Yesterday was our first day visiting Lira Integrated School. The welcome was unbelievable. The school has 1600 kids, and they ALL participated in a full day welcoming ceremony for us. They paraded around and saluted us, and they sang to us for hours. The children are all so well behaved, but they seemed like they had been practicing for weeks. The headmistress of the school also made us sit in front of all 1600 students on a stage for an assembly. The assembly was long and was entirely focused on welcoming us, the visitors, thanking god for our presence and on having us speak to them. Honestly, we were all pretty uncomfortable…we felt like the welcome was way too much. The children were directed to present us with bottles of water on their knees and everything. None of us wanted to be treated like royalty, especially after we hadn’t had time to make any positive impact on their school yet! But they definitely have a great respect for guests.
And then there was today. Today was frustrating. We sat in on some secondary school classes and the teaching methods are hopelessly outdated. What was worse though is that we were expected to attend another “assembly”. In Uganda, respecting time does not mean much. In this case, for example, the assembly was supposed to run from 4 to 5, but we didn’t get out until 7. The assembly consisted of teachers and staff standing on a stage with a microphone (with hundreds of students seated on benches below) naming “culprits” who were guilty of “committing” misconduct at school. They were called up to the stage and openly humiliated by the teachers. The teachers would ask the students in the audience over the microphone (until the power went out), “Does everyone know what _________ did?” And the students would shake their heads. Then the staff would explain the crime in detail and warn the others of the consequences. During the 3 hours of that assembly I swear I experienced almost every emotion possible. First I was surprised, then sad, then nervous and uncomfortable, then worried, then angry…and when they talked about beating and whipping him in public I felt sick. I was preparing myself to leave the assembly if that happened, but they announced that it would happen afterward. It was upsetting to say the least. There are cultural differences that I appreciate and those that I could do without witnessing here.
We all went to visit a local street market after leaving the school so we could debrief about our experiences, and we all seemed to be in agreement about some of the practices. Otherwise, the children are wonderful. They are funny, outgoing, smart, and very dedicated for the most part. Tomorrow we’ll do more work with the kids, so I’m looking forward to it! And yes….they do have school on Saturdays.
Time to hit the sheets now; we have an early morning. Goodnight world!