Thursday 30 May 2013
Wednesday 4 July 2012
Hello, I had an opportunity to personally experience what I have seen on TV done to Ugandans by an institution supposedly in place to keep law and order. If you are in Uganda, you or your family or friends may probably have gone through this or similar experiences. And if in another part of the world, you may have images of similar brutality from Uganda or some other country, well, I wanted to share with you from a personal experience. I hope the words can help create a mental image of what happened:
It’s 11:30pm on the night of 02nd-07-2012. I set off from a friend’s where I had made a stopover on my way back home. When I realized that the car had jammed, I called up the mechanic to arrange a pick up in the morning. I picked my bags and got on a bodaboda (motorbikes used as taxis around Uganda).
Our ride went for about 7 minutes and then about 40 meters ahead, I saw the ‘’accident ahead’’ signpost, printed in very large red letters, in the middle of the road. My cyclist must have seen exactly what I saw because at my surprise, he suddenly made a u-turn. I asked him why he did that, saying it looked like the police were at the point and therefore no need for us to fear those were thugs. In many parts of the country, robbers have mounted roadblocks, and often bodaboda cyclists have been killed and robbed of their bikes. I intended to convince my mate that we would be safe.
When I insisted to know why he made the u-turn, he told me that the police normally harass them in the night, extracting money from them. What he said confirmed what many of his colleagues had shared with me over a long time. However, his fear was worsened by the fact that he had lost the bike’s registration plate, or so he claimed.
We reached the town we had left behind before the u-turn and he asked me to change to another bodaboda. At this moment two police officers who were following us reached and my cyclist dodged them and sped off. They surrounded me and asked ‘’why did you make a u-turn?” I asked them whether it was me riding or the guy who had just left. At that one of them hit my left part of the head with a fist and the other raised his gun to hit me. Unfortunately, or fortunately, something stopped him. The assault did not only affect my left eye, but also cracked my tooth.
With too much pain and so many tears rolling down my left eye, I told the guys that even if I were a criminal, they had absolutely no right to hit me or handle me the way they did. I had not resisted arrest and therefore no force whatsoever was required. I told them my identification would prove who I am. My efforts were in vain. A crowd started to gather, before the police hauled me onto their bike. They rode to the police post where they continued to harass me.
In the exchange, I presented 2 identification documents and told them I would personally deal with the individual who had hit me. I demanded to know the name of the Officer in Charge, to no avail. The guy who had hit me was recording something in their books. I asked to know his name, responding, ‘’ask your mother”.
They had confiscated my mobile, ordered me to put off my belt, shoes, and everything including my wallet. They ordered me to count the money in the wallet, which I refused to do since I could not see as my left eye was dripping tears. I kept asking for my mobile so I could call up a few people who could get me out. I had learned from experience that in this part of the world, the only way to deal with the system and its operatives is to be a big authority yourself, or know someone high in the ranks or have big money. The rest does not count, and it never matters how priestly you are, the monsters will attack you.
My assailant kept saying he would give me my phone later. That was the only polite way he knew how to deny people their rights. Without speaking to any family or friend, I was thrown into a pigpen, tortured and abused in so many ways. I can not remember how many times I begged to use the toilet, yet throughout the night, I had to force my bladder to be nicer.
When they locked me up, I realized that I had to accept I could do nothing more to secure my release that night, but started planning how to be out of there early in the morning so I could still do everything I planned to do the next day.
The cell had a young man of about 28 or so years , sleeping on 3 pieces of manila paper laid properly on the floor. He had peeped through the bars as I argued with the police for my rights and threatening to act decisively on the individuals. He kept turning on his papers and one would tell he was forcing himself to catch some sleep in a very absurd situation. There was a woman, right in the semblance of an office, near a semblance of a working desk. She was sleeping on a bench, with her very sick and malnourished baby of about 6 months.
The doors and windows were so open yet the baby did not have any warm covering. She coughed throughout, and 3 times I feared she was going to lose her life as I could hear her struggle for breath. Her mother turned on that small bench, placing her whole weight on her that I had to throw a bottle from my cell to wake her up to realize what she was doing to this unlucky feeble body. But who cared, even all the female officers just looked like no other person’s life mattered to them, even a child younger than their own children.
Through the spaces in the bars, I spoke to the female police officer who kept dozing until a replacement came in. I asked her whether they are trained to rudely handle everyone they decide to face, why they would not cautiously use their power, and within the confines of the law. She said ‘’we are different, you are different from your mom, and are different from your sister and brother’’. She laughed when I asked her why she arrested the baby, saying they arrested the mother, prompting me to say, ‘’….and therefore abusing an innocence one’’. She sighed. I could not stop thinking how the police service could possibly be improved to an extent where even the interests of this baby could be taken care of in an event that her parents, or one of them, had to be kept way from the rest of society.
She told me that a communication had come through from the District Police Commander ordering all posts and stations to mount roadblocks in search of 2 men on a bodaboda who had shot, killed and stole around 70 million UGX from a man on the outskirts of Kampala that evening. From the car, I had picked my laptop bag and a large bag that had children’s reading books that I had to deliver to a poor community school the following day. I thought maybe the guys imagined 70Million UGX to be in that bag! When they arrested me, they asked to know what was in the bag, I told them books and they unzipped it and had a glance at them. I kept my eyes on my bags and non of the officers checked them thoroughly. What if I had covered the money with books!!
I spread my legs apart, folded my hands against the door and prepared to beat off the coldness, mosquitoes and sleep through the night. I amassed myself in thoughts, leaving them to come and go and still paying attention to all communication that came in through the radio call. I watched the sad, brutal, hungry and mean faces of the officers as they came in and went, as they whispered outside the tiny, ramshackle building they called their office and cell for their arrestees. I read the writings and wondered about the drawings scratched on the cell walls. I scanned the whole room and thought about what, if it became necessary, I would do to escape my confinement, by breaking through. I planned my decent and lawful ways to my freedom.
As the hours dragged through the night, I wondered why a whole police officer would assault anyone. I thought about the so many images where police and security operatives have under the name of peace and order tortured people and practically killed them. I thought about the cries of so many people whose loved ones have disappeared without trace, I remembered the often talked about times of the demonized Idi Amin and why so many of the things that occurred during his time still occur to this day, no matter how disguised, and how much, we, as a society deny the facts. I remembered a time in England when police officers stopped me, questioned me with intent to get the facts, labored to make sure I understood exactly why they stopped me, and apologized for wasting my time.
I wondered what exactly I had done to deserve this treatment, yet in my mind names like Jesus Christ, Nelson Mandela, Martin Lurther King Junior played forth and back. They were people who had blessed mankind, but the very people they so loved chose to end their lives or torment them in any possible way they could. I thought about community activists and politicians, and common men and women like me who have been so brutally treated, yet still work hard to support their families and communities, pay taxes that support the state machine, including the police, that turns around to torture them.
Before I gave in to sleep, I could see two, sometimes three officers standing outside, looking at me and speaking to each other. Whatever they exchanged! From the 2-3 jackets they wore, you could tell that these men and women were trying to keep warm, and I wondered why they thought the rest of us were animals with tougher skins.
I realized I could not stay awake all night. I had been left in my blue jeans without a belt, no shoes and in my short sleeved black t-shirt. I pulled my hands into the t-shirt and kept standing by the door for some more time. My roommate, to whom I never spoke a single word throughout my stay had folded himself on the ‘’paper mattress’’. There was a very little space left behind his folded legs. I slept on that to give myself a thought that I was sleeping on something. He was snoring, and every time he tried to straiten his legs, they touched something. The discomfort was too much he woke up, gave me one of the papers and asked me to sleep somewhere else.
Although I thought the ‘fight’ with the police was tough, it was tougher with the mosquitoes. I had placed my whole upper body into my t-shirt, but because I have short hair, and my t-shirt was open at the top of my head, the creatures had a feast there, at the feet and any other part that got exposed at any moment. The floor was hard and the cold was extreme for a body that normally sleeps in a warm comfortable bed, and a mind completely unprepared for the ordeal that night.
Just before daybreak, the officer who assaulted me came in to relieve the last person on duty that night. He signed her out and picked the cell keys. When he unlocked it, he signaled me out. He sat me on a chair in front to their working desk. He looked at me for about a minute while my mind kept fitting in the details of my plan for the day, and finally he said ‘’Good morning Mr. Seguya!”
He asked me whether I could self-record my statement, which I affirmed. He went on to ask what exactly happened. I patiently listened to him as he said ‘’I am so sorry Mr. Seguya. The guy I was with last night was my Officer in Charge; we treated you very brutally and tortured you in the cell. I am so sorry’’.
He moved out and came back to call me through the window. We moved under a mango tree and he continued with his apology, this time shading tears. Saying ‘’sometimes we are sent on duty with our personal problems and find ourselves overreacting……you probably know it, but there is no police officer who does not come from a poor family background”. I told him I had decided the previous night to count the incident as one of those things that happen and have nothing to reverse them.
Despite my assurances that I had forgiven him, he tearfully went on ‘’….are you forgiving me from your heart? Our age difference is not big, and we can speak two similar languages and understand each other. If you push this matter further, my whole life will be in trouble. My whole family in the village depends on me, my parents will have no way to survive if I lose my job. Please forgive me.” He went on to ask me whether I could even support his job application at the UN force offices in Entebbe.
I told him the only thing I would ask of him is never to treat another human being the way he treated me, and it should not matter what status that person has in the community, whether they have an education or not, poor or rich. The only thing that should matter is that they are a human being. I however told him that I would not keep quiet about this experience, that I would use it in helping society have a better police force. He later told me that his Officer in Charge wanted to see me.
His actions can be shaken off as actions of one person, but when one puts together other incidents, worse than this, and the fact that the Officer in Charge was present as a person was attacked by his man, and he too almost did a worse with his gun, one realizes that brutality and torture are a cancer that have eaten the entire police force.
I had hoped to secure the release of my three fellow inmates, including the innocent baby. However, I sadly learned that my cellmate had been arrested over theft, and the woman had used a knife to mutilate her old landlady. I laid the matter to rest, it is a society where the mad handle the mad, the mean deal with the mean, and where the poor, hungry, and sad must manage people similar to them, accidentally getting it right sometimes, but losing it much of the time. It’s a social system that needs overhaul. My inmates will have to deal with their consequences, and most likely, they will fairly or unfairly face the law.
When I met the officer in charge, he explained why they mounted the roadblock, told me he had been in the area for only 5 months, asked me to call them whenever I can, and requested me to join them on their community relations outreaches. He told me that my community mobilization skills would be beneficial to the force and the community at large, especially since I am not aligned with any political party. He said he believed I could help change the community from thinking that the police are their enemy. He reminded me of the support channeled to the police from UNESCO Youth Ambassador and wondered whether such support could be continued.
We discussed a number of issues, but told him until the police treat people friendly; the public will always them for enemies. I asked him to let me go so I could not be late for my day’s activities, promising to extend support in any possible way.
2 days later, I still have to deal with the fever, headaches and a cracked took sustained from the incident.
Monday 2 July 2012
Project Hope-Uganda Family learning and family literacy resource centre Profile
Empowering families to read and write for leisure
Family Learning and family literacy resource centre is affiliated to Project Hope Uganda and registered with directorate of community based services Wakiso district. The family resource centre was established in Nangabo Sub County in 2008 to offer family literacy and library services. The focus is to build on existing family literacy practices, skills and resources for effective function and transformation of communities. Facilitation of family learning helps to nurture interest in reading and writing within the family as a whole. Home environment provides real life situations for transforming literacy skills. Families make a sustained change to their life if they feel the new idea came from them. They can see how the change builds on something they do already to something they want to do.
This project supports inter-generational literacy development by taking learning into remote homes where parents and children feel they have nothing to do in a library. It matches the interests, abilities and needs of disadvantaged families with their literacy development activities. Therefore, building on home culture, existing family literacy practices and experiences is central to the family learning and literacy activities. Ideas promoted include changing family attitudes and lifestyles. For example making reading and writing for family pleasure, growing and eating different foods for a healthier diet, improving home hygiene to prevent disease, cultivating different ways of to improve crops and early childhood development skills . As such, it is different from just giving learners more knowledge. The out comes are stunning; family learning generates excitement, parental engagement in child learning, improvement in communication skills and quality time spent together as a family. Parents feel confident to play their significant role as first educators of their children. A culture of reading and achievement that lasts a life time is developed.
The family literacy library services delivery is every Saturday and Wednesday every week. Sessions are conducted for children from 10.00am to 4.00pm. Mothers meet from 4.00pm to 6.00pm every Wednesday and Saturday. Some sessions are organised parents and children activities. Mothers learn how to support their children learn better, produce family literacy resources and improve their skills to earn a better income and provide their families nutrition.
Community and Schools:
Over 80% of children in surrounding communities are raised in poverty and many of them under achieve in school because they are less prepared. The adults do poorly in the job market because they have extremely limited reading skills. Family learning is offering parents and children new skill to overcome obstacles to well being. Most schools accessed by low income households who use the resource centre are poorly equipped with both learning and teaching resources. Some children from poor households are kept out of school because of failure to meet school requirements. This means that while children formal education is disrupted, schools go without required school fees to access teaching resources. Kasangati Muslim Primary School partnered with the resource centre because of the precarious situation the education in the area is in. The school had 390 children in 2010/2011, 36 sat primary seven leaving exams, none of them scored first grade but 15 passed in the second grade. Enrolment in the following year dropped below 300. Through the centre, children in Kasangati Muslim School and St Leonards School from UK exchange letters to improve their communication skills and build relationship.
Currently, there are 6 nursery schools, 5 primary schools and 4 secondary schools with in 3km radius of the centre that benefit from family literacy programmes. Children from surrounding households who walk more than 3km to schools access library services on Saturdays. Family literacy targets pre-school age children and their mothers because early years are widely acknowledge for being the most formative years of the child. Learning starts before school. Family learning out reach activities support children reading activities in 6 villages in a radius of 6km. Read aloud sessions are organised by two family literacy facilitators in each of the villages. Each village has a public place to read books from. These are called community learning centres. Three of these community learning centres are attached to schools, two to homes and one to a church. They all meet on Saturday, when children are out of school. Time is arranged according to local circumstances to suit community participation.
When the family literacy project was initiated in 2008 as many as 368 needy children were excited to join because they had thought family learning was about opening schools. The founder, Augustine Napagi converted an old house (about 20ft by 20ft) into a family literacy library facility. The centre has grown ever since then to include activities of early childhood development, foundation for farming and functional adult literacy.
Instructors of NIACE (UK) have been training both the local staff and community volunteers through annual training workshops since 2008. In 2008 they trained 19 family learning facilitators to work with parents in six community learning centres. These centres are based at Kasangati Muslim primary school, Christ church Bulamu, Nalusugga village, Katadde primary school, Kitagobwa primary school and Wattuba village. In community learning centres children gather to read aloud with the trained family learning facilitators. In 2012 the building of a bigger reading room (about 20ft by 40ft) was partly funded with a grant of £1,000 from Book Aid International refurbishment fund. In the same year, 20 mothers trained and succeeded in actively engaging in reading with their children for the first time. This followed the annual family literacy training workshop in 2011 facilitated by Project Hope Uganda and NIACE. It was the first time mothers recognised their significance as primary teachers of their children.
Activities and Programmes:
Family learning is a process in which parents with their children develop their talents and new skills together. The parents have learnt supporting and encouraging children to learning by; valuing and listening to them, working alongside them and most importantly enjoying time together. Parents and children enjoy sharing a book together, particularly one that they make themselves. They teach each other to complete puzzles, read passages, answer questions and learn new skills and move into sustainable profit making employment. They share stories, rhymes and impact on their own health and social well being.
Parents are supported to help children do their home work through access to information, advice and guidance. Whole family good practice is impacted because it is replicated with other siblings, and when siblings become adults they will make better parents. Participating parents have become better positive role models. Learning is fun and rewarding and creates more positive attitude to learn. They have gained confidence and knowledge in positive parenting.
The participants were trained to provide practice for child brain development t to lay a strong foundation for school readiness. Parents talk with their children often and encourage them to talk back. They share stories and describe how to do things. They have the children say to them the same things. Parents speak slowly at times, so the child notices syllables. Children will need these later when they are learning to read words. They play learning games where they take turns and are encouraged to describe something completely without leaving anything out. Children receive praise whenever they try. Parents show children how to turn pages, how to notice things in the book, tell a story in a book using pictures and talk about the pictures. Children are encouraged to notice everything in a picture and put it into words. Children are supported to recognize all these things. Reading and writing one’s name are often the first activities to do. In general, parents learn that touching, talking, reading, smiling, writing and playing helps children’s brain develop and nourish the child’s potential for a life time. The library then provides resource required like shapes, colours, objects, children picture books, sounds, songs, puzzles, mask, puppets, toys, games and space to play, learn and have fun together. They write, draw, paint, doodle, scribble, shade and trace.
It gives ideas; skills and confidence to carry on the learning at home, making the family and the home very important parts of children learning and development so that they can reach their full potential.
Family literacy project develops local language literacy resource for use with low literate families which are familiar to children and parents to interact with. It also provides literacy materials adapted for local use through library services. It is a forum for sharing experience and knowledge among parents through peer support training workshops.
Family Literacy Days:
Family learning organises Family Literacy Days, a parallel to Reading Tents that traditional community libraries organise. Families, groups and individuals present what they like and read aloud and act out stories every 6 months. The community local authorities are invited, functional adult literacy instructors inter generational literacy facilitators and associates give speeches and interact with the public. The previous family literacy day was held in December 2011, where Fred Lukabwe an adult literacy trainer of functional adult literacy instructors from ministry of gender and social development gave a speech explaining traditional practices in child upbringing. Two written speeches from associates; one from Hannah of Global Goodness and another from Karen and Clare formerly working with NIACE were read out. The speeches spelt out the universality of family literacy in the world. Family learning is the missing link to break inter-generational illiteracy in Africa.
School Reading Programme:
Although families are the main focus we have partnered with Kasangati Muslim Primary School. Three teachers from the school are trained family learning facilitators. They created literacy activities based on what children are learning in class, their ability, interests and needs. The activities are interactive and promote reading, social, speech, listening and communication skills. Literacy development activities are specially created for low achieving children. These are based on storybooks for children to read for pleasure and leads to literacy follow up activities. The activities can be children acting out a character in the book or taking a hot seat to answer questions about the character of their choice.
The centre exchanges books through a book box loan service to all six village reading centres. The children read and act out the stories. The mothers translate stories into children’s familiar language. The facilitators hold their own bi monthly family literacy materials development workshops for reading games, family learning sessions for parents, children, and parents together with children. Staff training and local language literacy development is done annually with support of external facilitators from UK. Uganda Community libraries Association and LETTERS training workshops organised by Makerere University department of Adult Education
Workshops heled facilitators to support mothers rethink their actions and discover what makes children read.
Currently Global goodness sponsors women family literacy courses. The women go through the course of helping children learn. They have translated children books to read with their children at home. They also write stories of their own to share with their families. Twenty women were inspired by the family literacy course in 2011. They wished to support their children further by providing nutrition, school fees and medical care. This made them to start a savings scheme where they intend to use savings to start poultry farming. Most of them are single mothers, other with irresponsible husbands, some are HIV positive and some have many children to look after. If supported with resource, these women have the will and self determination to over come injustice imposed on them by poverty and illiteracy.
Project Hope Uganda donates £ 500 annually to run the activities and also funds all trainings. The family literacy centre is a member of Uganda Community Libraries Association and it benefits from its training programmes and grant offers. In 2011/2012 the Global Goodness donated £700 to support family literacy women’s activities, 18 families were trained and became regular library users. In 2012, Book Aid International donated 900 books and a library refurbishment grant of £1,000 for completing the construction of a reading room. The reading room (20ft by 40ft) is now complete and in use for early childhood development activities in addition to the old building used as an adult learning centre and library. The family literacy coordinator greatly benefited from the training workshops organised by Makerere University in ethnographic literacy and new reader writers, special thanks to George, Sonya, Elda and Alan.
Family literacy centre further received a donation of 85 children picture books from OSU book fund and 83 locally published children books from UgCLA. It received another 19 children’s books from Darien Book Aid in 2011 and 65 books for low literate readers from the New Readers Publishers of University of KwaZulu-Natal South Africa in 2012. A lot of support was received from UK family learning associates, which included books, laptop, funds, training, toys, facilitation materials and stationery. Leicester choir, the late Ron and his wife Margaret, Steve and Peter all contributed to the building of the first reading room. We have also received various gifts for children from members of Oxfordshire saint Magdalene church and St. Leonards School from UK. Judith Baker trained family literacy facilitator in story writing and donated books and a camera for storybook creation in 2011. All individuals we have not mentioned here because they sent resources without signing on their names are greatly appreciated, many of whom are from UK.
Apart from Project Hope Uganda catering for annual administrative costs for family learning activities, it also provides transport for the trainers, Christine, Karen and Clare, the family literacy trainers from National Institute of Adult Continuing Education (NIACE) to and fro Uganda to train facilitators annually. Project Hope provides free transport for local staff to train further in international family literacy forums.
Resources and Staff:
An office building, a reading room, 5 office chairs, 15 plastic chairs, a cushion for sitting on, a mat, 2 tables, office desk, fixed shelves and puppets.
The resource centre has mainly family literacy materials for children, parents and facilitators. Some of it is homemade. It has school children books donated by BAI, UgCLA, Darien Book Aid, OSU children fund and KwaZulu-Natal University.
The librarian is called Olivia Nankya. She organises the library records, reads aloud in the family learning sessions, loans out books and receives feedback on the books read and helps children and adults read together. Immaculate Mutabaire is the family learning social worker. She trains mothers to support their children learn better and runs family literacy women courses. Augustine Napagi is the co-ordinator and has a number of responsibilities: home visits to observe how parents and children begin to learn to read together, supports facilitators, partners with schools, markets family learning provision, and ensures quality and standard of family literacy offer.
There are two facilitators in each community learning centres. They read aloud, support parents, and help children learn, manage community learning centres and conduct family learning sessions. The facilitators also train parents to volunteer to help other parents in family learning activities.
The resource center is managed by a committee of five people. They are trained family literacy facilitators. They include Martha Nakke a primary school teacher from Kasangati Muslim Primary School, Christine Nansubuga a mother with low literacy, Immaculate Mutabaire an accountant by training, Nankya Olivia a school girl of form 5 and Augustine Napagi a graduate in social sciences and a trained adult literacy facilitator. Project Hope Uganda oversees the work of family learning and literacy resource centre. Victoria Braiser of BA is the patron.
Use and Users:
Semi-literate mothers take the opportunity to read with their children using bilingual literacy materials they develop together with their children at the resource centre and in their homes. Other library users include adult literacy learners, school children and pre-school age children and grandmothers. Demonstrations for foundations for farming for family employment skills development are targeting the youth especially adolescent mothers without adequate literacy and employment skills.
The resource centre keeps track of books received in a designated note book. Another note book for books borrowed for reading aloud with children in various community learning centres is maintained. Attendance at the family learning sessions is noted down in a separate notebook, and so are library books that users check out. All visitors sign the visitors’ book.
The women family literacy group attends a family literacy course and weekly reports are made and a copy is kept in a box file.
Rules and Regulations:
1. Clean hands before reading a book.
2. Never write, scribble, draw, doodle, shade or paint in the book.
3. Never glue or cut the papers of a book.
4. Save your place with a bookmark, not by folding a page.
5. Don’t put pens, pencils and rulers in between pages of the book.
6. Don’t grab a book from another reader.
7. Open pages carefully using the top corner of the page.
8. Carry your book in a book bag to keep it safe.
9. Put your book in a safe place at home, away from babies and pets.
10. Don’t fold your book or sit on it.
11. Leave the book on the table after reading.
12. Don’t put food or wet utensils on books
Vision for the Future:
The resources centre plans to have computer literacy sessions when it accesses computers and electricity or solar power; to publish its own written stories for children and adults; to create a safe playing area for children; to run sustainable and profit making farm skills development programmes; to scale up early childhood development activities;to consolidate achievement made and to initiate family planning and maternal literacy as well for the health of mothers and children.
Wakiso district, Kyadondo County, Nangabo sub county, Bulamu parish and Kyetume LC1 B.
How to get there (from Kampala):
Take taxi from Old Taxi Park to Gayaza. Get off at Gayaza, Take a boda boda following Gayaza–Manyangwa road. Get off before Manyangwa trading centre, after Gayaza Seventh Day Adventist Church, at Rockie gardens (1 km). Turn left and go down the slope (0.75 km).
Thursday 21 June 2012
Pictures of a computer, Digital TV and Printer/scanner/photocopy delivered to Manyagwa Primary School, and the books delivered for KCL. The school community was so delighted to have their first computer and the TV, which they intend to use for study purposes and local printing, photocopying and scanning. I had the opportunity to introduce the school headmaster and his deputy to basic computer skills.