Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Bakiga Window: Taufiq Islamic Primary School

The Primary 6 class 'revising'.
The sun is relentless this afternoon. After a typically rainy season morning of mist and showers, the clouds have parted and I can feel my skin beginning to cook under Uganda’s wide blue skies.

It is Wednesday 13th April and I have delegated my group leader responsibilities for a few hours, in order for me to go about following up on something I promised I would last year, namely visiting the Taufiq Islamic Primary School.

When I visited last year, my immediate reaction was use a selection of adjectives, all with negative connotations. This wasn’t as a reflection of the school as an organisation, or of the small, but hard-working, Muslim community who look after it, but more focused on the cramped conditions that the boarding students had to live in.

So it was, that after a short lunchtime meeting with the father of a student from Kigezi High School, I followed the path down to Taufiq: past the ladies selling bananas, weaving my way through the hive of activity that is the taxi rank, through the clattering of men working on bits of metal. There I met with Teacher Bright.

After signing the guest book and chatting about whether much had changed in the year since my last visit, he started to take me on a tour of the inner courtyard of the main building. Needless to say, it wasn’t long before a Primary 6 class, who were meant to be revising for a test, saw me and began to look excitedly at their mzungu visitor.

I asked the teacher whether this small class was always this excitable. He replied, “not really. Most visitors to the school aren’t here to see the children.” I asked whether I could meet them and he obliged.

The pupils took it in turns to ask questions and either giggled or gasped in response to any answers I gave them. At first the questions were about England: “Do you really have a Queen?” and “Does it really rain all the time?” The questions moved on to “do you have Muslims in the UK?” I then informed them that in London, where I teach, most of my students are Muslim. This surprised them, but also brought smiles to their faces.

At this point a phone call came through to teacher Bright. There were reports coming through that a mzungu was visiting the school and the Sheikh hadn’t been informed. I took this as an indication to leave, albeit feeling somewhat disappointed, and I made my way back to the road.

Later that night, Yasim, the KHS bus driver and a member of Kabale’s Muslim community saw me walking home, still in a melancholy mood and called me over. He had heard about the mix up at the school and was able to inform the Sheikh that I was good man, a friend of Islam and someone without ulterior motives.

I was left waiting on a phone call to see if I would get a formal invite back to the school later in the week.

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