I rode a Boda Boda this morning, which was both terrifying and thrilling. Driving through Kampala, we saw these motorcycle taxis threading in and around traffic with their fares clinging to the back. They’d dart around larger vehicles and take to the sidewalks when it was too congested.
In Bududa, roads are a bit less trafficked by vehicles, which only allows the Bodas to go faster. Your typical Bududan sits so casually behind the driver, you think they might unfurl a newspaper or enjoy a cup of tea. They make it look easy. I’m positive I made it look hard, what with my clinging to the seat and stealing a peak around the driver every so often. Despite the underlying terror, it was incredibly fun, especially the bit where we flew past rest of the group that had begun walking to the Bududa Learning Center.
I’d left early with Karen, one of our hosts and a representative of BLC, to meet Jennifer a little ways up the mountain. Jennifer was one of the first graduates of the BLC Vocational Program in primary education, and had gone on to start a primary school of her own. She, along with her husband Wilfred, began the school in 2009 with ten students. Their current enrollment figure? 458.
Uganda is an astonishingly young county. Almost half the population is 18 years old or younger, and 20% are four years old or younger. This population explosion is in part driven by the cultural tradition of having large families, which, over time, lead to an exponential growth distribution.
There seem to be schools everywhere. Government schools, private schools, boarding schools, and preschools are around every bend, and our group of folks often hear “Muzungu muzungu! How are you!?” on our walks to and from the Bududa Learning Center. Many graduates of the primary education program at BLC go on to teach at or start their own schools. Jennifer herself has hired two other graduates from the program.
That’s what makes the vocational education aspect of BLC so important: Beyond the regular educational curriculum, it equips students with trade skills and entrepreneurship classes to serve them, and their community, well beyond their time at BLC. Oumo, a student we talked to, is in both the masonry class and the Autocad class. Currently, they’re building masonry structures from pre-drawn blueprints, but what gets Oumo excited is the day he designs something in Autocad and constructs it with his masonry skills.
We got to get our hands a bit dirty today by helping to paint the interior of the new boys dormitory, which was completed with major funding from Myers Park Pres. It’s big enough to accomodate 60 boys, although there are about 20 currently living there. One would think that the school leadership would be happy waiting until the population surge in primary education moves into secondary education, filling the boarding opportunities, but they’re not making any assumptions and have set forth a strategic planning process to imagine how the Bududa Learning Center will be able meet the needs of the community both now and into the future.
One of the wonderful things about this partnership is the open exchange of ideas. Robert, the Chief Operating Officer of BLC, gave us a draft of the strategic plan and invited the Myers Park Presbyterian community into the process. Fully realizing we lack a significant cultural understanding and are relatively new partners, this is extraordinarily generous. Robert, and really everyone we’ve met, have been quick to tell us about their school, their lives, and their dreams for the future of our partnership together. I honestly have no ideas for BLC, other than to get out of their way and let them do their thing, but I’ve got loads of ideas about how to address community and consumerism issues in my own life
I’ve heard “Welcome, we’re so glad you’ve made this journey to be here” so many times and in so many contexts, that it might actually be getting through. The Bududa Learning Center does want us here. The financial support is great, but the kinship, laughter, and shared goals for the future are the real reason we’re here.