What a day! All of our efforts this week certainly paid off with the cricket festival on Saturday where five school cricket teams from Muranga came together to take part in a tournament. The festival was highly successful and rewarding, seeing the talent among with children. My highlight of the trip so far however, came from the discovery of a budding new teacher called Bo.
Bo teaches at one of the new schools on Mathais’ ever expanding CWB schedule, and I eagerly invited her to join me as I headed to the school field. As normal I explained that we were going to teach cricket with an HIV awareness ABC message to the pupils. Surprisingly when I got to the “C is for condom” analogy, explaining that a cricket bat protects the wicket, as in life, condoms protect against HIV transmission, Bo said “oh, how does it do that?”. I realised she honestly had no idea that a condom could prevent the spread of the virus. So now I was on a mission – she would need to understand our message so that she could start communicating our message to not only her pupils, but to her wider circle of friends within the community. At her age of 18 I was shocked at her lack of awareness of HIV. Fortunately Josie was in fully swing with her interactive teaching of HIV prevention so I left Bo in her capable hands to learn more.
At the end of the session I explained the findings to Project Leader Greg, proud that we had identified and had been able to take action to educate a teacher our message. To my disappointment Greg explained a more troublesome conversation he had with the headmaster, where it had been explained that they did not teach primary school children anything about HIV and condoms for the fear of reprisals from the strictly catholic parents. So all our enthusiasm to teach Bo was not likely to reach fruition in the classroom in the near future. Frustrated, we left to travel to the next school. On arrival at the festival, we were greeted by Bo and her 14 girls all eager to play in the competition. She was the only teacher to attend the day and not only cheered the team on, but regularly consulted Josie and myself on how her team could improve.
I was then summoned to do the refreshment run with Mathais, however when I jumped on the bus I was greeted with a “not now I am watching the cricket game” from Dave the driver followed by “have you seen how good they are?” – I think Dave has realised how well Mathais has done coaching the children in the area and has become an ardent fan of the game. Mathais had worked miracles by securing the food and drink for the multitude on a shoe string budget and also in gaining a supplier to service his many other festivals in the future. One who has said he would love to attend the next tournament and see the work CWB are delivering to the many young children in the district.
Returning to the festival, I sought out Bo and her team to learn of their final results, and improve they did, finishing with the result of two wins and two losses. Not bad for a team just beginning to learn how to play cricket. I was also thrilled to hear that she had decided to be tested for HIV – a facility that is available at the festivals. She had joined our recently trained coaches who were also being tested. These coaches had been in attendance showing off their newly acquired coaching skills, showing a passion for the game to such an extent that I now had Bo enquiring where and when she could attend a coaching day.
This is what CWB is about. Within 24 hours of entering a school, we had a female volunteer teacher now HIV tested and wishing to become a cricket coach, and willing to teach the HIV message. With the enthusiasm she has shown over this short time, I requested that she approaches other male teachers within her school to gain support of our messaging through sport. I hope in this way we can sway the views held by the headmaster and parents to accept that greater knowledge will lead to a safer and healthier environment in which the pupils can live.
We leave Muranga knowing the pupils are in safe hands with Mathais at the helm, with the great news he has managed to secure the land around the community hall with the view to making it a new community cricket ground for a senior and junior county team. I can now see the next What’s App message from Mathais, requesting team shirts for the newly formed senior team primarily made up of the newly qualified coaches. What an achievement that would be.