As week four looms ominously like a marabou stork perched on some distant building, EPAfrica’s project in Mbarara is very much in full swing. Hardened Project Workers returned to the central house yesterday full of the usual crop of anecdotes from their schools and villages. They regaled tales of the trials and tribulations of trying to negotiate their meticulously laid out plans with “Africa Time”; getting up in the middle of the night to measure the flow of water at the school’s tap; and, of course, receiving their tenth unwanted paw paw from a very generous villager. Having taken over the role as Project Manager (aka Prime Marabou) two weeks ago, it’s great to see another cohort of Project Workers facing the challenges of living and working in this environment and becoming passionate advocates and experts on their school’s development.
So, what are the highlights of Team Mbarara this week?
I would like to mention our Project Researchers, Hannah and Paul, who are doing some invaluable work into two crucial areas for the charity to understand. Hannah is looking into absenteeism in schools. In particular, her initial findings highlight the complex issues faced by many girls who are unable to continue or come to school, including unwanted pregnancies, sexual violence, and menstruation. Paul is researching what opportunities exist for students after they complete school. He has almost finished the compilation of a Post-Secondary Opportunities guide. This will go into all of our schools as a resource for students to find out more about how to match their aspirations with the reality of living in a country with high unemployment and largely privileged access to tertiary education. Both studies are crucial to challenging our own perceptions of the issues faced by Ugandan students both in and after school and will form the backbone of our future interventions. Well done, guys!
After a bout of Coordinator illness last week, Project Workers were able to return to the central house this weekend for our Third Week Meeting. This provided them with an opportunity to share experiences and learn from one another. I am particularly proud of one Project Trio who overcame the challenge of encountering (the unfortunately very common) corporal punishment in school to negotiate an alternative discipline system with the Head Teacher and staff, who now wish to abolish the act entirely. It’s still early days but this is just one example of the impact that Project Workers can have with a little thought and the right sort of communication in partnership with their school. We also discussed how to plan for the multitude of unexpected events you encounter here; effective ways of moving your school nurse (!); and how to deal with the crowds of smiley faced primary school children that appear every morning at your doorstep.
Aside from that the Coordinators have been busy visiting many different schools in the local area; learning about a successful student mushroom farm project pioneered by Educate, an NGO working in another school; and discovering that Ryan Gosling films are a very good way to chill out in the evenings. We are also considering applying to the Water Central Pot to aid the very dry Mbarara central house! In particular, we would like to thank our Mbarara friends Joe and Dean for their friendliness and help over the past few weeks.That’s all from Mbarara for this week. Time for a cup of chai! Osi bege.