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News from Kibaale

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November 2005

Bram Moolenaar, treasurer of ICCF Holland, visited the Kibaale Children's Centre in October-November 2005. This is his report.

I took quite a few pictures during my visit. Click on the images below for an enlargement. You can find more pictures here.
Classroom

A new classroom block

Student

Molly has finished S4 and hopes to continue in another school next year
           

Progress and complications

In the past years Uganda has seen an economic growth of about 5% per year. This is very noticeable in the streets. You can see more vehicles driving around, new shops, and better dressed people. Kibaale now has a real petrol station! It is operated manually, since there is still no electricity, but it works. Now we don't have to drive to Rakai to get petrol and diesel.

The Kibaale Childrens Centre has grown a little bit. There is one new block of classrooms and a big rainwater tank at the primary school is almost finished. This will provide clean water for the children. Water has always been a problem in this area; last year I reported the borehole was fitted with a filter to improve the water quality. It still works, but the amount of water is not enough for the 700 children at the school.

Last year about a dozen of the children sponsored through ICCF Holland finished secondary school and are now doing advanced level, business school or another form of professional training. This means these children have to move from their simple house in Kibaale to "the big city" and find a place to live there. We need to pay for their housing, food, education, books, etc. Obviously that is quite expensive; and since they are far away from Kibaale and in many different places it's difficult to keep track of these children.

The office at the project is currently struggling to manage this. Most of the issues can be solved with money, but we need to make sure it is used for the right purpose. There have been reports of a school where money went missing and a student that faked a letter. We need to verify the requests, which takes time and effort. I hope this won't result in some of the honest children being slowed down in their studies.

I interviewed Namate Rose. She first studied in our school in Kibaale, continued at advanced level in Masaka and has now finished university in Jinja. She is confident that she did well and her exam results will be positive. That will make her a qualified secondary school teacher. It is very good to see one poor orphan that we helped become an educated person; I hope many will follow.

Ssese Islands

One of the children I wanted to visit is in an agricultural school on Ssese islands. Friends of Dave and Ruth Frith sponsor a couple of children there, and so we planned to combine work with pleasure: visit the children and have a day off at the nice islands. Well, it didn't work out as planned...

We managed to get to the ferry landing site quite early, and noticed it was coming in. But instead of letting us aboard they brought in welding equipment and started to fix the ferry. At first they said it would take a couple of hours, but it turned out to be five! In the meantime a lot of vehicles arrived that all wanted to go to Ssese islands. When they finally started boarding it became a race to be the first on the ferry. This involved a lot of brutal driving, resulting in scratches and broken lights. We didn't want to risk damaging the vehicle and failed to get on board. Oh well, maybe next year.

But the day wasn't finished yet. On our way back to Kibaale we found a huge python. Someone apparently killed it and left it stretched on the road (see the pictures page ). There was no way around it, I had to drive over it. After taking a couple of pictures we continued driving back to Kibaale and had two flat tires! Makes you wonder whether it was caused by driving over the snake. To make matters worse the vehicle had no spanner. Friendly Ugandans stopped to help us, even though it was already dark.

Fortunately there was a second chance to make a trip. We went to lake Mburo national park for a weekend. I'm glad I could see some of the beautiful nature that Uganda has. Lake Mburo is the smallest park and the only one that has zebras. I enjoyed driving around and seeing many wild animals, including impala, buffalo, hippo and topi. No flat tires this time!

            Classroom

The ferry to Ssese islands





Student

Dennis, one of the sponsored children I visited
           

Internet

Last year I failed to setup e-mail at the project, but I did learn from the experience, and this time I came prepared. I brought several phones, a special antenna and a bag with cables. Last year I found that with this antenna it is possible to get a good signal for a mobile phone. I had heard that the phone provider MTN had started to support GPRS, but I was not sure if it would work in Kibaale, so that was the first thing to try out. I visited an MTN service desk in Kampala before going down to Kibaale, and they entered settings in the Nokia 6310 that I brought. The first day in Kibaale I managed to make this phone work to connect my computer to the internet. Great!

The cost is reasonable, 5 shillings per Kbyte. A big advantage is that a slow or failed connection will not make sending data more expensive. The disadvantage is that browsing the internet quickly costs a few thousand shillings (1500 shillings is a US dollar). Thus I had to find a way to do e-mail efficiently, avoiding webmail. This kept me busy for a few weeks, because several attempts failed. I finally figured out that MTN has a firewall that blocks many ports. Fortunately my friend Cor in Kampala could setup a simple POP/SMTP account for me on standard ports and that worked. Hopefully it keeps on working the coming year.

This still isn't ideal, a flat-rate connection would be preferred. Therefore I also tried another system, called CDMA, but could not detect any signal in Kibaale. The progress in Uganda continues, hopefully a more cost effective solution will become available soon.

More...

At the project many of the usual activities continue. Arleen had restarted her work to improve the quality of teaching. She does teacher training and curriculum development. Trying the improve the quality of education is something that will never stop. The clinic was busy as always. I joined the nurses on a immunization trip. It continued until late, and we had to drive back in the dark.

We worked hard to get the children make a Christmas card for their sponsor. It's quite a challenge to help them write a good letter. Each year I ask them to write in a way that the sponsor gets useful information. I was in the S1 classroom for this, and now know how hard it is to explain to these children in remote Kibaale how to write something that a person in Holland would like to read. The cultural difference is huge. They often end up writing a "thank you" note, instead of relating important things that happened in their family.

Photos and text are quite limited in what they can show about what goes on at the project. I brought a video camera, interviewed several people, and filmed the children in the classrooms, on the playground and in their homes. The coming months I will edit the four hours of video into to a short documentary. People with sufficient bandwidth will be able to download it.

            Writing christmas cards

S1 students writing Christmas cards

Plans

The coming year the center will concentrate on quality improvement. That means we do not start new activities but do better at what we are currently doing. A problem is that this isn't popular with people making donations, as we will not be able to show a new building; but we do need to invest in better guidance for the older students, repair some of the buildings, continue teacher training, get more books for the library, etc. We are helping 700 children, and we will do our best to help them grow and become responsible adults.

Bram Moolenaar

more pictures
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