On Wednesday, I was taken to my host home in Makindye Division, the southeastern corner of Kampala. The house is joined with Sesame Street Kindergarten, a nursery and day care run by Madina, my host mother. Madina receives no support from the government or any other national body, so has to run the school like a business, relying primarily on school fees to pay for the rent for the land, and salaries for six teachers and a secretary. There are over 100 three-to-six year olds enrolled at the school, split into three classes: top, middle and baby, so as you can imagine it gets a bit crazy at break time with all the children running around the small playground.
Madina has four children of her own, between the ages of 4 and 8. She is intent on them getting a good education and doing well in life, so encourages them to speak English at home (much to my disappointment – they’ve been helping me learn Luganda!) But the kids are really clever and love asking questions about England, especially Fahd, the eldest, who has aspirations of living in London near his cousins, who he sees about once a year when they come to visit Uganda.
Madina employs two housekeepers to help her around the home and school, and they both bring their children too, so there are six little ones running around at home causing mayhem, which will increase significantly when the new school term starts in February (it’s still the Christmas holidays at the moment, the longest holiday period of the year). Madina also looks after Dora, 12, and pays for her school fees in return for help around the house, especially with the children. Dora’s mum had more children than she could afford to look after so without Madina, Dora wouldn’t have the opportunity to go to school.
Madina is not your typical Ugandan woman, juggling a school and a family of four kids, with almost no help from her husband, a polygamist who has just married his fourth wife. But as the slogan for Sesame Street goes: “The struggle continues…”