Last November 2010, we visited a school in Namakora Subcounty in Kitgum District. We were travelling around Northern Uganda to remote rural schools to find members for the project and Kitgum had been problematic. Some schools were unprepared for the visit, others were hostile, but in Namakora, we met acting senior teacher, who had no idea we were coming, but was prepared to make the effort to find pupils in the last year of Primary School for us. There were around ten to interview and most were out of the age range, though pretending to be 15. There were around 650 students in the school, but no lessons being taught but only 2 or 3 teachers on site. One teacher was out playing netball with the girls, but most of the boys were just hanging around in classrooms.
We interviewed the ten and we picked Richard, as being interested in community development and told his teacher to organise him to come the next day to Kitgum town, courtesy of us, where we were undertaking the next stage of recruitment. We were still dispirited, as the best children we had met were forbidden to come and it meant that with only two possible shortlisted, then we might have no representative from Kitgum at all. I asked the acting senior teacher, whether there was anyone else in the school, who we could interview and she said their best pupil was not around – Joel. So, I decided to take a flier and invite him to the next stage without an interview.
Most of our members have been casualties of the war in one way or another and Joel was no exception. He lived in Namokora until children started to be stolen there to become members of the rebel army and his mother fled with him to Lira to the South. He stayed there for a while, but some may know that Lira is a different tribe – Lango, not Acholi – and the rebels were Acholi. Acholi people in Lira were starting to be feared and viewed as spies for the rebels. So, Joel’s mother again went on the run, travelling from place to place, with her children. Fortunately the war died down a little and she was able to return to Namakora and Joel could resume his education.
I find it hard to believe how brilliant most of our members are, but Joel, from his situation has learnt to listen and write beautiful thoughtful English from a school with a single person that spoke English. His accent was difficult to understand, but this improved this year and he rose to the top of the group at the Chrysalis School, against tough opposition, I might add. At Chrysalis obviously everything is taught in English and that was a major change for all of our members.
Joel’s purpose at the Chrysalis School has been academic mainly, but throughout this year he has been growing in his vision and his recent blog is indicative of how far he has come. His passion lies now with children’s rights and I know he is thinking how children can evolve their rights in a village situation. He’s also realised his ability in art and has orchestrated his art project professionally this year, recruiting new artists and developing thought-provoking pictures, some of which are even very disturbing.
Joel, however, is completely destitute. He has no prospect of education without sponsorship and, as our top-performing student, we must find a way to sponsor him in his education next year. So, please give some thought as to whether you can contribute to his education in 2011 and write to this email.