This morning started like most others; we headed to breakfast at MUBS. This morning’s breakfast was pretty typical with the exception of a new item added to the menu: Ugandan doughnuts. They looked like the doughnuts in the US and were most similar to cake doughnuts, however they are not very sweet.
We experienced a lot of hurrying up and then waiting throughout the morning. After plans were more solidified, we decided to grab some snacks at Capital Shoppers Supermarket for a light lunch later in the day.
On the way to visit SURE Prospects Institute, there was a lot of conversing between the Drake and MUBS students about what the Drake students had experienced on our rural visit yesterday. We also sang the songs that the children performed for us at the village the previous day.
When we arrived at SURE Prospects Institute, Francis, the principal, owner and founder, gave us an introduction. He explained that SURE is an inclusive school with three sections: nursery, pre-primary & primary, and special needs. Francis started the school in 2002 after he competed university. The actual idea was conceived in 1998 while attending university, when he was the chairperson of the Students with Disabilities campus organization. He decided to focus on youth and children with disabilities. Upon graduation, Francis spent time on the land where the school was going to be and pondered his idea. He also went out into the community and asked what others thought of the idea. He wanted to get the community’s view of disabled persons. In Uganda, people don’t care for the disabled. They don’t even refer to them with “politically correct” titles such as blind or deaf in their language—they simply refer to them as stupid. Numerous of the disabled are disowned and become beggars on the streets. Many of the people in the community thought he was going to get them in trouble with the law for abandoning and mistreating their disabled children, so he had to work very hard to convince them that he only wanted to help.
Francis had a desire to help disabled people become educated, productive members of society rather then becoming beggars on the streets. This makes this institution sustainable as well as the economy.
When the school started, children were taught skills to go straight into the work force. They were trained to use sewing machines and computers. The costs of education, especially those who are disabled, is very high. Nearly 90 percent of disabled children born in Uganda are born into poor families. To compensate for the high cost of education and the little money that the disabled parents and guardians had, SURE became an inclusive institution. This meant that disabled and abled persons were educated. The ratio started out as 10 abled children to 1 disabled child. That ratio is now down to 3:1. The 10, now three, fees of the abled children would help to cover the costs for the disabled child. This means that the disabled children could go to school for free. Nearly all the subjects covered in the school you attended are taught at SURE Prospects Institute. There are currently 302 students at the school. Nearly all classes are a mix of abeled and disabled children.
Many people in Uganda have the conviction that disabilities are contagious. This was another barrier that Francis had to work through. Now, SURE is known as one of the best schools in the area. He really had to show others what they were doing at SURE Prospects Institute. They have a strong emphasis on education so that these children can become productive members of society. It is engrained in these children’s brains that even though their arms or legs or eyes don’t work, their brains do. Francis and the other 24 teaches have to show the children, their parents, and the community the potential the potential these children have. Some of the teachers are also disabled.
Francis has also tried to show businesses the advantages of employing disabled people. One of the advantages is that they are SUPPOSED to get a tax break.
The people that have gone through this school have been successful in the workplace. There have been six children that have graduated from SURE. One of the six is even attending university.
One of the other challenges that Francis faces on a daily basis is being patient. Teachers at SURE have to learn about the children and be creative. Something that Francis taught me was that learning disabilities are difficult, but not complex. At SURE instead of calling the intellectually challenged “slow learners,” they call them “time takers.” This is very true; if you are patient with these children, they are often very accurate in their work.
This school is very sustainable and very beneficial for Uganda. Francis has a passion for what he does. He is educating the disabled to become useful members of society rather than becoming beggars on the streets. He cares for these children as they were his own.
After the presentation, we gave Francis a small gift, as well as some gifts for the children. Deb also presented Francis with a gift from her mother, whose name is also Francis. Then we had some time to walk around the school on a short tour, as well as spend some time with the kids. We gave them some “sweeties,” talked with them, and some even played football (what we know in the US as soccer) with them. Many of the disabled children seemed to have a buddy that helped them. There were two boys, one of them blind, and the other boy led him around all morning making sure he was not left out. They were all very cute and touched our hearts.
Next we went to a park on the shore of Lake Victoria for a light lunch. It was so beautiful out! It was nice to put our feet in the sand and take a few pictures.
After we were finished with lunch, we headed to the Chairman of the MUBS Board of Trustees country home. We had to take a smaller bus up to his house because the road is so rough and narrow. As we were driving up, everyone in the cramped bus was being thrown from side to side. At one point, many of us had to get off the bus so that it could make it over the roughest part. Many of us just walked the additional 200 meters up the hill to the house. It had a gorgeous view of Lake Victoria. We just spent some time out in the yard talking and enjoying drinks. We also went up on the balcony of the house and took some pictures. What a breathtaking view of Lake Victoria and the countryside of Kampala.
We had a wonderful dinner and spent some time chatting and playing cards. After awhile, The Chairman gave a short speech. He talked about sustainability differences between Uganda and the US. With the one-acre of land that the Chairman’s house is on, they try to grow everything they need to survive. The goal of the Chairman, as well as many other Ugandans, is to be able to survive on their own land, without going into town to buy anything for a month. This kind of life style is sustainable. If you take care of your crops, you can survive on all the food you grow.
The night was wrapped up by saying that we as students and ambassadors had to decide the value of this experience. We have to take advantage of the opportunity we have with our time left in Uganda.
Finally, as we were getting ready to leave, all the students took part in African children’s games, the equivalent of our “Duck, Duck, Goose” in the US. It was such a fun way to end another wonderful day in Uganda.