Visiting Africa has been a lifelong dream of mine, being able to engage in the rich tradition and heritage of a historic culture was a fulfilling experience. Exploring and discovering the vast natural resources and the abundance of the country while associating myself with the people living in rural areas has been one of my life goals. My graduate studies at Pepperdine University allowed me to embark on this journey as a Global Leadership Intern for the Masters in Social Entrepreneurship and Change.
For my global leadership experience I volunteered at Oxford Modern Primary school located in a rural district of Uganda called Kamwenge. The school was started by Mr. Natuhamya Aggrey in 2003, because the academic performance in the community had retarded, and some parents had also started taking their children to faraway schools for better education. The school has now expanded to ten classrooms, four dormitories that accommodate approximately 390 pupils. The students attending the school are most likely orphans and refugees children. The school provides a safe haven for students to learn and express themselves properly and is one of the highest performing school in the district.
The purpose of this experience was to embed myself in a totally new culture and to explore an experience outside of my comfort zone. Also, attempt to discover any pressing problems that exist within the school, community, and it's people. I personally wanted to experience the differences between the lifestyle in the western world versus the eastern lifestyles. I also wanted to create transparency with African Americans and Africans from Africa in hopes to build a positive relationship for many years to come.
Arriving in Uganda
My overall global leadership experience was nothing less than fantastic! My sponsor and good friend Keuwomba Enoka made me feel right at home from the day of arrival until I departed Uganda. The Mayor of the district and school Director, Mr. Natuhamya Aggrey met me at the airport and made sure I settled into Uganda from the jump. We traveled six hours from the airport to the school, which I had a chance to see the beautiful country of Uganda. We traveled through the capital named Kampala where it was very busy and congested similar to New York City and Los Angeles, but without stop lights or street signs. We traveled through multiple districts where small vendors were selling all natural foods that is grown and harvest in the rich green environment full of agriculture. Uganda is a country filled with agriculture and large plantations of banana, coffee, tea, potatoes, and the list goes on. Yet, I noticed a big difference between the rural areas of Uganda from the suburban and city areas. About 4 hours into our drive to the school, the driver made a left turn into a road of red clay and massive potholes. The area looked like a jungle that was filled with cows, goats, and hectares of plantations everywhere. Upon arrival to the school I was greeted with open arms by teacher and staff. The director ensured I had a convenient living space for the next 2 weeks and provided me with everything to make sure my visit was comfortable.
Day 1- Welcoming Ceremony
My first day volunteering at Oxford Modern Day Primary School commenced with a welcoming ceremony hosted by the students and teacher (mostly students). It was a celebration filled with traditional dances, singing, poetry, and speeches. The students performance were really impressive, they were so clever and intelligent and made me feel welcomed to their school and country. They all were excited to see an African American travel all the way to Uganda to volunteer at their school.
After the ceremony I was given a tour of the school’s campus, in which I was able to observe some significant challenges students face and spoke with the director about future plans and blueprints.
Interviews with School Leaders
Natuhamya Aggrey (Director of Oxford Modern Primary School)
Keuwomba Enoka (Sponsor and Former Head Teacher)
Twinomugisha John (Head Teacher)
Day 2- Friday
My second day at the school was scheduled to observe class sessions and meeting with the teachers. The first class I attend was a math class where students learned how to convert milliliters to liters. Students were able to demonstrate their work on the chalkboard using examples provide by the teacher. It was really impressive to see student articulate formulas and answers without having hands-on material to display their answers. It was also unfortunate to see these student unequipped with the tools to improve learning techniques.
The second class I attended was Social Studies, the subject was about the region of East Africa and the foreign influence which impacted East African countries. The teacher in this class was able to keep students engaged without the use of maps or any visual or hands-on materials. The only material being used in the classroom by teacher is a chalkboard and chalk. Students were not able to locate different countries around the world because of the lack of materials.
Meeting with teachers
After classes was over I was able to have a meeting with teachers to tell them more about myself and to learn more about them and the school. The teachers were very polite and are very invested in the success of each students. They also shared with me the struggles of being a teacher in Uganda, and how they only make about $1400 a year (about $130 a month). Most teachers are struggling to feed their own families and cannot create opportunities in their communities because of low salaries. Nevertheless, teachers give their best each and everyday.
Walk around plantations
After school ended for the day I was able to explore more of the town of Biguli and walk the plantations. The community is enriched with agriculture with an abundance of natural resources. The town is filled with these commodities providing more than enough food and harvest for the community. I was amazed at how fruits and vegetables grow so naturally without any enhancements or alterations. Unlike the food in America, Uganda foods are made naturally from the plantation to the plate. There isn’t any grocery stores to shop for foods, all foods is fresh from the plantations. There is limited access to water as student have to walk miles daily to extract water from a bole hole (Water well).
Day 3- Saturday
Activities with Student
On Saturday I was able to conduct a basketball sporting event with the students, teaching them the basic skills of passing and shooting the basketball. I also was able to organize an origami paper folding activity, which I demonstrated how to tell your fortune using this japanese technique.
Day 4- Sunday
During Chapel students host the religious service on Sunday where they sing, dance, and preached sermons to their fellow peers. Student lectures bring much pleasure to the school’s campus, students are judged by teachers on their performance, speeches, and behaviour during Chapel. Students must display discipline, courtesy, and respect for their fellow peers during this weekly tradition.
Presentation for the School
After Chapel service, I formulated a powerpoint presentation for the school to provide them with some history about myself and how is life for a African American living in America. I educated them about the international slave trade that brought Africans over to the Americas, I taught about great leaders of African culture (MLK, Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey) and how African Americans have made slow and steady progress in American society. Presenting students and teachers with this type of transparency has built a closer bond between myself and the school.
Day 5- Monday
Beginning of a new week of school I decided to distribute school supplies that was donated from my GoFundMe. I gave out supplies to each class and the students were thrilled to receive their new supplies. The smiles on their faces were priceless and they were extremely grateful to possess such gracious gifts from my donors.
Painted The School
One thing I notice when arriving at the school was most of the buildings had not been painted in a while. So I decided to buy painting supplies and paint the schools main dormitory building. Myself and Kuwomba Enoka decided to paint the one dorm building and once we started, the entire school staff decided to join in and help out. It amazing what can happen when people work together for a common goal.
Day 6 Tuesday - Visited Rwengoro Primary School
Upon my arrival to Rwengoro primary school student, teachers, and staff were all in anticipation. Once I arrived there were over 500 people at the entrance and they performed traditional dances to welcome me to their school. I was able to speak to all the students and teachers about issues and problems that exist and what can we do to change it. Teachers had many questions about the upcoming election, life in America, and what we able to do to provide opportunities towards their school. We spoke for about an hour and we exchanged some valuable resources and ideas to build towards a brighter future.
Visit with the Mayor of Kamwenge
On the way back to Biguli, we made a quick stop at the Mayor’s office to give him updates about the overall visit to Uganda. Mr. Natuhamya Aggrey is also the director at Oxford Modern Primary School, he is very involved into making a difference in his community. He’s the overseer of the entire district and many community leaders and locals admire him. He’s a giver to people in need and invest time, money, and energy into creating better opportunities for his district, but most importantly his country.
Day 7- Wednesday
Touring Uganda with the Teachers
On Wednesday, myself and fellow teachers from Oxford and Rwengoro primary school took a long tour around Uganda. We stopped at the center of the world to take picture on the Equator, visited Queen Elizabeth National Safari Park, and ate at local restaurants to enjoy some African cuisines. This was a great time for the teachers to enjoy the fruits of their labor each other's company.
Day 9 Friday
Competition & Music
After resting on thursday, On friday the school host classroom debates, speeches, poetry, drama, and dance competitions.
Day 10 Saturday
This was the difficult part of my trip to Uganda, the student and staff held a farewell ceremony to thank me for volunteering for their school. They sang beautiful songs, delivered heartfelt speeches, and provided gift for me and my family. One of the greatest thing that stuck with me was a speech by my great friend Kuwomba Enoka. He said to all the students and staff “ This is not the end of everything, but the beginning of it ALL”. Those student really put a dent in my heart and I am looking to create more opportunities like this in the future.
My visit to Uganda and the schools was nothing less than extraordinary! The students, staff, and teachers showed me so much love and embraced me as family. I have developed a new found compassion for the people in Uganda. The community as a whole embraces each other like family and when I arrived they treated me the same. I’ve met new lifetime friends that contact me everyday just to see how I am doing. Myself, Kuwomba Enoka, and Natuhamya Aggrey (Director/Mayor) began implementing new ideas to elevate the school’s current conditions. There are many challenges that exist and we have join together in partnership to make schools and the community better for students, teachers, and parents. Here are some challenges and future plans that we discussed and attempting reach:
- The school lacks a permanent water source of a bole hole. There is a challenge of students walking long distances searching for water during the summer.
- Technology Lab- The school has incomplete classrooms and technology equipment to enhance computer skills and hands-on learning.
- The school has improvised dormitories for students, which living conditions are not conducive to a successful learning environment.
The school looks forward to;
- Establishing a bole hole as a permanent water source on school campus.
- Enhancing education through technology by providing students with a technology lab that will be equipped with 20 Laptops and 15 Desktops computers.
- Constructing dormitories which are permanent for orphan students.
- Complete classrooms.
We are also looking to convince more people to volunteer their time at schools in Uganda to help achieve these goals. So if you are interested in assisting Oxford Modern Primary School build a brighter future, please join the movement! #PlaceYourPrintOnTheWorld