Ditches and Dropouts

Monday 15th September

I am now back home in Kumi. I have tended to think of Green Top Hotel as “Home” for the last three months – it is, at least, the place where I dump my stuff more than anywhere else. I doubt if it would get any star rating in the UK but it is comfortable, the food is OK and there is a shady tree to sit under.

Ugandans have many uses for ditches. Rain here is a sudden torrential thing and a good ditch is five feet deep and twenty feet across to cope with flash floods. You see cars in ditches sometimes because they have run off the road but also because the owner wants to wash his car and he drives it gently in. Motor bikes are easier to ride in for a wash. People collect water from ditches for household use including, sadly, for drinking. Others wash their clothes in ditches and children go swimming in them.

Yesterday I saw a new use for a ditch – lots of people were gathered round in bright clothes; some standing in ditch water and others on the road. There was a church minister next to the water and he was holding a bundle in his arms – yes – you have guessed correctly,   it was a baby’s christening!

Water is so scarce a commodity here that you do not give up a good ditch christening opportunity. To be fair, the ditch had moving water so they could pretend that it was a river. But I doubt if many babies are christened in facilities provided by the Ugandan National Roads Authority.

We are in “close down” week, which means writing reports, putting things away, saying goodbyes and distributing remaining aid and donated money. We took our last look at “our” new classroom which is nearly finished. IMGP5479The children are due to be taught in it in two weeks’ time. We have also provided them with enough desks for 32 children, each double desk beautifully made locally from local timber at a cost of £24. The cost was donated by our volunteers.

There is a road sign near here which reads “Many Humps Ahead.” This is a warning about speed humps but it could easily be a life message. The life of the average Ugandan is full of many humps to be overcome. From poverty, they cope with lack of health care, inadequate food, poor or no education, untreated illnesses, no career opportunities and the prospect of an early death. Yet, they remain content, work hard, enjoy life, marry and have lots of children. Humps are to be driven over slowly whilst you keep smiling.

I went to inspect three cows today, donated by some of our volunteers to provide an income generating scheme for a local orphanage. They are half Friesian and half a local breed called Zebu. This means they produce lots of milk whilst eating poor quality grass. They cost about £200 each and, as they are all in calf, the orphanage will have a small herd in six months’ time. They will be providing milk for 32 children and selling the surplus.IMGP5490

To finish with, how about this sign on a building “School Dropout Support Surgery”   I guess it is our equivalent of a Pupil Referral Unit but I wonder if candidates for it are encouraged to behave by the “Surgery” reference: a word usually used here in connection with the doctor. You can imagine a parent saying: “If you don’t behave I will have your naughtiness surgically removed”

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One thought on “Ditches and Dropouts

  1. Thanks Roger for all your blog entries of usual high quality. Without being there, I have felt part of the country somehow in ways which a travel guide could never produce. Hope you manage to get everything sorted this week. A warm welcome home awaits you in Buxton!

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