Wednesday was an absolutely fantastic day with over 1,000 children coached across various schools and some teacher training. Manny’s excellent itinerary had Lee and Dan coaching the teachers at Masaka Secondary School and one field across “team Karl with a K” were stationed at Hill Top Road Primary School. I did try getting through from one playing area to the other on foot but that saw me end up in a local’s backyard accidentally with a growling dog so I quickly decided the road route would be better. The views from Hill Top primary were fantastic and there was some cloud cover which was in some ways a blessing after the temperatures earlier in the trip.
It was clear as we introduced what we were doing that the children either didn’t know their A-B-C-T HIV prevention messages, or were too shy to say them, probably the latter. Karl used all his years of professional acting to coax them slowly out of their shells and we like a challenge! Watching the children go from very shy to exuberant in the space of one session is always amazing to see and this was no different.
I cleverly(?!) positioned my rapid fire station on the edge of the ground hitting into the middle. Clever until you remember that the balls will get thrown back in and then go over the hill top that the school is named after, dropping down around 15-20 metres incredibly steeply. When the first child jumped down at full speed, desperate not to concede to many extra runs, I nearly had a heart attack assuming a broken leg or twisted angle at a minimum, but when I got to the edge to peer over the young lad was just climbing back up to ground level, tennis ball in hand. No injuries were sustained in this CWB production!
As we waited for the next session on the same ground, I noticed four children in distinctive pink uniforms. I chatted to them and it became clear that they had been sent home from school as their parents couldn’t pay their fees. So we quickly incorporated them into our next session and they had a great morning. By the end of our morning at Hill Top Road School all the children had completely changed in character, loudly shouting back their A-B-C-Ts to us. Great to see!
In the afternoon we split teams and I got the easy gig, working with Lee, Dan and Alpha to coach 120 or so kids at Masaka Secondary. We had plenty of space and time to chat to the children and I was able to cover lots of gender equality and domestic violence messaging (which is a particular problem here) as well as HIV. The other group managed to coach a massive 700 children, with the help of a couple of the teachers fresh from their morning’s training with Lee and Dan….and a very handy whistle!
At the end of the day the other team returned to Masaka Secondary and we ran an evening session with the school cricket team. I’ve done these sort of sessions on other trips and the teams normally need a fair amount of help, even if they are the best in the school. This time the cricket team at Masaka Secondary took my breath away, with a few incredible players. There was some top quality fast bowling (encouraged with the shouts of “just get it down their lad” from Lee). One left-handed batsman was a class act with a beautiful cover drive, and there were not one but two outstanding female keepers. The best keeper was Maria Nyende, 17, who is one of two national trialists from the school. I spent a bit of time videoing her slick footwork and glovework before Lee asked me to give the two keepers some advice on where they could improve. How would I know! They were far better than I could ever hope to be so instead we chatted about their club cricket and their backgrounds and I swiftly handed over to Karl to give proper wicket-keeping coaching!
It was a fantastic day and we all relaxed over a few drinks in the evening to celebrate. More was to come because we went off to a local restaurant where there was a nice sloping pool table, a DJ who happily put on “Muzungu classics” and a menu that involved having about 10% of what was stated. Cars were seen coming and going regularly and were pretty confident the food was being shipped in from elsewhere, but we were quite happy waiting a couple of hours as we relaxed drinks in hand.
Pretty much the perfect day drawing many of the children out of their shells and getting them to open up on all sorts of issues, as well as playing some good cricket. Sadly we’re now counting the days til the end of the trip so we’re all motivated to get everything we can out of the last few days here.