One of the more valuable connections I’ve made since I’ve been in Uganda has been that of my good friend Wilber. I trundled into his office at a small secondary school in Kazo one day on a visit with my hosts. Wilber sat behind his desk, smiling and confident, and introduced himself as the director of this establishment, St. John’s Secondary School.
“You are welcome, please come by anytime.”
Some weeks later, I expressed to Wilber my interest in teaching. I figured that with a degree in engineering, I could probably of some use with math or physics, and told him so. I admitted that I have no professional teaching experience, but I wished for the opportunity to try out my lecturing legs. He agreed to have me lead a daily study group with two senior five (S5) science students. There was no syllabus, no books, no nothing. I met the students later and began to discuss just what topics I would help them cover.
My 11am to 1pm daily course has covered topics sporadically, from complex numbers to projectile motion to free body diagrams. My students, Asman and Jackson, are 18 and 19. They’re clever and inquisitive, often asking for permission to step up to our scarred blackboard to explain their thoughts. Other times we just sit and chat about our different cultures, religions, girls, whatever. Lately I’ve been chatting with several other students, of the 400-large student body, about the same things. It’s fun to interact with them, and I think they get something from me, which is a neat feeling.
Every day after class, I loiter around the office area hoping to cross paths with Wilber, or Missi, the headmaster. With these gentlemen, I am relieved to share intellectual conversation which, frankly, something I do not get at my Kazo home where I live with a pack of born again Christians led by the Pastor. We chat about politics and the meaning of life and the neighborhood. I am helped with a portion of matoke and beans every day for my teaching and chatting efforts.
Wilber is a smart and driven guy with a degree in divinity whose drive is the establishment and the growth of his school. For years he has been expanding and certifying his establishment, and his student body only increases. Now I am happy to be the international flavor at St. Johns, and I am invited to all the school functions like field trips to Lake Victoria, Scrupture Union functions (no thanks, I’m not born again because I haven’t died yet), and the Prefect Swearing-in ceremony where one of my boys was made Head Prefect.
With my increasing interaction with students, I have introduced to them discovered them to be clever and good-hearted. I preach to them about hard work and saving money and volunteerism. We hypothesize on Uganda is increasingly becoming a brain drain and why the western world is so prosperous. Brainwave detectors would read dangerously high levels as these informal Socratic seminars unfold in the school’s dusty courtyard. I plan to recruit a number of them for some volunteer work with PMK Save the Future Generation, my patron organization in the area.
And so Wilber and I have become good friends. I come to him with all my ideas and prod for advise, and I think he is as relieved as I am to have engaging conversations to derail the norm. If I miss him at school, I know I can find him most evenings at a nearby pub called Kazo Trust Inn where we talk over lagers (though he drinks Guinness) and joke.
“Soon we will go to my village in Western Uganda. I want to show you my family.”
“That sounds great! You tell me when, and I’ll go.”
“Invite your father and your family. We’ll slaughter a cow or a goat and feast with the village.”
Now to convince my family to come to Uganda.