Where do ideas that can potentially change things for the better come from? In this case it was an unexpected suggestion from one of our generous sponsors that got things under way. Supporters often ask me, “What would be an appropriate gift to offer” to their Ugandan child. On this occasion there was a different approach, and question was; “Is it possible to buy a reading book for my boy and maybe a few more to share with his classmates?”
It was as simple as that.
The schools have very few books. Most lessons are copied from the blackboard.
Experience has taught me that there are few young Ugandans who see reading as something that you do for pleasure. I have spoken to several, including intelligent, well-educated men and women, who have told me that you only read to pass exams or to learn about what is going on in the world. It is a practical thing, an educational necessity, not a leisure activity, not a way to relax. Far too few possess a reading for pleasure attitude. It is not central to the culture.
In many way, especially among the poor, that is not surprising. When you have mouths to feed and insufficient means to do it, spending money on books is hardly a priority. Filling the belly is.
So ….. when the simple question had been put, the seed had been planted. Several other sponsors have now volunteered to participate and have provided funds for us to get under way. Westwood Primary School in Lancashire (England), a partner school with Bulumbu and Bubebbere, is also taking part. That is more than welcome, it is truly appropriate.
And where better to make a start on changing this than among some of the younger children in the classes where that particular child is a pupil? We can build up from there.
It will not be easy to make it work, but our Ugandan friends are happy to make the effort to get a reading for pleasure club under way at the beginning of the new school year in 2016. Teaching staff will need to be brought on board and we need to explore the best way to store the books.
We have sent the first, small amount of money to enable our colleagues to buy the first few volumes. We shall send more in January. Perhaps in time we shall be able to build a reading or book room. The idea is also to include stories from the oral tradition and to encourage story writing, but we must start small. As the saying goes, “Mighty oaks from little acorns grow.”
What a wonderful Christmas present; one that may be able to change the attitudes and potential of a generation of Ugandan village children. The gift of reading. Truly a gift for life.