We are really lucky to have a long history of being linked to the beautiful country of Uganda. During 1999, meetings were held to discuss how the villages of Winterslow and Firsdown would celebrate the forthcoming Millennium.One project was to regenerate local footpaths and another was to develop an outreach project to provide support for others. After much discussion, the millennium committee agreed to support the development of a vocational training centre in Rukungiri in Uganda.
In May 2000, visitors came to our village to promoting a Child Sponsorship Programme for the children in the Rukungiri Modern Primary School. John and Alice hosted a talk in the school hall for villagers and also shared letters. Our children started to reply and these letters were taken back and forth between schools, also gifts were shared such as footballs and pens, crayons etc.
Through the British Council, we continue to develop our link and write to each other regularly. Our headteacher has visited in 2015 and in 2018, once with our deputy head and once with our year 6 teacher. The headteacher and deputy of Rugarama Primary school also visited us in 2016.
During half-term, Rebecca Bone (head teacher of Winterslow Primary School) and myself, Sonja Mawdsley (Year 6 teacher) were lucky enough to visit our link school in Africa, thanks to a grant from the British Council.
During the last few years, the two schools have kept in contact via emails, letters and visits to Uganda and England. However, this was my first time, and the experience was so much better then expected. Uganda is hillier and greener than I was aware, with banana plantations everywhere.
We attended a service in Rukungiri church, which is the nearest town to our school, where the vicar was talking about the stress of finding enough money for school fees which were due in that week. However, on arriving at our link school, you would not have been aware of this, as we were greeted by the oldest children singing as they danced down the red dust track towards us. This was followed by an amazing welcoming dance in the small cowpat floored church by the school – and I have shown the video of this to our school children. They were so engaged watching it in assembly, that they spontaneously started clapping in time with the beat.
Despite the classrooms having only wooden benches and a blackboard – no glass in the windows, no proper floor, no electricity – the children were all keen to learn and enthusiastic to take part in the lessons which Rebecca and I delivered about seasons and the British countryside.
Hundreds of photographs were taken and the children in Winterslow school have been seeing these, as well as the banana-leaf dolls and plastic-bag football we were given to bring home. Our World Book Day last week was all based around books about Uganda and we hope that the children here are really seeing the benefit of this fantastic link.