Friday, September 09, 2011

The Bakiga Window: Taufiq Islamic Primary School: Part II


In a manner so typically Ugandan, Yasim approaches silently and politely asks whether he can have a word with me – it is one of those ironies that a word has to be had in order to have a word with someone. Irony aside, he has heard back from the Sheikh and arranged an appointment for me.

It is Wednesday 20th April and once more I find myself en route to Taufiq Islamic Primary School. The morning started in the usual way: waking up sleepy students, ensuring that everyone had 'taken' breakfast and had a supply of bottled water, and then walking with the group down the hill, into the town. At the foot of the hill, the group scattered into many fragments, with everyone off in search of their own adventures. I head straight on, past the noise of the metal workers, over to Taufiq.

After having had to beat a hasty retreat last week, I was unsure of who would be in my reception committee.

Teacher Bright was the first to greet me, before taking me inside to meet with the Headteacher Lule, a member of the PTA called Yusuf and a third gentleman, also a member of the local Muslim community.

After a few minutes, I noticed that there seemed to be a distinct lack of children around, but thought little more of it. Perhaps they were all at the Mosque. Maybe lessons started later on a Wednesday morning. After a few minutes of general chat we proceeded over to the other side of the Mosque.
The Primary 7 class doing their best not to burst into laughter.
Walking past some slowly crumbling houses, we turned a corner to see the new school buildings. Built entirely from wood chopped down from the Mosque's grounds, they looked great under the morning sunshine, but I could imagine in the coldest months they could become very cold, very quickly.

Getting closer I could see that the children were all huddled in one of the larger classrooms and a wave of excitement broke out amongst them. It was clear that all the classes had been grouped together in anticipation of my arrival.

The children were left waiting a little while longer as I went into a different classroom to sign the guestbook and for Lule to explain more about the school. He had prepared a selection of documents for me including files of some of the neediest pupils and a detailed termly budget for the school. 

The pupils in the file are all orphans and are being educated free of charge by the school. Members of the local Muslim community care for them at their own expense. There is no doubt that after talking to the Lule and Yusuf, it is clear to see that many members of the community are very poor, but their collective resolve to make their lives better is abundantly clear.

After around twenty minutes, I went to the classroom next door to be greeted by a hundred or so smartly dressed children. The boys all wearing white atqiyah and the girls wearing white ahjiba. Luckily for me no one started crying, instead they all patiently asked questions about the United Kingdom - a favourite being "Did you work for the Queen and is she a nice boss?"

It was a great experience to spend twenty minutes chatting with them. It was evident that what Teacher Bright had said before, about there not being many visitors to the school to see the children, was true. They obviously enjoyed the experience of having someone new showing them some interest.

My real work now starts in working out strategies to help the school in the future, and developing a close working relationship with them.

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