By Titus Kakembo
The aero plane began descending. Instead of a runway, the 37 excited students from Bahrain held their breath with fear when instead of a runway they saw a glittering water, birds in flight and minute fishermen in boats as they landed at Entebbe International Airport.
This reception was a shock because when they left Bahrain, none of them had any knowledge of Uganda, but it part of their studies.
“They are required to visit the less privileged and make the world a better place for them,” said the veiled principal of their school Aisha Jenahi. “This group has made chairs and desks for Moslem School in Ndeba. They also painted the walls with a new coat.”
This is the seventh annual trip Abdul Rahman Kanoo International School has made to Uganda. It costs each student $1200 for the five nights they spend in the country. They gave the children toys, balls, mathematical sets, old clothes and books.
“I was surprised when a little boy spoke Arabic and led us in prayer in Ndeeba,” confided a student Salma Salal. “He knew the Quoran by heart. All I could say was Allah Akbar (God Is Great). Compared to our, their school compound is too small to contain 600 pupils. They do not have a play ground.”
Later the Kanoo students armed themselves with hammers, hand saws and pieces of wood to put together chairs and desks. The two days event left the school sticking out like a sore thumb in the dusty Ndeeba neighbourhood.
Teachers and pupils of Hidayat Islamic School in Ndeba pose for a group picture with their visitors from Abdul Rahman International School, Bahrain. Picture by Titus Kakembo
Too much work without play makes Jack a dull boy goes the old adage. After the tedious work of sawing pieces of timber, hitting nails and scrapping wood it was time for a treat at Ndere Troupe Center. They were amused by Rarakaraka, Kadodi, Nankasa traditional dances and oral folk stories.
“We also have such stories where the hare is always very clever,” said Ahmed Ibrahim. “Then there is that of why the tortoise has crack on its body after it fell from the sky when all animals and birds went for a party there.”
The climax of the five days visit was a safari to Queen Elizabeth National Park.
The Great North has not got so much to see as it snakes its way through thick green vegetation and over water. But their cameras went into over drive as they shot birds, baboons, roadside eateries and huge trees. The climax of the greatest trip of their life was a boat ride on the River Nile.
“I thought it was a rock,” recounts one of the students Salma Salal. “Not until I saw it raise its head. Then blow out water like a shower. The tour guide on the boat said that it was a hippo. I just wonder how it manages to float that heavy weight.”
“I cannot believe I came this close to crocodiles. I only see them in films. They bask in the sun with their mouth open. You could see the sharp teeth and imagine how it feels when they bite.”
As if that was not enough to thrill them, the youthful tourists had their eyebrows touch their hairlines with surprise when they learned that there are migrant birds that fly from Europe to Uganda in one day.
“You can imagine it is tedious for us seating in an aeroplane with television and music on board,” commented another student Aldana. “How do the birds manage. At least in the plane we are served sandwiches, fruit salads and snacks.”
“Doesn’t the bird get tired and fall asleep in flight?” wondered curious Aldana. “Where do they stop to rest and eat some food? Do they not break their wings when the wind is strong?”
The children loved every minute they spent in Uganda especially interacting with the children, eating fruits and seeing different cultures.
The pupils of Hidayat Islamic School are all smiles after getting balls, tee shirts and pencils from a visiting school from Bahrain. Picture by Titus Kakembo