Upon arrival the parents sign in at the gate and then are assigned a group tour guide who escorts them through the grounds, inspecting dormitories, admiring the agriculture projects, and being entertained and amazed by demonstrations in various classrooms. As soon as I arrived Julia spotted me, so I did a personal tour, beginning with her "knitting and crocheting" club group who had spread their handiwork on tables in a classroom and eagerly told interested parents about their creative process. From there Jack found me and pulled me into Caleb's classroom where one of the boys we sponsor, Kadima, was spokesperson for the agriculture club, and had set up a model of a three-pit system for composting. In the labs we saw a frog and a rabbit dissection in process, and students were on hand to discuss insect parts and preserved biological specimens. The cooking club had set up a small kitchen and discussed their recipes as they cooked. Then Caleb took me to his math club demo, where they used a surveying method to measure the height of a tree. All of these stations are an opportunity for the students to show the parents skills they are learning, and for the parents to appreciate the opportunities the school affords. Occasionally there is also a take-home message; in the frog lab the opened intestines were crawling with a mass of roundworms, and the teacher in charge was using this as a public health opportunity to remind parents of the importance of deworming children.
By noon most people were gathering in the student's assembly area, an open-air hall which is used for chapel. Yesterday it was decorated with balloons and flowers and crowded with several hundred parents in their best clothes. Then came the program, which went for a good five hours. Songs, speeches, poetry, traditional dance, and a long play, all interspersed with speeches from various representatives. Most of this was good even if a bit long, with striking harmonies and amazing rhythm. In Ugandan "demand" culture, it is typical for parents to present their requests and administration to answer. I realized this year that most of the major points parents make every year (we need an infirmary, there should be a school canteen for buying small essentials, the dorm space is too crowded, the library is not well used) had ALL been answered at last, with the completion of building projects and more recently even the work that Annelise has invested in the library. David gave a good speech introducing himself as the new headmaster but emphasizing from Psalm 126 that the school is Christ's, not David's or Kevin's, and that we are here to work together. He told the parents that he valued transparency and wanted to address problems openly and together, and asked for their cooperation and prayers. Scott was the final speaker, and used a passage from Philippians 2 talked about Christ-like humility.
Which was appropriate, because the only really distressing part of the day was the student council representative's speech. This boy is the soon-to-graduate son of a recently-investigated-for-fraud political leader, and he was shockingly disrespectful of the teaching staff, the administration, and even the parents. I will not repeat his allegations, but I was most appalled when he basically threatened violence, and many others were shaking their heads. Most sadly for me, one of my students was the translator (the speech was in English so he was translating for the vast majority of the parents who can not understand English). I was not the only person who cares deeply about the school and the kids there who was nearly in tears by the end. However since then I've tried to realize that the students have not learned how to express dissent and opinion in a respectful way, how to be heard while still saying what is on their hearts. They got a taste of the power of free speech and blew it. They need smaller steps of learning to protest.
This is a battle ground, and so often our hearts want to withdraw, or give up, particularly if we are under attack. Pray for supernatural love to propel us towards the unruly and the proud, the immature and the ungrateful. Jesus moves towards me in love in spite of my indifference and selfishness. Praying for the parental love to do the same.