Maryhill School, Uganda
OLA has a longstanding partnership with Maryhill School in Uganda. This has now been extended to other Ugandan schools and there are regular visits by staff and students from OLA to Africa. These visits are annually reciprocated and we are always happy to welcome our Ugandan visitors. OLA’s teachers have also taken part in the British Council’s Connecting Classrooms project, giving them the opportunity to teach at Maryhill and experience Ugandan education at first hand.
Reflections on my visit to Uganda – Stephen Oliver
I had the great privilege to accompanying the group of OLA staff and students who visited our partner schools in Uganda. We were the guests of the headmistress of Maryhill High School in Mbarara, a town in the south west of the country about five hours’ drive from Kampala. To get to Maryhill we had to cross the Equator. There I had the unusual experience of eating lunch at a restaurant in the northern hemisphere and visiting the nearest toilets in the southern hemisphere. It took about a minute to get from one to the other.
Above: School Board Members
The students stayed in one of the girls’ boarding houses at Maryhill, coming up the hill every morning to have breakfast with Sr Anastasia, the headmistress, and me in the small convent in which she lives. Just before we left England, Abingdon had been enjoying a rare heat wave, and I was surprised to find that the temperature in Uganda lower than it had been at home. Everyone in Mbarara was complaining about the heat and the general consensus seemed to be that the rainy season was preferable. We, however, were grateful that the dry weather meant a complete absence of mosquitos, and after a while we gave up smothering ourselves with the unpleasant-smelling insect repellent. Despite this, I never quite had the courage to abandon my mosquito net at night.
The Staff of the school giving a helping hand
Maryhill is an extraordinary place. Over a thousand girls board there and it is one of the most prestigious schools in Uganda. Alumni are to be found in the highest ranks of Ugandan society. Half the school is Catholic, the rest mainly Anglican. There is a great deal of emphasis in the country on equal opportunities for women and a tremendous determination from the girls to succeed. Not all of them come from a privileged background and they work extremely hard to ensure that they will be admitted to the top universities. The pupils rise at 5.45am and by 6.00 are at their desks to do private study. At 6.45 there is an optional Mass, which I attended with Sr Anastasia on my first morning. I was amazed to find the hall full, crammed with about half the school who were singing their hearts out even before any of the staff had arrived. It was explained to me that there was a committee of senior girls that controlled the music and that they never had any problem in getting the girls to sing.
At 7.15 the pupils sweep and clean the dormitories and then have a brief fifteen minutes for breakfast before going to Assembly at eight. All the cleaning and laundry is done by the girls, who seem to think nothing of it. The Assembly, like the music, was run by a committee of prefects with the school’s staff taking no part. After we had been very warmly welcomed, this was our opportunity to introduce ourselves and to talk to the pupils about the partnership we enjoy with Maryhill. I told them about the Connecting Classrooms grant we receive from the British Council, money that enables OLA and Maryhill staff to visit and teach in each others’ schools.
Stephen Oliver (Principal OLA)