Uganda – Schools, Sugar and Tea
Posted on June 24, 2016
Having all suffered a bit from the heat yesterday, we planned for an early start and so had breakfast as it got light at 6.45 and were on our horses by 7.30. As it turned out we woke to a grey sky and so it was very pleasant riding temperature of c. 18C – 20C (although still very high humidity). Although the main rainy season is April / May and November in fact it can rain all year round in Uganda. Everything stays green and with an all year round growing season the farmers can get four crops of maise.
We set off meandering along close to the banks of the Nile. About six years ago the Nile here had many rapids and the fishermen would often drown. Then a dam was built downstream for hydro electricity, the river rose about 6m and the water became flat and safe.
Education is supposedly free throughout Uganda but unfortunately the buildings aren’t always maintained nor the teachers paid and so they end up charging school fees which of course not everyone can pay. TJ and Natalie of Nile Horseback Safaris, along with others, set up a fund to build a school in their local village 5 years ago. It now has 400 pupils between the ages of 3 and 13. A local charity called Soft Power supports this and a number of other schools in the area. A number of us had used up our airline luggage allowance and brought children’s books etc and we’ve given them to the Soft Power charity to distribute where they think they are most needed.
It’s a humbling experience for us to visit the school. The teachers have a blackboard but not much else and the children are crammed in four to a bench seat in classes of up to 60 children.
But they are overwhelming pleasant and polite. We sneak a look at their exercise books and their work is very neat. One class is studying history of Uganda and copying from the blackboard in beautiful handwriting. Another class is working on fractions. “If a farmer plants 3/8ths of his field in maize, how much of his field is left?”
One room which looks like it might have been a shack turns out to be the nursery with a range of children from 3 years to 10 years who hadn’t been to school before and they were singing and reciting songs.
Riding on, we leave the small subsidence farms and enter a huge sugar plantation. The cane grows tall but there are great tracks for some long trots and canters. The clay is a little slippy this morning because of the rain last night and so we don’t go quite as fast as might be possible at other times.
Cutting cane here is a hard manual job. We pass some of the workers’ accommodation and the people here are poorer than we’ve seen before.
Next to the huge sugar plantation we ride past tea gardens.
Very unusually, the picking was being done by men with machines which were cutting the leaves and vacuuming them into a huge sack. I always thought tea picking had to be done manually so that the tips could be ‘plucked’ by hand but perhaps this was going to a lower grade tea and it didn’t matter so much?
We have a delightful stop for coffee and croissant (yes, we are being that spoiled on this trip!) at a lovely lookout.
Some kids have come to watch what is going on.
And of course delight in seeing themselves on camera.
One little chap is brave enough to ride – on my gentle giant of a horse – Jack Daniels.
Seeing people along the way is a big highlight of this trip. And one never feels so bad taking a photo when even the teacher takes out his phone and takes photos of us.
More great riding through this open countryside.
Our destination tonight is Rainforest Lodge set in the Mabira Forest.
There are 12 chalets set throughout the rainforest and connected by rather treacherous paths. It gets dark about 7 and the deafening frog chorus begins.
To read about other days on this trip, click below.
Arriving in Entebbe
Riding by the Nile and Lake Victoria
It’s wet in a rainforest
Wild waters of the Nile
If you would like to join this fantastic riding adventure in Uganda, here is a link to our website with more details of the ride, the itinerary and the forthcoming dates and prices.