Monday, 13 October 2008

Sauda's story

"Praise to the living God. Am Sauda, aged 20, a mother blessed with one lovely daughter named Tracy.
I was born in a poor family. I grew up with my father and step-mother. I was alone, I didn't have a brother or a sister. My step-mother had 6 other children and I was badly mistreated. I only made three years of school. So I escaped to my aunt's house and stayed there for three years. She also mistreated me. She forced me to love men so I could buy myself soap, pants etc."

"From there someone persuaded me to come to Kampala to work as a housegirl. I was 10 years old. I found work with a lady who had 5 children. She sold bananas and sweet potatoes to make a living. One day, the neighbour asked my boss if I could work at their place for a day? She said OK. The neighbour - a woman - escorted me upstairs to the bedroom and left me alone. When she left the room, a man came from behind the door. He turned out the light. I started to shout but no body would help me. I cried and cried but nobody would help me. The man raped me, I was 13 years old."

"I went back to our house but I was so weak. I slept the whole day. I told my boss I was sick. After some time I still felt weak, I didn't see my monthly period for three months. My boss took me to the doctor who told me I was pregnant. My boss asked me about the man, but I feared to tell her so she chased me away and told me to go back to my parents. But my parents had already rejected me."

"I went to a friend who took me to her grandmother. The old woman gave me local herbs for drinking and bathing for abortion. I even took some tablets. But the abortion refused. After some months I gave birth in that house because I had no money for the hospital. I stayed in that situation for three months. Then the old lady died and I was chased off that plot. I went back to my friend's place. The Lord blessed me and I got work washing and cleaning, for a Kenyan, then an Indian, then Beatrice [a Medair colleague]."

"After two years, I was told to leave as there was no money to pay, Beatrice was looking after too many relatives. I started to suffer alot with my daughter. So one evening as I was going to the market I met a born-again Christian, preaching. At that time I was a Muslim. He told me that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, and to come to him, all who are carrying heavy loads and I will give you rest. I was heavy loaded in my life, and no-one can help me, only Jesus. So when they called people, I ran freely and confessed salvation without anybody forcing me. From that day I started going to church and they prayed for me. After this time I met Liz."

"Before I had nothing to eat with my daughter, she was not being schooled and we could not pay rent. But I praise God for his many miracles, now we have everything that was lacking. I thank him so much."

Ugandan Dudes: a new series

Everyone meet Sauda. She looks after my children. It's because of her that I can write this. I can hear Katherine gurgling and giggling in the background, and her laughing along. I owe her my time and my sanity. The girls are besotted with her, and she is definitely their favourite over moany old Mum. I don't mind. Even when the girls are otherwise occupied, I love having Sauda in the house. Her sunny disposition brightens up my grumpiest moments.

We took Sauda on full-time two months ago. She is the reason I have not been posting much -suddenly I had lots of time on my hands, and not much to do. Aside from a bit of clothing business work - more on that later - I've been shopping, visiting friends, drinking some lattes. (Roughing it in Africa, see?) Not much story in that.

Sauda's story is something else. Harrowing and humbling, I asked if she'd mind me writing it up so that people all over the world could see it? (That was my best explanation of 'the internet'.) She said she didn't mind.

I was expecting to interview her, but she arrived at work this morning with an exercise book, the first 10 pages or so covered in Biro. She had got a friend to write it for her. So while I will edit it for length and a little for clarity, the next post will be Sauda's, as much as possible, in her own words.

Friday, 10 October 2008

re: RE

In this brave new world they call 'school', apart from the driving, the uniform, the homework etc, I have also discovered the bored housewife's home from home, the PTA. I normally hate things like the PTA; there's nothing like an earnest discussion on social events that makes me want to chew gum and heckle from the back row. But in the absence of very much to do in Kampala - rather you do stuff, but it tends to be the same stuff over and over again - I started going to these meetings as welcome distraction and to make some more friends. I am a (slightly) bored housewife myself, after all.

Imagine my surpise then, when both meetings strayed from the original agenda ("The role of class rep" and "The British Curriculum" yawn) and turned very interesting. We talked a bit about the thorny issues around how you teach history and geography in an international school, and then it was a matter of time before we were handling the hottest of hot potatoes: religious education.

I wasn't paying attention 100 per cent,but this is what I remember. UK schools are meant to offer religious education of some sort, without bias towards any one religion, unless you are a designated faith school. Parents have the right to withdraw their children from all RE lessons. OK then. At Ambrosoli (Emma's school) it is not taught at all. While that should make life easy for everyone, actually it doesn't really. An example. Last year, Diwalli and Hannukah got coverage (in fact Ambrosoli is meticulous about covering every international event..Song Khran, anyone?) but the 'Christmas' play was about....different hats. Happy holidays, everyone! (There was a nativity play, but only after considerable parental lobbying and then only out of school hours.)

I am a Christian. Of course I want Emma to be taught about Christianity. However, it was a conscious decision not to send her to a faith school (and I could do a separate post on the reasons why.) So in choosing Ambrosoli, it was never my expectation that Christianity would be taught pre-eminently in RE lessons. But to have no religious education at all? Nor can anyone answer precisely why this is case.

If the head teacher or the board were made up of prosletysing atheists a la Richard Dawkins, who argue that religious instruction is a form of child abuse, it would depress me but at least it would be a clear position. What riles me is the impression that they want to steer clear of the whole issue for risk of offending people. When did we all get so sensitive?

I love the challenge of defending what I believe, and I like being challenged in return. It would be almost impossible to come up with a religious education curriculum that everyone is happy with, but life's like that sometimes. Let it at least follow some honest debate; debate that wouldn't even be allowed in many countries around the world.

To give them credit where it's due, the lack of RE at Ambrosoli has been recognised as problematic by the board, and a questionnaire was sent round last year to all the parents about the kind of religious education they'd like to see, if any. It's a start, though like many an initiative, at risk of being quietly shelved in case the results don't lead to neat and easily implementable solutions.

In my new role as Head of the Awkward Squad, I look forward to bringing it up again and again...

Friday, 3 October 2008

A moan about school.

No posts for a long time, sorry. For once I am not entirely to blame: Blogger repeatedly refused to recognise my name and password. I mean, not recognise me? Moi? After all these years? That hurts. There is also something fishy going on with google and gmail and whatever. Blogger teccies I am not happy, if ever you read me..

I digress.

I have also been consumed with momentous things, like Emma's first day at big school. I felt pretty emotional, as if the credits were rolling on the Baby And Toddler Years. No time for wistfulness, though, as quick as a flash we're into the years of The School Run. Why did no-one tell me about this? The military timetable from 6.30am. The fights. We have four before we leave the house: 1) Eating breakfast, 2) getting dressed 3) brushing teeth 4) brushing hair. In the car we have fight number 5) listening to the radio. I have banned listening to the radio, as it is unsuitable for children. Constant Mr LoverLover Man, I wanna love you tonight type pop tunes, as well as some Heimlich manoeuvre explicit adverts. An example. "Are you sensuous? Passionate? Then maybe you should consider Ohhh! Condoms!" Did I mention this is 0730 on a work day? Emma always wants to listen to it and gets annoyed when turn it off, purse my lips, and tighten my corset.

Home schooling is looking more attractive.