Many readers live in a world that is both contextually and geographically removed from Uganda. To bring them closer to Good Samaritan, this page narrates the school’s surroundings and the students’ daily activities in vivid detail.
All the students at Good Samaritan wake up at around 5:30 to wash up and put on their school uniforms. By 6:30, they leave the dormitory to prepare for the day. The students split up to perform several tasks in the morning. Using brooms that are made of twigs, a few of them sweep the stray leaves that have fallen from the avocado trees around. All the leaves are then collected and transferred to a compost pit using a wheelbarrow. Some clean the dormitory rooms and classrooms. Two water tanks have been donated to Good Samaritan to store rainwater. These students fetch water using jerry cans and carry it to their locations to begin wiping the floor and windows. Also in the queue to fetch water are students who help to prepare meals. They bring water to the cook at the makeshift kitchen so that he can start making porridge for breakfast. Other students involved in meal preparation sit on a bench under a small tree and peel sweet potatoes.
Their hands are mostly occupied in the process, but they may steal a moment or two to use signs to engage in conversations. All the students participate in starting the day, be it a four-year-old nursery student who walks a distance just to drop a couple of leaves into the wheelbarrow or a twenty-two year old student who swings a heavy axe to chop firewood for the cook.
At 7:30, all the students wrap up their respective tasks and gather in front of the classrooms for an assembly. There is an elevated platform on which the two head prefects would stand. They usually start by greeting the students and making sure that each of them is well. Cases of sickness are usually reported to them at this moment – which will then be relayed by them to the teachers. They then take the chance to express their gratitude to the students for their earlier efforts and give some constructive feedback on how the tasks can be further improved. Sometimes, they highlight matters that happened in the previous night or brief the students on upcoming activities. The teachers would start to arrive at this point. They may assume the assembly if there are special announcements to be made. As a closure, the two head prefects would lead the rest of the student body in signing the Ugandan National Anthem and the Lord’s Prayer.
Lessons begin at 8:00. Due to the lack of space, students of varying levels share the same classrooms. Sometimes, the blackboard is segregated into two halves and two teachers would teach at the same time – that is possible since learning is done through sign language, though it can still be distracting. Or, if only one teacher is available, he or she explains the general concept to all and delves deeper into the topic with the upper year students. In other instances, if the weather permits, the teacher brings students to other locations for lessons.
The situation is far from ideal, but the teachers and students still strive for the best learning outcome. Learning in sign language is fascinating. All the knowledge is transferred through the hands, though this often happens more slowly than in a spoken language. It is sometimes hard for students to understand the words written on the board, since sign language has more limited vocabulary. In addition, there is a structural disparity in Ugandan Sign Language and English that the students have to adjust to – which is harder than it sounds since the students do not “use” English, at least directly.
At 10:00, all of them queue up in front of the makeshift kitchen and receive a plastic cup full of porridge. The porridge is made of maize and taken with little bit of sugar. Lessons then resume at 11:00 for another two hours before lunch is served. For lunch, students usually have sweet potatoes or Ugali (a sort of maize cake) with beans. Students add avocados to their diet when they fall from the trees. After lunch, lessons go on for another two hours before students are given free time for leisure. Many take a while to unwind for a day’s learning. The young students often flock to the swings and slide in the playground while the older ones tend to just rest in the dormitory. A few may have to complete some chores assigned by the teachers or run extended classes for themselves to reinforce their learning. Occasionally, the students conduct drama practice under the instruction of the teachers. Students of Good Samaritan are often requested to perform in the public. This is usually done to entertain guests in functions or celebrations. In return for their service, the school is rewarded monetarily. The content of the drama is selected to have instructive values and highlights to the public the aspirations of the deaf in Uganda. All the same, drama is an exceptional channel for the students to unleash their inner emotions and creativity. The students also actively participate in sports activities, such as football, volleyball and netball. Now and then, students of Good Samaritan would join students from other schools in these games. This helps to extend their network and friendship beyond the boundaries of the school.
Dinner is ready at around 8:00. Good Samaritan lacks a dining hall and so students have to queue up in the dark for food and take their meals in the dormitory. This poses problems related to hygiene and the head prefects make sure that the food does not spill to the ground and invite pests. Electricity in the dormitory is generated using the few solar panels donated to the school. Lighting is essential for the students to be able to sign with one another. The number of students exceeds the available mattresses in the dormitory. Therefore, some of the younger students who are physically smaller have to share them. The school also has limited amount of bed frames, so most mattresses are simply laid on the floor. Lights are usually switched off at 10:00 to make sure that the students receive adequate sleep for the following day.
On Saturdays, the older students wake up at around 6:00. After brief preparation, about twenty of them gather outside the dormitory and begin a journey to the farm that lies about two kilometres away. The farm, situated on the slope of a hill, offers a picturesque view of the village. It contains staple crops such as sweet potato, cassava, maize and banana. At Good Samaritan, farming is highly valued as a pedagogical tool. Allowing students to contribute at the farm enhances their appreciation of the daily meals served at the school. In addition, farming is a highly practical skill that helps to lead to self-sustenance. With short breaks in between, the students work at the farm until about 10:30, whence the heat starts to become slightly unbearable. The students then gather and return to Good Samaritan.
On Sundays, all the students wake up at about the same time. They clean the compound just like any weekday, but instead of gathering for an assembly and attending lessons, students put on their best attire and participate in church service. The service is usually held in one of the classrooms, but on special occasions, the students may join the rest in a village church. The service is facilitated by a few older students and a deaf pastor. Praise and worship is typically the first item on the agenda. For that session, a senior student creates a tempo by hitting an empty jerry can with tree branches. Even with hearing impairment, the tempo can still be felt by the students. Following that, all of them dance and sign the lyrics of gospel songs. This is followed by a sharing session, in which students take turns to share with the rest what they feel grateful about in that particular week. The deaf pastor then takes over the service by introducing a verse or two from the bible and interpreting it to the students. The church service finishes at about 10:30.
The students typically spend the afternoon washing their school uniform and clothes, with those in the nursery section receiving assistance from the older students. After lunch, the students may visit the Kitengesa Community Library nearby to read story books and newspapers. Reading helps the students to improve their mastery of English and expand their knowledge on current issues. Most importantly, the library visit offers them a chance to socialize with students from other schools. This helps to break down the negative stereotypes that are held towards them enormously. Many of these negative stereotypes stem from traditional misconceptions or ignorance, but these close interactions allow the hearing students to see that the deaf are only different insofar as they use another language to communicate. In fact, since the library visits started, many of the hearing students became interested in learning sign language. They are eager to bring their conversations with the deaf students to the next level. The library now offers a sign language learning program after school hours and the lessons are consistently attended by at least thirty school students.