Hillside Vocational Secondary School

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As we’ve reached the mid-point of the summer, we have been reflecting on our first half experiences in Hillside Vocation Secondary School, Uganda…

Our school project began with a full week working in the Hillside Vocational school all together, after Norbert, the third member of our trio, had arrived. Following a massive, vibrant religious conference on Sunday 9 July, which took place at Kitagata Secondary School in collaboration with several local schools, we already felt well and truly immersed in Ugandan culture.

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For the second week, our key focus was completing the data section of our project planner which largely involved transferring results from school records. Despite being rather laborious, this process is essential to further our understanding of our school community, how it functions, and hence what the most important areas for investment are. We had established that grades in science were particularly weak, despite an enthusiastic teaching staff. This lack fed directly into our second major task for the week: applying to the central pot fund for water projects, pitching an application to enable our plans to expand the science labs with a water and gas connection. Then began the wait for the verdict on the highly competitive application process. There are many schools with serious water needs.

Busy bees as we have been, we didn’t fail to enjoy the warm and welcoming school community. Hillside is optimally located high in the rolling hills surrounding Kitagata. Early on, our head teacher Lauben and Kiswahili teacher Jonas took us on a walk up the mountain that our school is on. Passing through idyllically peaceful plantations, our new Ugandan friends pointed out local coffee berries, jack fruit and even goats (of which a European breed has been imported in recent years, though it’s not so resistant to disease as the native African goats).

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The panorama on reaching the summit in the setting sun was breath taking and we have already hiked back up since in our free time. We are truly spoilt for natural beauty in Kitagata, which Jam and Tom admitted when they came for our pastoral visit.

In other news, our third week also saw us attempting to deep fry potato chips on a gas cooker (which worked surprisingly well), and digging out a live, hibernating, winged insect out of a mango seed (to Emily’s horror, “how could you live your entire life in a seed?”). All before heading back to the central house for the second week meeting.

Week four of the project kicked off with a primary school visit together with our head teacher, as well as research into computer and textbook prices. We are brimming with ideas for the school and are excited to work to make these a reality over the rest of the summer.

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Written by Johanna Gewolker, Emily Fox, and Norbert Sobolak.