First weeks at St Denis....

Saturday, May 30, 2009

So, after explaining to a few people that I was in fact NOT here to teach the students how to fish, I set about my actual mission.

The school will have seven businesses over the next three years, two of which will be the banana plantation and the dairy which are already at the school.

I spent the first couple of weeks getting to know the teachers and talking to the students. The Students are really excited about getting stuck in to the practical parts of the projects and after I had spoken to them all in assembly, individuals were coming up to me with ideas for their own projects like growing passion fruit.
To put all that creative thinking to good use we decided to set up an Agriculture club so the students could get involved straight away with working on the banana plantation and dairy. As everyone knows, every good club needs a president, vice president, secretary etc etc.. don’t they? So the students took it upon themselves to present campaigns for their right to be the leading members of the club, evoking a very enthusiastic response from the other students, with approval being signalled by loud cries and drumming on the desks! In what was seemingly chaos, we eventually ended up with our club leaders in what was definitely a democratic vote! The club will start after the student’s exams.

We have held some sessions with all the teachers to introduce them to becoming a Self-Sufficient School and how they can be involved. An important part of this will be for the teachers to use the projects in their lessons.
One of the projects at St Denis will be the banana plantation, known locally as matoke, and served as a staple part of a Ugandan diet. At the moment there are about 300 plants which will start producing good amounts of matoke by the end of the year. This will be sold to the school canteen and used for school dinners for staff and students.
I received the grand tour of the plantation from Ssentungu, who currently takes care of it, with him explaining the finer points of all things matoke. The students too will discover all this and more as they learn how to make growing matoke into a successful business.

Another project already established at St Denis is the Send a Piglet Home Project, led by the business teacher Godfrey. Thirty of the poorest students were each given a piglet to take home and look after. After 8 months or so the now grown up piglet will be able to have up to 10 piglets of her own, one of which will be given back to the school and the rest being kept or sold by the student.

Godfrey took me to see some of the piglets at the student’s homes, where they live in purpose built shelters with all the mod cons like concrete floors and water troughs. It was great to see how the piglets are cared for by the students with real enthusiasm. Some of the piglets are now nearly ready to have the first piglets of the project, so watch this space!

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