Children at Pencott
During our trip to Uganda we had the joy of spending a couple of days with the children at the school.
They were very excitable, not just because they had visitors, but also because they had finished all their exams and were about to break up for Christmas. We were able to help pay for their big end of term celebration. All the parents are invited, there is food and sodas, and performances from the children, as well as prizes for those children who have performed particularly well during the year. We were able to spend some precious time with them, chatting about what they have been learning at school and their aspirations for the future. We had so much fun playing big group games; Splat is a particular favourite, which they happily played for at least 45 minutes!! We also look with us some Loom Bands and taught them a new skill. As with any group of children across the world some picked it up, no trouble at all, and others took a bit longer.
During these times I also had the opportunity to chat to some of the children individually and find out more about them. One group of older girls had between them some really touching stories. Many of them live with either just one parent or no parents at all. Rebecca’s father was no longer around and she was now living with her mother and brother (13 years). What I loved about this child was that she had a clear idea of what she wanted to do when she grew up. She loved science at school and wanted to become a nurse. Her father, I found out later from one of the teachers, was a surgeon. He had more than one family and had left Rebecca’s family very poor. He had then contracted HIV and eventually died. It was hard to hear similar stories over and over again, but it was good to be able to remind myself that these children were being given a chance to get out of the poverty cycle. Not just this, but they are being given a good education, which includes safe sex practices and also other ways to stay healthy.
There were so many success stories from children both past and present and the school. One little boy joined his class mates in singing a song prepared for the visitors. We were later told that he had arrived at Pencott a mute. Nobody thought that he would talk, but attending this school and under the nurture of a fantastic Nursery Grade teacher he now not only talks with his friends and participants in lessons, but also sings. Later on in the week we were introduced to Brian. This young man was still living with his family in Nabigyo (an urban slum on the outskirts of Mbale). He was no longer at Pencott. He had worked incredibly hard at Pencott and had obtained the highest grade in his P7 exams. This had won him a scholarship enabling him to attend one of the better secondary schools in Mbale. He told me that he is still working hard and wants to be a doctor. Secondary School places are so important in obtaining the grades needed to keep going in education. Many of the secondary schools have classes of anything up 200 pupils (for 1 teacher!). So the fact that Brian has been able to attend a good school greatly increases his chances of completing his studies well and getting a good job.
The last story that I must tell is Sandra’s. This little girl was introduced to me by Philip, the Director. Before me was a quiet and peaceful child, and quite shy about speaking to me. Philip explained that she had been bought to the school by her mother. Sandra, at 5 years old, had been thrown out of a number of schools in the area as they simply couldn’t cope with her. She went into the Nursery class at Pencott and the teacher quickly discovered that she was very violent and incredibly abusive. She would throw anything she could lay her hands on and disrupted every class she was in. Margaret, Philip’s wife, is also heavily involved in the running of the school, and, although not a teacher, also got involved. Both ladies spent time and many noisy and hard sessions with Sandra. When I asked how they achieved this new little girl I saw before me, they both said it was through love and a constant and stable environment. Sandra is now 7, and very happy at school, her mother, is very pleased with the transformation. Pencott succeeded where other schools failed. This is indeed a school to be proud of.
Jess and Grant