Girls’ Brigade celebrate 125 years!

“On 24th May 2018 Deborah McMahon (Chairperson), Alison Stevenson (Vice President) and myself, Latifa McCullagh (President), headed for Dublin to begin our trip to Kisoro, Uganda to visit Karwa Centenary Primary School.

Girls’ Brigade Northern Ireland (GBNI), through their Girls’ Brigade Companies, are raising £125,000 to rebuild the school. GBNI are celebrating 125 years in October 2018 and we felt what better way for our companies to celebrate this landmark than to raise £125,000 for 125 years of Girls’ Brigade.

I had travelled to Uganda in November 2016 with Fields of Life to look at various projects and visit the school. It was Alison and Deborah’s first time there. This time we travelled via Rwanda, which cut our bus journey down from about eleven hours to four and a half.

We arrived at the school and what a transformation! No more mud classrooms but lovely new ones with doors and windows to keep out the elements. A Nursery block was almost finished as was a lovely new toilet block, still basic by our standards but oh so much of an improvement and somewhere you could visit without holding your nose!

Before the new building was complete, the children had all been using temporary classrooms. How they had survived I do not know (their old ones had to be demolished to make way for the new ones). They did not seem to mind that in one structure approximately 100 children (two classes of four and five year olds) were crammed into a make shift structure approximately 25ft x 20ft. What’s more they had to climb to the top of a very steep hill, with no proper path to get there. One teacher had her three month old baby attached to her back while the other teacher’s 15 month old daughter was playing on the floor…that is dedication!

The children moved into the finished classrooms on the Monday during our visit, some did not have desks and were sitting on the floor but they did not seem to worry. It was lovely to sit in on their classes to see and hear how they learnt, especially the three and four year olds who could already count to ten and say the alphabet – amazing! The standard of teaching was excellent, borne out by the fact that numbers in the school have increased from approximately 320 in November 2016 to 502 in May 2018. The top pupil in the Muhabura Diocese the previous year had been a girl from Karwa Centenary School.

Deborah, Alison and I all agree that what we saw, the smiling faces, the eagerness to learn and the children following us everywhere, (especially Deborah with her blond hair!) are memories that none of us will ever forget and we consider the money has been well spent.”

Latifa McCullagh
GBNI President