Celebrations at Akibui School – Kumi

This (below) is Akibui PAG Primary School back in 2014, where they held three classes outside underneath the trees and the extra-curricular activity on Fridays was spreading cow dung on the classroom floors to keep the dust down.

Pictured right is Akibui today!

Since starting work here in 2015, our teams of staff, contractors and volunteers have built three classrooms and renovated a further four as well as gifting new desks and various other kind donations. The celebrations to mark the completion of the school in October 2016 were shared by the children, staff and our final MD volunteer team of the year.

Due to its history, Kumi has inherited a generation of orphans, with an estimated 2.5 million children orphaned in Uganda and 1.5 infected with HIV. This school will provide a new future for many of Kumi’s orphans, giving them access to education and a door to opportunity. Thank you to everyone that has been involved!

One of our Kumi volunteers has written a wonderful account of his time at Akibui…

A LASTING MEMORY

by

JOHN PARSONS

At times I long to be back at Akubui Primary School near Kumi in eastern Uganda. There I shared maize porridge from a communal bucket, listened to the hornbills calling and waited for the rattle of the bullock cart bringing its daily supply of water from a borehole. Life in the countryside is lived at a slow pace. There are no social barriers and people always have time to stop and chat.

I was one of three volunteer workers at the school, sent by Mission Direct. My two colleagues, Peter and Kate, are nurses in different UK hospitals. We were to plaster the interior walls of two new classrooms and paint the metal window frames.

The drive to Akubui was an education in itself. We swung off the main road onto a dirt track which was busy with pedestrians on their way to market. Some carried turkeys and fowls, their legs tied together. One turkey was so large a man carried it over his shoulders. Adjacent to the open-air market on a grass verge was a line of bicycles resting on their handlebars, on a grass verge. A thin-faced man was changing their tyres, another repairing pedal cranks. In the fields beside the track men and women were tending cassava, maize and sweet potato, using their all-purpose tool, the mattock.

Africans place a lot of emphasis on protocol. Before we started work the whole school assembled in the open air, shaded by a mango tree, to meet us. Someone whispered, ‘Until recently the classroom behind you had a dirt floor. Each Friday afternoon the children spread cow dung on it to keep the dust down. Things have really moved on. Now it has a concrete floor. A new toilet block is being excavated and the school is planning for an additional 300 pupils. Two classes, however, still study under a tree.’

I had already seen a blackboard with a diagram on latrine construction. On a second board simple sentences were written in English. Pupils had to pick the correct verb to fill blank spaces.

Samuel, the headmaster, introduced our small team and then a group of children in purple uniforms sang their welcome: ‘We all love you…we are happy to meet you…we will never forget you.’

Most mornings we worked at the school in heat that was debilitating to those used to a temperate climate. In the afternoons we supported community programmes, working alongside the most marginalised people in society.

One day, under the fierce sun, we drove to the remote settlement of Homa, set among tracts of ground nuts and sorghum on which the inhabitants subsist. Our visit had two purposes: to construct a roof for a rondavel (a circular hut of baked clay blocks), the to deliver clothing and footwear brought from England for a beneficiary nominated by a local pastor. Rose’s face was radiant as she accepted the clothing for herself and her children. There were enough garments for other people too.

The roof of the house was conical, constructed of sturdy branches, strengthened by weaving twigs through the frame and securing them with sisal. It took fifteen adults to lift the finished article onto the building. It fitted perfectly. Another family will have a home, made entirely from locally sourced materials and labour.

Life in Africa is full of surprises. One evening we ordered our meal at a local eatery, just a tin shed with an open front. The manager was a middle-aged women who used a crutch to relieve pressure on a malformed leg. The place lacked the normal refinements we take for granted. Outside the premises was a keg of water resting on a metal stand for hand washing. While the eatery lacked mod-cons it overflowed with the friendliness of its patrons. A taxi driver shared his bottle of water with me, and the conversation flowed freely. ‘What are you doing here?’ he asked.

I told him that I was working with Mission Direct which supports projects ranging from building orphanages to feeding programmes in twelve locations around the globe.’ He was very interested. Other patrons were fascinated by our eating habits, eating our rice and beans with forks. They used their fingers.

All went well until a storm knocked out the electrical supply. We dined by candle light with rain dripping from the roof, bouncing off our table and soaking us. Such is life in rural Uganda.

On our final day we had achieved our aims at Akubui with the plastering complete and metal window frames ready for fitting. Samuel again assembled the children and their teachers. ‘Tell your friends in the UK,’ he said gravely, ‘that we love them and pray for them.’

That is a lasting memory.

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