Dear Friends

Schools re-opening

On 15th December the government announced that pre-primary, primary and secondary schools will re-open on 10th January 2022. The school year in Uganda runs from late January to early December and the government are instructing schools to allow all children to be promoted to the next class/year group. (Progression is not based on age, but is normally conditional on satisfactory performance in end of year exams.) Thus even Primary One–Three children who studied for about half a term in 2020, are expected to enter Primary Two–Four. JJ Excel College, together with other colleges and universities, re-opened on 1st November, having been closed since early June. Many students graduated during the partial re-opening earlier in the year and thus only one year group are currently studying. New students will enrol early in the new year. We plan to visit a neighbouring district early next year with the aim of attracting more full fee-paying students so that the college can become self-sustaining.

Within Bushenyi, JJ is known as an organisation helping students and subsidising the fees. This means that we attract many students with a genuine need for financial support, but unfortunately it can also lead to parents who may otherwise make every effort to pay, being reluctant to prioritise the college fees when they have other financial pressures. Facility improvements We are thankful for funding which is enabling us to make some important improvements to facilities.

At secondary, work is currently underway to improve the water supply. Upon its completion water will be pumped into water tanks at the girls’ dorm and kitchen (and also to the boys dorm, when a tank is fixed). It has proved harder than expected to find water though, the engineer has had to dig much deeper than anticipated...and is still digging! We trust it will be finished in time to give staff and students a welcome surprise, especially the girls who will be pleased to discover they no longer have to fetch water from down a steep hill which becomes rather muddy and slippery during wet weather.

We are hoping to fix windows and doors in the third room of the secondary boys dorm, and ideally to complete the floor, if funding allows. This will provide more space for study or accommodation, which will help in meeting social distancing requirements.

At JJ Excel College the building students recently started building a new kitchen with their tutor, as part of their course internship requirements. The current kitchen, a temporary wooden structure is gradually being destroyed by ants. The new kitchen will be a permanent brick building, with an energy-saving stove to minimise on the use of firewood. At primary we would like to do some painting work to brighten up the environment (any volunteers?!). JJ was recently offered two solar powered projectors and screen, with TV/USB options, available at a significant discount (subsidised by China Aid). Both JJ Excel and the secondary school have benefitted from the offer, and students at the college have already made good use of theirs during computer lessons.

Sacco & Hospital Support

Beth spent about five weeks in Bushenyi during September/October. This was mainly spent updating some paperwork, and providing some accounts/ computer support at a small savings and credit cooperative society serving the same area as JJ. Horace was requested to help oversee the accounts for a new non-profit hospital (Hope Missionary Hospital) serving a rural area in Eastern Uganda. He made his first visit a week or so ago and was very impressed with the facilities. He wasn’t so impressed with the traffic jam on his JJ Excel’s current kitchen return to Kampala though. He called around 7pm to say he was on his way, but traffic was very heavy. I asked him where he had reached: ‘Gayaza’. About an hour later we talked again by phone: ‘Where are you now?’ ‘Gayaza!’ Our home is on the main road west out of Kampala—very convenient for travel to and from Bushenyi, but not so convenient when travelling east and having to bypass Kampala, even on back roads!

Churches were allowed to re-open in October, with a maximum of 200 per gathering (irrespective of the size of the congregation). Our local cell/fellowship is meeting again in our garden on a weekly basis and we are able to attend church physically too.

Vaccines

We have both received two vaccines now. All staff and students over 18 years old must be vaccinated before returning to school/college. We have not heard any mention of booster vaccines being available in Uganda. It seems that enough vaccines are available for adults (less than 50% of the population) who require one. The uptake was initially relatively low but seems to be improving. We hear a lot about the ‘Omicron’ variant of Covid-19 on international news, but to date it doesn’t seem to have had the same effect in Uganda, although it has been identified here.

UK Visits

We have been thankful for visits to the UK each year up until our last visit in June 2019. However with so many uncertainties relating to Covid-19 and travel rules, we have not set any dates for our next visit.

Christmas

Horace and I will travel to Bushenyi on 23rd December for the Christmas–New Year period. There is traditionally a mass exodus from Kampala and surrounding areas before Christmas as many travel ‘to the village’ (family home) in different parts of the country. While in Bushenyi we expect to undertake a few tasks in preparation for schools’ re-opening, including spending a day in neighbouring Buhweju District on behalf of JJ’s college (‘mobilising students’) with the District Chairman as our guide. We have invitations to various seasonal functions too. “Joseph, son of David,...do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife....” “Get up, ... take the child and his mother and escape to Egypt...” “Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel....” May we be willing to listen and quick to obey, like Joseph!

Thank you for your interest and support, With love, Horace and Bethan