Kiyoola Visit

African Boy The Trip of a Lifetime Since 2007 BJP has been actively supporting Hidden Treasures Primary School in Uganda and this year, Jonathan Cooper made his first visit to see it for himself.

Hidden Treasurers is in Kiyoola (pronounced Chiola) a small village in the southern Ugandan bush, not far from Lake Victoria. The local people are extremely poor, living in mud brick houses with no running water or electricity, surviving on the equivalent of 75 pence per day. Hidden Treasures is helping the community to break the cycle of poverty through education, it has also brought a great sense of pride to the people. This is Jonathan’s account of his visit.

We set out early from our base in the village of Seeta, about 2 hours from Kampala. It was already 90ºF in the shade and the air conditioning in our 4 x 4 was proving an essential not a luxury. We soon joined the chaotic main road that carries people, livestock and goods between the Congo and Kenya. This narrow single carriageway road is commonly used three abreast in each direction with the suicidal Boda Boda motorbikes (typically 3 up and a cockerel) riding slalom between it all – this is a long way from Somerset!

With some relief we left the tarmac and headed off “African style” along the dusty dirt tracks, further and further from the modern world, through “wild west” villages with little in between.

With my spine becoming considerably shortened from the relentless battering, we turned onto a track only slightly wider than the jeep and bounced our way into the school compound, an oasis of colour, music and joy, immediately surrounded by a sea of smiling faces.

How different were the photos I had seen compared to the reality before me, how can people with so little be so happy? The 300 packs of wax crayons I took with me are such a treat; the response of the children was overwhelming. The living conditions here are hard and basic, yet the children were better turned out than you see at many primary schools in the UK, these people have real pride and self-respect.

I was soon whisked away by the school bursar, to inspect the school buildings and to be proudly shown the table of exam results, so prominently displayed. 14 of the 15 pupils taking the exams this year got grade 2 or better, another record year.

And then back into the searing heat of the day, the village had turned out, parents and local leaders were all assembled and they were expecting the “Mzungu” (white man) to address them. I suspect that the interpreter made editorial improvements to my brief message, as it seemed to be well received.

The day continued with displays of traditional singing, dancing and drumming, the choir had even learnt a welcome song just for me.

What a humbling experience this all was, If supporting this school is the sole achievement of BJP, then we have achieved much.