Entente is a city of beaches. It sits on the vast shores of Lake Victoria and celebrates those waters with private resorts, public beaches, restaurants from around the world, and vibrant, rambling markets. For my U.S readers, picture a sprawling African version of Southern Florida.
We exited the airport to the swirling winds of an afternoon tropical storm. Cool drafts of air caught at our hair and clothes and fat raindrops splashed around us while we scurried to the car with our bags.
Sister Salome, our coordinator in this area, was right. The Pearl of Africa is green.
We went straight from the airport in our bedraggled state to one of our newest schools, St. Mary Reparatrix. As the name suggests, the school is Catholic, but all backgrounds and creeds are accepted. We walked into the small central courtyard to a lively, humming scene of girls reporting for the first week of term. Everywhere we looked another cluster if girls smiled and waved at the visitors as the hurried past with backpacks and books.
Over a generous meal in the headmistress’s office, we talked about progress in girls’ education in Uganda and the challenges of running a school here. BBC was audible in the background with breaking news on a peace agreement between Israel and the PLO and devastation in Syria.
We spent only an hour and a half interviewing and answering questions-far too short a time to spend with students eager to tell us how happy they were at school and to ask for advise on getting degrees. Many of our students dream of training abroad. They tell us they want to bring their training back to Uganda, and many would. But the country is scrambling to offer enough to live on for the professionals it undeniably needs. Another school principal has estimated the unemployment rate for youth here at about 70%. The total figure for Ugandans may be as high as 30 or 40% (I promise to do my research when we get back).
Our visit to St. Mary’s is a reminder that we are addressing only one tiny piece of the challenges that will shape our world over the next ten years. But, for us and these young women, it is an important and thoroughly enjoyed but of history on the shore of Lake Victoria.