16th August 2017
In August I had the pleasure of visiting our partner school in rural Uganda. I spent 6 days in the Tororo region of Uganda both at Morkiswa and at other local schools who are involved in the Food for Thought project.
I wanted to go for two main reasons: firstly when I last visited in 2014 I took with me money to fund the installation of a water harvesting tank. We have not seen that in action yet… and secondly I wanted to meet the school’s new Headteacher to check that he is still interested in being our partner school.
This is the water tank that we paid for… and it is still being used and in good shape. The reason that I mention this is that very often such tanks fall out of use because they are damaged by local community members who come and take the pipes and taps because they can be sold. But at Morkiswa the school pays for a watchman to look after the grounds during the weekend and holidays so it is still working well. In front of the tank are Ochoi Jerome, Morkiswa’s new Headteacher, Olowo Francis, the deputy and in the red t-shirt is Omalla Peter who is the school’s garden teacher and choir master.
August marks the end of the second dry season and the start of the new rainy season. So the tank was empty. But all is not lost because Morkiswa is now fortunate enough to have a connection to the mains water supply which runs along the road by the school. They try to use this as little as possible because their supply is metered and that costs them money that they would rather be spending on other things. Welcome to the modern world!
Most of the children who attend Morkiswa are the children of small scale farmers, sometimes they refer to themselves as peasant farmers. They rely on what they can grow to live and unlike us they are fortunate enough to have two growing seasons each year. That means that their health and well being is highly dependent on having reliable rains. The start of this year was particularly difficult, normally the longest dry season runs from December to February but this year in this area of Uganda it extended into April and this meant many families went hungry and caused real hardship.
All families and communities try to store a surplus of dried grains so that they can survive variations in the weather . When staff from Morkiswa and other schools in the area came to the UK and visited us they were astonished to see us feeding our pupils at lunch time. But this is something that they now try to do. Since the second harvest which took place in June and July Morkiswa has been able to feed its youngest pupils a late breakfast. In the photograph you can see the children in P1 eating their maize porridge, often using a leaf as a spoon to eat it with. Hopefully once the next harvest is in they will have sufficient stocks of peas, beans and maize to feed more of the children, this is something that all of the schools in food for thought aspire to.
Omalla Peter has taken over the job of garden teacher, here he is standing in the middle of the school’s teaching garden. You can see Maize, Sweet Potato and Peas (normally Black Eyed Peas) all of which are important staples of local food. Teaching the children to be better growers means that they can help their families grow crops more effectively and can generate surpluses which can be sold at market. This is one of the key motivations of being part of Food for Thought.
At Nanstallon we are very proud of our school choir. So are our colleagues at Morkiswa. At our last assembly ( which is held under the shade of one of the Mango trees) the choir performed a version of ‘Little White Hen’. Beautiful singing, I hope you agree. Omalla Peter is a busy man!