Working at Kassanda

The morning commute, just outside of Kassanda.

Post by One School board member, Ken Driese (writing this!), who is in Uganda visiting partner schools and working with Uganda Program Manager, Hussein Tadesse.  The internet is awkward to access in Uganda, so Ken will post when he gets the chance.  I’d hoped to post more photos with the blog, but the internet is just too slow.  

I’ve been in the field for a week visiting One School partner schools and sleeping at our field office in the small, wild-ish town of Kassanda.  Electricity is on and off even in town, though always on at night, and there isn’t any at the schools, except for small lights powered by solar cells.  Internet is nonexistent (I’m writing this ahead of time in hopes of posting it when I return to Kampala).  At night it seems that most of the electricity in Kassanda is used to power low-fi stereo systems in makeshift bars.  The “movie theater” is a weathered wooden building with a blanket for a door and a large loudspeaker attached to the outside and pointed outwards, presumably to lure you in with the soundtrack of whatever movie is playing. 

The One School field office is a small house on the edge of town, with a separate building for cooking and equipment storage, and a small two-hole outhouse that is literally that, two small rectangular holes in a concrete slab.  Comfortable cots in the bedrooms are draped in mosquito netting, and in the dining room, blue plastic chairs are arranged around a table where we eat rice and beans or beans and rice for dinner, depending on the day.  Breakfast usually includes a chapati and french fries, and always a fried egg and a couple of cups of the Peet’s coffee that I carried from the U.S. in enough quantity to support my habit while I’m here.  The “shower” is a small empty room at the end of the hall leading past the bedrooms, where you fill a washbasin from a yellow plastic jerry can and use a cup to splash yourself with cool water before scrubbing down, rinsing, and drying off.  The water drains through a small hole in the wall into a pipe that disappears beneath the backyard. 

The field routine is simple—wake up between 7 and 8, drink coffee and eat an enormous breakfast, cooked by Pius, who lives at the house and provides security when nobody else is around, or by the cook, Fatuma, who arrived from Kampala a couple of days after we did.  After getting organized for the day, I climb into our hired 4WD car with Hussein, One School’s Uganda program manager, and the other Hussein, our driver, to head out to one of the partner schools in the area.  The drives are on rough, narrow dirt roads busy with minivans (with names like Swaggerific), motorcycles, bikes, and people on foot, all carrying huge loads either lashed to their conveyance or on their heads.   We pass small family farms with fields of corn, potatoes and other starchy vegetables, ramshackle stores, and we drive through water where the road dips down to the level of swamps filled with papyrus where you can sometimes see magnificent crested cranes, which also appear on the Ugandan flag. 

Breakfast at the field office is not to be taken lightly!

One School is now working with five schools scattered about the area within about 10 km of Kassanda:  Kyamulinga, Kukanga, Bbinikila, Kassanda Boarding Primary, and Kassanda Boarding Secondary (this last one is not a full partner yet).  At each school sign the official guest register, meet with the school heads, teachers, and sometimes with board members, tour the grounds, and ask questions about the projects that the schools have initiated.

The students sneak looks from their classrooms at the muzungu (white person, charitably speaking) in their midst, or if they are between classes or on break, try to get a better look without getting TOO close.  My digital camera is a temptation, and soon they gather around, laughing at the apparently hilarious pictures of themselves in the LCD screen.  

It’s the kids that make it the most fun to be in the field, and of course they are the reason that One School at a Time is here. 

Two girls at the Kukanga School.