Kampala & Mityana: Days Done, Lessons Learned, and Experiences Had.

4 06 2012

Before we begin, a fun fact about Kampala: It has Africa’s second largest mosque- a donation from Gaddafi. It’s even bigger, or so a worker here reported, than any mosque in Gaddafi’s native Libya.

(Genny, Robinah, and Kenny entering the Mosque)

(Yvonne,  Genny, and Robinah)

Sights, Sounds, and Policies

On Thursday night we arrived in Entebbe via Brussels. So far I haven’t been able to come up with a joke on the irony of our route but I did try on the plane… and fail. Genny is returning to Uganda for her second summer and quickly found her bearings, but I felt slightly dazed and confused. As those of you who have visited Kampala have seen, it is sprawling, covering many slight hills before converging on the developed town center. When driving around the dizzying traffic circles in Kampala amid the close calls from Boda-Bodas (named from travelers crossing the Kenyan-Uganda borders yelling BORDER BORDER to motorcyclists for rides), dusty air, pedestrians, and bicyclists traveling in traffic my eyes were drawn to the signs. One had the letters “HIV” highlighted above a picture of a happy couple and a call to “Know your status.” Another featured a little boy urging you to plan your family properly so as to create more opportunities for existing children.” I even heard public health announcements on the radio. Through efforts like this Uganda has been one of the most successful East African nations in reducing HIV numbers (Source). Currently, the rate is around 6.5% for adults.

Uganda is best understood as a converging economy. [Hans Rosling explains better than I ever could]. While here, I’ve started to think about development outside of the linear time. I’m not going crazy- let me explain: If you reference the graph below, you’ll see that Uganda today has a life expectancy around 55 years and income per person at around $1200.

In this sense—and let me make a big stretch here— one can think about Uganda in the same frame of mind as thinking about the U.S in the 1920s under Wilson- when the U.S had a life expectancy of around 55 years. Yet in other ways it is nothing like 1920s Wilson because  you can go to a “Western Oasis” in Kampala and live in 2012 America or the deep north and live in Jamestown- all in one country. In recent years, Uganda has grown rapidly, but are the institutions strong enough to ensure that income generation and wealth can be transferred from the elite ruling class to the average person, as happened in the United States? The United States developed to a prosperous nation in part because of how institutions promoted economic equality. Is the same happening under Museveni? Many say that he is NOT the man he says he is in speeches and is creating an institution that rewards the ruling class- the type of system that won’t allow the blue line above to shift right. In a speech in Ghana, President Obama said the U.S is done supporting big men in Africa and is ready to support big institutions. Museveni has been in power for 26 years. Will there be change? But, almost more importantly, I ask about the divergences between the big cities of Uganda and rural areas. Can this gap shrink? What does a more rural city look like?


Mityana sits around 48 km West of Kampala, yet a trip to Mityana takes around 1.5 hours due to official speed bumps and unofficial speed bumps (a.k.a pot-holes- but hey optimism is important).  Mityana, like other areas within Uganda, suffers from a lack of income-generation opportunities. Mityana is resource poor, but there are some who manage to do well resource-wise. There’s little trash collection so people burn it in the streets. Children are poorly clothed. The health system is stressed. It can be very depressing, even shocking, to see the areas outside of Mityana as an American (I’m writing this description clinically which for some reason does not feel appropriate. This poem, however, fills in the words I would like to say:

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956)

A Worker’s Speech To A Doctor

When we come to you
Our rags are torn off us
And you listen all over our naked body.
As to the cause of our illness
One glance at our rags would
Tell you more. It is the same cause that wears out
Our bodies and our clothes.

The pain in our shoulder comes
You say, from the damp; and this is also the reason
For the stain on the wall of our flat.
So tell us:
Where does the damp come from?)

We visited Mityana’s main hospital today to deliver medical supplies donated from Duke (will write more on that later). On Mondays and Thursdays it is often packed with HIV patients receiving treatment. We also left some supplies from Duke medical at the clinic in Naama. It was vaccination day so the understaffed clinic was full with the cries of babies. With these resources, it is hard for people to receive the treatment available in the United States that allows for life expectancies around 77 years. As a person with access to tremendous health care it’s also hard to see. I would be medevaced by S.O.S if it came to it, while basic treatments are impossible for others. I’m often reminded of the popular axiom: talent & all other positive attributes are universal. Opportunity is not.

Our Work

Today, we prepared our teaching schedule at Naama Prep. Genny, Robinah, and I will be teaching 8 to 1 on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The children wear yellow uniforms and are very friendly and cute. Will post pictures soon. Since we are so different than the type of person they usually see (okay mzungus), they gave us a lot of attention- peering from the sides of walls, running around us, grabbing us, and generally staring. It was a very fun but also odd experience since we were receiving all of the attention just because of our nationality. The school is much more basic than I expected. The classrooms are open to the breeze and wooden student desks and benches are worn. Lunch and breakfast are porridge. I’m really looking forward to teaching. Some past student projects sit in the school, such as a water purification table that the students no longer trust to use. We checked up on other student projects as we were introduced to the Pastor at the VOSA orphanage. He updated us on the counseling project- saying that it has been the most beneficial project started by Duke students in the past four years. He said it has brought the orphans together, improved morale, and provided them with hope. I really hope to build on the work that has been done by John and Grace and ensure the sustainability and accessibility of the project. Childline Uganda has been doing an amazing job running the program.





2 responses

5 06 2012

Great Genny and Craig! Look forward to talking soon.

5 06 2012

Amazing. Sounds as though you are have much to experience and share.

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