Back to the classroom and blackboard!!

This is my Day 3 in Gulu, and now I feel a bit more comfortable to run some batting, bowling and catching sessions and by now I have already done a few relay sessions, and I could do HIV messaging sessions reasonably well.

The morning started almost similar to the last couple of days, with the exception that I made it to the bus on time after enjoying my one and only cup of coffee for the day (caffeine withdrawal is surely setting in…. and No, there is no concept of a to-go cup here!).

We arrived at Gulu Primary School and I was all set to be part of the batting station with Liam. I didn’t need to worry much about the coaching stuff, as Liam is pretty good at that part. I was very impressed by the cricketing skills of the students here.

Batting station at Gulu Primary demonstrating excellent cricket

It was heart warming to see that a number of the kids were hitting straight outside the school boundary wall on several instances, a few on the very first ball (think about a six at Lords!) and these kids haven’t had any formal Cricket coaching. On the fielding side, I could see kids jumping up and diving to catch the ball even when there was no concept of catch-out in the version of the game we were playing here. The kids were full of energy and enthusiasm which was very contagious.

Coach Liam talking about Gulu Gorillas after an amazing batting session!

We were also joined by one disabled kid (who had difficulties using an arm and leg), however, that didn’t stop him from wanting to play cricket along with other kids, and he was equally competitive and talented! The school teachers were very encouraging as well and created an inclusive environment for everyone to play together. I felt really privileged to be associated with CWB, and for the opportunity to be coaching these children. It reinforces the need for an organisation like CWB, who is bringing cricket to these talented kids, who otherwise may not have many opportunities. We also promoted the launch of a new coaching programme, Gulu Gorillas, which will be providing free coaching to kids of any age or ability after school hours or during holidays.

Excited and talented bunch of kids at Gulu Primary

After the two morning sessions and lunch, we headed to the Gulu Prison Primary School for the two afternoon session. I had no specific expectations per say. And then the rain gods decided to bring in some more adventure to our day. In a few minutes, there was a massive downpour! We made the most of the opportunity and I had a session with about 20 children who were very thoughtful and asked some really good question about HIV.

With the children I had the HIV discussion at Prison Primary

Almost soaked in rain, we found one of the classrooms which was full of kids, and well engaged by Tom and Rob. To make the most of the opportunity, we started to talk to children about HIV, ABCT, and various myths around HIV. I was amazed to find that kids were so knowledgeable on the topic and bustling with energy that we were running out of questions to ask them. Then we had an interesting chat on my favourite question from the cue cards – ‘Are boys more important than girls?’. The response was divided, almost half the room responded Yes! boys are more important than girls. On further probing, a few of the responses I got were because Women stay at home to look after house and family, whilst their husbands go to work. Luckily, the teacher right beside me was a women, and I could instantly point them to a role model, and shared a few examples from our volunteering team. This was an important topic to me personally, and also to CWB, as often we received slightly discouraging responses on this question with several children, both girls and boys, responding as yes. Therefore, we wanted to explore further and luckily rain and blackboard provided the perfect avenue.

Soon after, Sarah posed the question in a different way on the blackboard – What can boys and girls do together? This question promoted a few interesting responses ranging from dancing, praying, cooking, cleaning dishes, playing and mopping the floor together. Remember these are primary school kids who are still forming their opinions and views about world and life. While the thoughts from the kids were very innocent, it clearly highlighted that while women continue to strive to take equal part in the workplace, it is equally important for men to play a bigger and equal role in house or else women will continue to be regarded as the primary home maker / care taker and men will continue to be the primary bread winner.

Everyone chanting boys and girls are equal!

While we managed to convince the kids by the end of the session and we ended up chanting girls and boys are Equal, I firmly believe until boys/men play their part in home and child care, it will be really hard to achieve gender equality at the grassroots level! I am hoping these type of discussions and early coaching on similar topics will eventually change behaviours and these kids will grow up to become more equal partners in future at home and work!

Written by: Taruna Bhagtani (first time CWB volunteer)

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