing that we had chosen her. Some comment was made in the meeting about her and I guessed that in the flurry she had not yet been informed. So I leaned over and whispered, “Grace, do you know that we have selected you for our Bursar?” It was at that time that we announced her appointment to everyone and took some pictures.
She seems very excited. I am guessing that she has been working and persevering with maximum frustration and stress and I am hoping this will be a welcome relief. However, learning Quickbooks will be a challenge. She is so excited about having a computer to use, plus, we told her today that we are empowering her with more authority over the finances of the school. She has been dealing with the most difficult of situations: possible corruption, fear of losing her job if she stands up to authority, unable to finish reports due to lack of cooperation, interruptions in her work when she is expected to be a runner, etc. 

Each of the staff was asked to report ways they could be supported in their jobs. They all spoke briefly and some wrote out lists of equipment they could use. Examples: the man who cleans the pit toilets asked for boots (he was barefoot) and coveralls. Wow, Okay to that. The woman in charge of meals asked for some kitchen utensils. Okay. Easy. This is pretty surprising when we visited her living area and found a room about the size of one of our closets, 7x9 in which she and two other people sleep- two on the bed and one on the cement floor. Chrispus, our electrician (he seems really cool) asked for electrical tape and a piano for their chapel. We have a whole list of things like this.

Then in the afternoon….Howard had asked 30 students to come in for a few days for MUSIC. About 20 or so showed up and we practiced all afternoon on our back porch. When a brief storm blew in, we went inside the Centre to the back room and Big Dad (Dave) brought in sodas. I gathered them around and we talked for over an hour. I started by asking them to pretend they were the Head Teacher and tell me what they would do to improve Muko High School. They asked for the following menu: Mon, Tues., Thurs., Fri. Sat. they agreed to their usual fare which is posho (corn meal mush) with cabbage and beans. On Weds. they asked for ground nuts and rice and on Sunday they asked for meat and rice. One major thing they asked for that should not have surprised me was their top priority for a decent chapel. WOW  I have many notes about all they requested, most of which are “givens” in our high schools, like a school bus, the ability to do competitions and sporting events with other schools, jerseys for their football team (soccer), a soccer field, a good science teacher, a science lab, etc. I learned a few shocking things: Our boys dorm is overcrowded. The boys are sleeping two or three in a bed, some on the floor. The beds are wooden and old and sometimes break in the night, falling on the people below injuring all concerned. The previous DOS (Director of Studies) beat students with an electrical wire. One boy was in the hospital for three days. Our Oscar said he had been beaten by this man with the wire because he was sleeping when he was supposed to be up and around. The man came into the dorm swinging the wire and whipping everyone there. The students and I had a long talk about the RIGHTS OF CHILDREN in Uganda and how this is AGAINST THE LAW. We continued our conversation about what sort of discipline is appropriate and how they would discipline their child or expect their own child to be disciplined at school.

After this, we also talked about school fees and how children are “chased” out of school for lack of money. They told me that children preparing to take exams are accosted in school and sent out on the road, even near the end of a term. Some of the children may live very far away. They are expected to go home and get the money from their parents. I asked them what they thought would be reasonable and our dear Rogers said he felt the parents should be contacted for the money, not the child. We are determined to do better for these kids. After all of this, I called Josiah in and asked him to hear the stories of the students about the beatings. He did not know about the situations of the beatings but knew which teacher had been acting as the DOS so if further investigation proves these stories true we are determined not to include him in our list of employed teachers. 

After spending this time with the children, I more fully realized the immensity of this job of running Muko High School responsibly. I continue to trust God to help us find a way. I know how generous our friends are in the US but it is hard not to wish for a lottery win so that we can just go up there and build dorms for the boys, living facilities for the teachers, showers, and chapel. I heard Dave tell Generous today “I wish I could just win the lottery”. Go slow to go fast we say….Let us work together to make this right.  

We are thinking of home but I am enjoying my continued days in flip flops! It is cool in the morning and at night but is like our most beautiful summer days in the afternoon. More tomorrow!

Love you all!

Karen