Uganda 2019: Day 4 – Visiting Rihamu

I awoke this morning very excited, anticipating my first trip to Rihamu School. The journey from Mweya to Kasese takes about an hour, on some of the best road in the country. It was a chance to reflect on Hambledon’s partnership with Rihamu. The schools have been twinned for just over a year, but in this short time it has made a huge difference to the pupils of Hambledon. Last autumn the whole school studied the country of Uganda and forged links with our new friends via pen-pal letters and visits by Mrs Foster and Miss Murray.

Both teachers had told me to expect a warm welcome, but I was still taken aback by the strength of the excitement and joy that we all felt in the meeting. The children were lined up in the courtyard and started cheering as we entered. Many ‘hi-fives’ were exchanged as we made our way along the welcome line and I was delighted to meet my fellow Headteacher Shakilah Huda and the director of education Ibrahim Kiwanuka.

We were taken on a tour of the school’s classrooms and each class had prepared a special welcome. I was really impressed with the quality of the work and the attention and hard work the pupils were giving their lessons. I was pleased to see that in each room hung a picture of children hard at work in Hambledon. I was pleased to be able to tell the pupils the names of their Hambledon friends.

Shakilah has a strong and powerful vision for improving Rihamu. The programme is already underway; they have bought new land and extended the courtyard area of the school. Further improvements we discussed included a programme of works to improve the classroom infrastructure including plastering and painting many of the walls in the school. They have plans to put in a system of rainwater collection via guttering and a water tank. They also hope to put a surface down in the playground to stop it turning very muddy whenever it rains. I am pleased that the money Miss Murray raised running her Uganda marathon will be put towards some of these vital works.

Another way in which we will be working together is to deliver joint units of work in both Hambledon and Rihamu. These cover the topics of Children’s Rights, Sanitation and Changing Communities. Next week I will be teaching with Shakilah and delivering these units to pupils at Rihamu. Shakilah will also have the opportunity to teach the pupils of Hambledon when she visits us next March.

The coaches at CM Sports were fabulous today. They took very large groups of children over to a local playing field to play Tag Rugby. This was using sets bought with some of the money raised by Miss Murray. The children will have a chance to play in a competition with other schools in the project: The Conservation Cup. The children and teachers were new to the game but the coaches quickly taught them the basics and gave them what they need to continue practising next week. Coming from the cradle of cricket I will also be teaching that game using set Mrs Foster brought over last year.

The generosity of our hosts was amazing. Shakilah and her team had made a gorgeous lunch of meat stew, matoke (a savoury banana), rice, potatoes and fruit. We all tucked in with enthusiasm, grateful for a chance to rest and shelter from the afternoon sun. CM Sports also presented some gifts to our friends of Rihamu. This included various pieces of sports equipment as well as a Dart Board and sets of Dominoes. Luke taught Shakila darts. Shakilah won! I taught Shakilah dominos – Shakilah won! I feel very lucky that I am able to return to teach on Monday and am excited to strengthen the partnership between our two schools.

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