Thursday, 11 June 2009
Rural - Lyantonde
It's been a very hectic week or so, travelling to different rural areas, so apologies for slow posting. Today I'll be focusing on Lyantonde, which, with Rakai, I hope will be the first rural base for Butterfly.
While Kampala is a small metropolis, Lyantonde is a small backwater town, with a little charm. Its shops are poorly-stocked, cafes vastly restricted in their offerings. It's also the main dairy cattle area, so milk was more readily available, although it had to go away to be pasteurised.
Some of the Kampala Butterfly kids came to Lyantonde, as an interesting experiment to gauge a reaction to the rural setting and set them some challenges. We visited a lot of schools and (for Troy) a picture with me included! Actually I didn't speak much, as English is much less commonly spoken and I would be even less understood than normal!
It seems the rural schools are populated by substantially by orphans - 56% of the population are children up to 18 - and HIV/AIDS has cut a swathe through the adult population, leaving a bunch of confused kids, who simply have been born into an adult wasteland. Those adults that remain are often subsistence farmers, who struggle even to make school fees of 2500 shillings per term (80p), from their meagre land, which is prone to poor crops.
Why do they stay? Well, many don't and leave their children behind, much like the AIDS victims have left their children. Children are clearly depressed and traumatised by all this and they try to make the best of things by singing and dancing. Some sing about the tragedy of AIDS and some have more upbeat offerings.
My hosts support these orphans, child-headed households, child carers etc. and from what I can tell do an invlauable job against large odds - Lyantonde is a notable truckstop location and thus has suffered more than the average town from HIV/AIDS, with its large numbers of prostitutes. Recently, the president suggested making prostitution legal...
Some of the schools, though, have surprising ideas and are focusing on solar energy, learning about technologies, while others seem to wear a face of depression - "not enough teachers, not enough books, not enough classrooms, not enough.." Orphans are used as a pawn by some schools to try to gain grants, as even private schools are taking them on, when they know there are no fees payable. State schools offer class sizes of up to 100 for slightly less fees.
In all of this, though, are the same young people with gifts and talents - next to none have any vehicle to express them, though.
Water is also a massive issue in the area, with children bearing the brunt of water fetching. In some places, they must miss a school day, because the distance to water is so far. Efforts are being made, though and water is being farmed out into more locations, for greater accessibility and I guess bore holes are being sunk.
What there is no shortage of in Uganda is "awareness". USAID has ploughed vast sums into HIV/AIDS and mosquito net awareness, although from experience it has been locking the door after the horse has bolted. Comparably with Nigeria, I saw nothing at all on awareness and the problem is no worse in Nigeria. What is so lacking is economic infusion and this would give so much more than "Big Brother" AIDS awareness messages, but I guess that might mean that Ugandans could start to compete on the global market...
Simply there is next to nothing in terms of machinery or processing in these rural places. People sell wood or charcoal, not paper. They sell hides, not leather. And no one has learnt the skills to do any of this processing, so income remains at this base level and, without help, will likely remain there.
Social enterprise - the development of industry to bring people out of poverty - is needed here, but which funder will have the bottle to support it?
Things get worse, though, as I head West on the next blog!