St. Bakhita is located within the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement, and provides nursery and primary school education to students. The classrooms are mostly cement, with wooden desks and glass-free windows barred with iron. There is a soccer field and a netball court (if you’ve never heard of netball it’s like basketball played with ultimate frisbee rules), and a central sort of courtyard where they gather for morning and end-of-day assembly. The toilets are outhouses for squatting, and they get their water from a tank up the hill, which they pay for. There is no electricity except for what they can get from one solar panel. There are currently 753 students dispersed over 10 classes.
My first day working in the classrooms was Tuesday. I spent the morning class periods with the 3-4 year old class, which consisted that day of one full-time teacher, one visiting teacher-in-training, and 71 tiny kids, all in a single classroom the size of my bedroom back home. They sit on woven rugs on the cement floor, and argue and sing and chant and fight and nap and play endlessly. I sat with them, and they climbed all over me, and held onto my hands and arms and knees and hair. They loved playing with my hair. Later Osborn and I lunched with the teachers: we had beans and ugali (ooh – GAH – lee) which I think they have every day. Ugali is like super-fine porridge grits baked into a dense and resilient loaf: it is pale and soft and sticky and very bland, but if you cut a huge slice of it and cover it with beans and a little cabbage it will soak up the juices and is very filling. Also you eat with your hands. Their drinking water they collect and boil and store in an urn in a shady corner to keep cool. I ate myself to bursting.
After lunch we started computer club, which right now is basically me and Osborn training interested teachers how to use a computer, so that later they can teach interested students. I worked with one teacher for hours, using my laptop: things like how to open word and save a document, how to highlight and right-click and change fonts, how to add and multiply in excel, and so on. I also drew him a keyboard outlining which keys should be pressed by which fingers, so he can learn to type just by practicing the motions on a piece of paper. I couldn’t show him how to change his email password though, because the school doesn’t have internet. Osborn and I are working on changing that.