United Kingdom

Uganda Network

A load of Balls

Having seen my two suitcases of 370 donated tennis balls safely through the check in at London's Heathrow Airport (thanks to my colleagues in the group kindly sharing their weight allowance with me) I breathed a sigh of relief! Eight and half-hours later we landed at Entebbe airport, Uganda. I retrieved the suitcases from the baggage carousel, along with my own luggage, and managed to fit them into the minibus we had hired for the duration of our stay in Africa. The balls were destined for a school in the District of Apac, which was unfortunately the very last stop in our itinerary! My friends were wonderful. They loaded and unloaded my cases for me at every overnight stop on our 1000 mile / three week long journey, and took great care to step over or go round the cases whilst getting on or off of the minibus at the many towns and villages we visited. Eventually we arrived in Apac.

Andrew, the District Executive Commissioner for Scouts (DEC) met us in town and we were soon heading out into the countryside, along the red mud roads, to find 'MY' school! What a welcome, the children had been waiting for us for some time and cheered loudly as we turned into the gates of the Ikwera Negri Boarding School for the Disabled. Head Teacher, Rev. Sister Agnes Driciru, welcomed us and gave us a guided tour of the school where we saw the classrooms, woodwork shop, kitchens, offices and dormitories.

Finally, it was time to assemble in the main hall, the children sitting on benches or the floor and us visitors arranged on chairs on the stage. The 28 teachers were introduced to us and we were told that nearly half of them were 'special needs' qualified. Richard, one of the teachers, had taken on the role of Scout Leader in the school and was encouraged and supported by the DEC. We learnt that the Uganda government funded the pupils education but that there was a need to rely on sponsors to pay for their upkeep; a cost of approximately £40.00 a term. The Christian Children's Fund, a world-wide organisation handles this, and we were shown the lists of children's names and the names of their sponsors and where in the world they live. Sister Agnes explained that the students were described as falling into four categories, Hearing-Impaired (75), Physically Handicapped (38), Mentally Handicapped (21) and Normal (234) making 368 pupils in all. Many of the 'Normal' children were siblings of the disabled and helped to look after them.

We were entertained with beautiful singing by a 20 strong school choir. A small group of deaf children acted out a rhythm song guided by their leader, and a young man of about 15 years old continually 'signed' from the stage to assembled school. Eric and Peter of our group talked to our Ugandan audience who was very interested to hear about our English climate and asked many questions. Betty spoke about her experiences as a professional photographer and I made the presentations of laminated maps of the UK and The World and it's Flags and, at last, THE TENNIS BALLS! The students were organised to file up to the stage in class order - Primary 1 through to Primary 7. As each child received a ball they went outside into the school grounds to play. It was a sight to see them all running around with bright yellow tennis balls bouncing everywhere. Unfortunately, the last 42 boys and girls did not get a ball because the Day Students had taken them. I did not know that there were any Day Students, and had not calculated for them! Luckily they were the eldest class and we got them to write their names on a list, which I took, promising to send some more balls from the UK as soon as I had collected them! We all had a lovely time playing with the children and talking to the teachers. On behalf of all the children and teachers of that very special school, I thank everyone for their generous donation and assure you that it really did make a difference. J PS. August 2002. The remaining balls were sent by TNT and we have heard that they have arrived at the school!

By Marion Stagg

Marion and Sister presenting the balls
Children at the School playing with the balls
The Presentation

Contact the Uganda Network Copyright © The UK Uganda Network - 2002
Last modified 19 September 2002



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