I arrived at Siriba at the end of April 2010 and was very warmly welcomed. Everyone was very friendly and extremely helpful, so my thanks go to Althurs and to everyone else at the school. I was also given a warm welcome in the congregation that meets at the school on Sundays and at the parish church at Bweyale. I was also invited to preach at the parish church. The chair of the Board of Governors of the VTC was also grateful to HATW for sending me and the, and the Board, greeted me. The practical arrangements that had been made for my stay including my accommodation, food, and personal needs were excellent.
It took me a few days to orientate myself. Many people visited me and remembering names and faces wasn’t altogether easy but, with help, I managed. Albert kindly helped me to practice the Luo greetings but I soon discovered that many languages were spoken in this part of Uganda. As time went on Moses shared with me many local stories which were fascinating. I even shared some English traditional stories with my hosts.
My first duty at the VTC was to open the box of tools that had been sent by Hands Around The World. These were enthusiastically received. I gave Althurs the 165,000 UGS he had paid to release the tools and agreed to send on the extra money for transporting the tools to Siriba.
I was very impressed when I saw the VTC in action. The students seemed to be very well motivated and the quality of the teaching was very professional. It was good to see such a varied curriculum being so well taught. There were some problems with lack of workbenches and tools in the carpentry section and with the lack of tables and machines in the tailoring section. In both sections there was only a limited supply of materials for the students to use. Towards the end of my visit the question of the qualifications of the tutors was raised in relation to the accrediting of the unit with the Ministry of Education and Sports and with the examinations board. My own view is that the quality of teaching and instruction was easily sufficient for accreditation even though some tutors may lack formal qualifications. I stressed that it was important to have some part-time tutors who had their own businesses to be part of the work of the VTC. One of the highlights of my visit was being able to work alongside the carpentry instructors in their department. However, with no tailoring skills I could only look on in amazement at the work being done.
I was also impressed with the VTC building. No doubt as time goes on and the number of students increases it may need extension but, for the present and into next year the building is more than adequate.
There was some discussion during my visit of possible new courses that could be added to the curriculum. Some of these, for example a computing course, would be heavily dependent on an electricity supply. We discussed the possibility of a connection to the high tension cable running along the main road or the purchase of a generator. My thoughts now are that at least for next year the consolidation of the present two courses ought to be the priority and that, once this has been achieved, then and only then should new courses be added. It will also be important to consult local business leaders to see which skills will be most important to the local economy.
I was asked by Althurs and others to assist the VTC Bursar to work out a budget. Omony Francis had already done a great deal of work on this by consulting the tutors on their requirements for materials, tools, machines etc. The problem was that when all this was added together and when tutors remuneration was taken into account there was far too little income to supply all these needs. Francis and I tried to spread these costs over five years, but there still turned out to be a large deficit especially in this first year. In consultation with other it was decided to call a joint meeting of the Board of Governors, the Project Committee, and the Tutors to address this. The meeting was, in my view, a great success because all three groups proved that they could work in harmony for the good of the project.
Whilst in Siriba I explained that through HATW six students had already been found sponsors and that three more were in the pipeline. Althurs also helped six more students to complete application forms and I took photographs.
My leaving of Siriba was quite an emotional experience. I was given an official farewell by the vicar and members of the parish church which included gifts and a wonderful meal. The Board of Governors also arranged a farewell on the day before I was to leave and this included gifts, songs, poems, and a play performed by the students of the VTC, the event closed with a feast.
In conclusion I feel that my time in Siriba was a very deep experience. I am sure I learned more from my friends in Siriba than they learnt from me. I also deeply appreciated their prayers and many good wishes for my return home.