Skip to main content

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.


Popular posts from this blog

Atay Maghrebi: To Essaouira and the Atlantic

Leaving Marrakech, the landscape stays flat, except for a few distant outcrops of rock. The sensation of the inhospitality of the environment creeps up on you as the olive groves become fewer and further between and rough scrub runs away to the base of distant hills.
Eventually, the landscape starts to undulate as you pass through small towns like Sid L’Mokhtar, and, after two hours, Morocco simply runs out of land as the coach starts to plummet down to the Atlantic coastline and the peeling whitewash of Essaouira’s medina.

The morning started with the obligatory slices of sweet cake dipped into apricot jam, with a side of yoghurt and coffee. I had a chat with Merissa who was already awake and wearing sunglasses like she was nursing a hangover.
I packed up my bags and meandered my way out of the medina towards Bab Laksour to get a taxi.
Having learned the lesson last year that taxi metres are always mysteriously broken in Marrakech, I readied myself for a battle with the driver who…

Atay Maghrebi: Out of the Dark and into Jemaa El-Fnaa

The night time offers a wealth of opportunity and intrigue in almost any country, but when I'm somewhere where my understanding of the language extends to just a handful of phrases and disconnected words, I find it all the more enthralling. Marrakech genuinely quickens the pulse and widens the eyes by night, with the famous Jemaa El-Fnaa as its wildly arrhythmic beating heart.

After a day of perfectly idle wandering and preparing for my journey to Essaouira, I sat up on the roof terrace, ordered atay, read the ending of Alex Garland’s The Beach and waited for sunset.

During this time, a Dutch woman and a Belgian man sat near to me and started to talk about a range of subjects. Most of their discussion was centred around the regular banalities of two travellers who don’t know each other well and clearly don’t have a great deal in common.
Shortly before sunset, the Belgian man caught my attention as he started to regale his newfound friend with quotes from the Quran taken both ou…

From a Crooked Rib by Nuruddin Farah

I stumbled across Nuruddin Farah’s novels when searching for something written by a Somali author. Perhaps due to the conflict that has raged for years in Somalia, it is very difficult to find much from Somali writers published in English.
From a Crooked Rib was published in 1970 and tells the story of Ebla, a young, orphaned, illiterate nomadic girl, who runs away from her encampment. She takes the decision to leave upon learning of her Grandfather’s intention to marry her off to an older man within their Jes (a group of families living in an encampment together).
She firstly escapes to a town, Belet Amin, where she finds her cousin and his pregnant wife. She also finds a guide and confidante in a character known only as the widow. Things seem settled until, yet again, Ebla finds her freedom compromised by a male character – this time her cousin, whose wife and child Ebla has been nursing.
In her haste she leaves Belet Amin with the widow’s nephew, bound for Mogadishu – still called