Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Road mending Ugandan style.

This is one of those times when you wished you could take photos but even so you couldn’t get it.  It was just so bizarre!

Driving home from Kibale NP we were dodging potholes in the very bad stretch of road between Fort Portal and Kyenjojo.  We came around a corner and there was a young man walking slowly down the middle of the road waving a hi-vis vest helicopter (or Kevin Sheedy) style above his head.

Following him was a tipper truck with 20 men standing in the back using shovels to pitch dirt into the potholes.  Their aim was very good!  Then followed a man with a eucalyptus branch, which he was using as a broom, sweeping any errant dirt into the potholes.  A water truck followed along last.  It sprays the water into the air to catch any airborne dust so you better be sure your windows are up and wipers working.

We laughed, but then we realised it actually does a good job!  The potholes filled the previous day were set hard as concrete and we were no longer having to dart all over the road to miss them.

Well done Uganda!  The only thing missing was the red and green flag wavers NOT telling us what to do.

Photos are of tea plantations along the road.  It is such a pretty part of Uganda!

Friday, 9 June 2017


Many teachers here had never opened a lap top computer before we started our computer competency classes 3 months ago.  Last week they were each presented with a certificate of participation in Beginner or Advanced Computer Competency.  The ‘Beginners’ have learned how to name and save a document and how to use WORD.  They have especially enjoyed changing the format of their documents and have used all the fonts and colours!  The Advanced class worked on inserting shapes and other things into Word documents and on the mysteries of Excel.

We had 8 assorted laptops for the 30 teachers to share while we were running the classes but have added to the store since – including 5 contributed by my dear Auntie Lyn.  (In some ways this is also thanks to my late cousin Allan who was an early adopter of computer technology.)  My sister Lyn has also contributed and my cousins, Ian and Sue, have chipped in with USB flash drives for the teachers.  We have enough computers now for the teachers of each class to have one to share and they should have a USB each with the ones contributed by volunteer Emily’s mum.

Now the hard part comes with teachers having to apply their skills to typing up their class and department reports and homework sheets.  We will need to insist on typed reports as, when you’re a ‘chicken peck’ typist, handwriting is faster and easier, but only practice improves typing speed and accuracy.  Evidence so far is that they’re giving it a go!

The other challenge has been teaching order and tidiness in relation to where documents are saved.  I find them littering desktops and unsorted in My Documents.  I am about to start ‘hiding’ unfiled docs.  They have been warned!

We have a small and cost inefficient printer at school so all but small numbers of documents need to go to the Kampala office for printing.  It’s just like when I started teaching 35 years ago and printing was done by the office girls and required a week’s notice!  Teachers will have to be organised.

Teachers had two weeks of PD before the students returned from their term I break.  We are so lucky to have this time of preparation and learning.  It was an excellent time for sharing ideas about active learning tasks and I gave the many examples with dice, cards and other ‘zana’.  One teacher talked about the importance of how a full stop is constructed – those on the right would result in a zero for that question!

I have been making dice from any cardboard I find.  Sizes range from 3 cm to 10 cm side length.  I have shown teachers how they can be used in maths and in phonics lessons.  Tr Geofrey from Mbazzi has taken it on with a vengeance and has made about a dozen for his P2 class.  Tr Racheal at Katuuso has also been inspired.

This large one is for a Phase 1 Phonics game.  It has the sounds a, i, n, p, s and t on the faces of the die and 18 small cards with a word on one side and a picture on the other - 3 for each sound.  I look forward to trialling it with the pre-primary class next week and then having a working bee to make some more. 

Phonics Phase 1 Game

The cut offs from the dice have also been transformed into cards for a Roman Numbers teaching task that I hope to see demonstrated by Tr Micheal next week.  Perhaps my next post will have photos of these teaching aids in action.

The children ( and teachers! ) are enjoying using the Jump Rope for Heart skipping ropes donated by Baimbridge College Hamilton.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Being a tourist

Some people think my time in Uganda is just one endless safari.  This is not so!  But that notwithstanding we – Steve, my sister Lyn, cousin Ian and I – have just had a rather good tour travelling north, east and south-west to see more of Uganda than most Ugandans have seen.

Where we went

This little map shows our peregrinations over 2 weeks starting with my schools, then Mabamba swamp, Karamoja region and Kidepo Valley NP, Sipi Falls, Lake Mburo NP and finishing at Kipling Lodge near Jinja.

We don’t have space at our little house for both Lyn and Ian – only one spare bed – so they stayed at Danma Gardens, a local guesthouse and restaurant that we frequent.  It is not The Hilton but it is an African experience.

The trip to Mabamba Swamp is not a long one and I always enjoy a couple of hours in the narrow wooden fishing boat tooling around in the papyrus looking for Shoebill and Papyrus Gonolek – both of which we found with the help of Vincent, a local bird guide.  Many of the usual birds were absent (off somewhere breeding Steve said) but it was a pleasant morning.


The trip to Kidepo Valley NP, in a hired car with driver, took us over the Nile at Karuma  Falls and through Gulu and (overnight at) Kitgum to the South Sudan border.  All through the Karamoja region there are refugees from the fighting and hunger in South Sudan.  They are building temporary dwellings and planting crops.  They get some support from UNHCR but are just getting on with life.  We saw many children with nothing but a Maasai blanket for clothes.  Oxen are used for ploughing and it was in full swing with the good rain.  This has to be the poorest region we have seen.  It is a “Do not travel” area, as far as DFAT are concerned, but with so many army personnel plus the UN up there it is really quite safe.  Acts of terrorism and banditry are rare and we did not feel threatened or unwelcome.

Karuma Falls

Emergency housing

We plough the fields and scatter

Kidepo Valley NP was splendid.  We saw lions and giraffes but no leopards or elephants even though we were told they were there.  Lots of good birds of course!  The Abyssinian Ground Hornbills were as common as chooks.  We did a walking safari with armed guard Simon.  There was one slightly tense moment until he said (in actually quite a relieved voice) “it’s a lion coloured rock”.

Walking safari with Simon from UWA

Abyssinian Ground Hornbill

Rock Hyrax or Dassie

 Black Crake

Close up!

Kanataruk Hot Springs

The trip to the far north of the park took us to the South Sudan border where there was an army encampment as well as interesting hot springs.  We saw ostriches and one Secretary bird.  Ian managed to photograph it even though he didn’t actually ‘see’ it (in the background behind the ostrich) so has the moral dilemma over whether to claim the sighting!  Nga Moru Lodge was a very nice place to stay.  The down side is that when you hire a driver in east Africa you get an East African driver and that is not always an experience you want!

Landscape near Abim

We came back through central Uganda and a rock-strewn landscape then to Lira where we had a wait while the van was mended.  That meant we arrived in the dark and could hear the falls but didn’t see them until we opened our curtains the next morning.  Lyn, Ian and I did the walking tour up to the falls and Ian was pleased to see several chameleons as we walked through the coffee plantations.

Sipi Falls Number 2

We picked up a self-drive hire car (a Land Cruiser) for the second week.  Our RAV is small and has been a bit unreliable.  We had three nights at Rwakobo Rock and two days in Lake Mburo NP.  It was a bit spoiled by the rain and we had a couple of bogging incidents necessitating use of four-wheel drive.  We saw the small family of giraffes that have been moved to Lake Mburo from Murchison Falls NP to control the acacia but again dipped on leopards!  Lake Mburo NP has very many antelope of all sizes and colours, which generally cooperate for photos.  The boat trip was fun too with good views of crocodiles, hippos and the rare African Finfoot.  I insisted on the tourist pic at the Equator.

Water Buck

Rothschild's Giraffe

Rednecked Spurfowl family

A stripe of zebra

Malachite Kingfisher

I'm looking at you

I insisted!

Our last two nights with Lyn and Ian were at my favourite lodge, the Kipling, on the Nile near Jinja.  We did the boat trip to the falls – motor-boat this time as the current is so strong with the rain.  We ate delicious, beautifully presented food and drank excellent wine.

On the Nile

We relaxed and swam in the pool and I prepared myself mentally for the next two weeks, which will be full on, jam packed, professional development time for my teachers!

Thanks Lyn and Ian for coming to see us – we don’t get many visitors!