August Newsletter

Dear Friends

I hope you enjoyed reading about James’ visit to the UK in my last newsletter. I have recently received a letter from him where he says

“Dearest Colleague, Sister, Friend, Relative Gerry, best wishes from me and the school community!! How I miss you too much as I have got used to staying with you and Norman!! Sharing our jokes, ironing, cooking, etc. Oh Gerry, I hope I will live to come back to the UK once again. I know you are anxious to look at St James especially the new developments since you last visited us. Indeed a lot has been put up and St James looks so changed to a growing fantastic school! I will try to get some photos to you soon.” 

He continues in his letter to tell me the “best news of all”, confirming that St James has been awarded a UNEB CODE by the Government. (Uganda National Examination Board). This is amazing and means that the children of St James can take their National Primary Leavers Exams at St James and not have to travel long distances with the transport expenses that incurs and also pay a ‘sitting fee’ for every child.

Gaining this qualification as an Exam Sitting Centre means other schools will now be paying for their pupils to take their exams at St James paying the school a fee, therefore earning money for St James! In addition to this the results of the Primary Leavers Exams will be awarded to St James instead of being given to the previously used Sitting Centres.

St James will be on the National League Table for the first time and as we know schools are judged by their position on the league tables! Though James and I will never lose sight of the fact that St James is very different from many ‘private’ schools in Uganda as the children attending are from very poor families and often haven’t had the full seven years of education.

Their needs are more complicated and even getting to school can be a real challenge for them when the demands of their families weighs heavy. Often they have to do a days work before they leave for school and occasionally a pupil will have to bring a young sibling to school with them if there is no one too look after the child at home! Gaining the UNEB code usually takes a school 8-10 years so I am very proud of James, the children and all the community involved.

Of course, it would not have been possible at all without the hard work of you all to raise money for the building of the block of four classrooms, ‘Hambridge Hall’, and the furnishing of it with the 200 single seat desks, blackboards, etc. So thank you so much!!!

Yes, we have raised the money needed for the 200 desks, many through personal sponsorship and I will make sure your names will be added to your desk when I go out to Uganda in December! The remainder of the desks were paid for by various events and individual donations.

The Race Night that Neil, who works for Life Leisure at Hazel Grove Leisure Centre, kindly organised was enjoyed by quite a few of you including James himself who won several races adding his winnings to the money raised during the evening.

As I mentioned in my last newsletter James and I were invited to attend a rehearsal with St George’s Singers as they were practising for a concert of music of Africa. We were encouraged to sing along and enjoyed trying! Jean Egerton one of the choir members had invited us to attend the actual concert at Gorton Monastery as they had offered to use the concert to promote St James. Unfortunately it was after James had returned to Uganda but he was given a CD of the music which he really enjoyed. To hear ‘Zimbe! Come, sing the songs of Africa!’, by Alexander L’Estrange, in such a wonderful setting was amazing, incredible! I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and over £500 for St James was raised, with many people taking an interest in the school too!

Then recently my friend and tennis companion Angela, opened her beautiful garden up to the public where we served afternoon teas and had a relaxed time sitting in the warm sunshine. The only downside was that three different wasps decided to get their own back on me when I was guarding the delicious cakes from them!

Other funds were donated from several of the Friendship Schools. Vernon Primary who hosted James for a whole day of sharing, crafts, music, fun and friendship including James and I taking part in English Country Dancing, raised a lot of money for desks! Cheadle Heath, Marton and St Paul’s Primary Schools also gave James a wonderful welcome and contributed to the desk challenge.

Hollies Pre-School that has a playground named after it at St James were very excited when James and I took part in their ‘Growing Week’ planting seeds with all the children, singing songs, playing games and having fun! A den made of sheets and curtains had been built for the children and James was invited to ‘tea’ with them in the den. I have wonderful memories of James surrounded by children, lying on his side so he was at their level, sipping pretend tea and having his face gently stroked by one of the little girls! A moment I will never forget, and nor will he! Everyone young and old love James and he loved them! It’s no wonder he makes such a great teacher, head teacher, colleague, friend and father to so many in Nakakabala.

Several desks were also bought with money donated by groups of children from Vernon, Lower Park and other schools who had held their own events at home. It warms my heart to know how thoughtful and caring many children are for others and makes me very proud to know them, as they are our future.

Most recently, as you may have read, Ewan and his little sister Holly, pupils of Lower Park and Hollies Pre-School, set up a stall outside their own home selling Loom Bands and refreshments for dog walkers and their dogs! It was a very successful effort!

So quite and accomplishment to be able to provide the 200 desks for St James. So BIG THANK YOU’S to Neil, Jean, Angela, the schools as well as all of you who have given personal donations and of course all the children who have made an extra effort for their friends in Uganda. Asante sana! See photo of desks arriving at St James!

Now to other news from St James over the last few months. It’s always exciting for me to be able to share the progress you are all helping to make at the school. As well as good quality classrooms, the desks, blackboards, etc. two other requirements to achieve and keep the UNEB status was for the security to be improved around the school compound and for specific books to be provided for the children in Primary Seven.

James says in his letter

‘I went to Kampala and signed for our code it is 146425. The officials were happy the way we are organizing our school and said they would come for another inspection specially to see that desks, text books and the gates plus fence repair have been done for security purposes otherwise will nullify our Centre.’

The government officials had visited the school while James was in the UK. So a further 2,550,000 UGX (£637.50) had to be spent on making a strong gate and repairing the fence around the compound. Gaining the UNEB code cost 350,000 UGX (£87.50) which included James’ transport to and from Kampala. We have been able to fund all the requirements from the hard work and generosity of you all. See photo of James with the wonderful new gate!

Last bit of news for now. James sent me a text recently. He wrote

‘we took part in Zonal Music though we lacked instruments and in Zonal Netball and Football. good news my team poynton fc at st j beat Bugul fc 3-2. big thugs.’ I’m sure he would want me to pass on his ‘big thugs’ to you too!!

Before James signs off he says

As I conclude I wish to thank you for building St James, brick by brick. I am not overworking and you should not too!!’

Before he flew back to Uganda we had promised each other that we would take regular breaks from all the challenges developing and running a school demands!He also added:

‘Best regards to Great Norman, Mrs Windsor, Nicola, Annick and Davy, Patricia and Andy, Lionsheart, Christine, all at Vernon, All, All, All that I have not mentioned. I love you all.’

Love and many thanks to you all from me too and everyone at St James, Nakakabala, Uganda.


Extra – As I take lots of video footage when I am in Uganda I thought I would try to put two on YouTube and I succeeded, eventually! To view ‘Children build their own school’ & ‘My early morning walk to the bore hole’ please click on the link below. Enjoy!