A drama is
being held at Namitanga Senior Secondary Schools in Mbarara town for us. A local NGO, Health and Development Agency Uganda (HEADA) established by former students has set up a project for Peer Groups in six
secondary schools. Namitanga is a Muslim
school not far from the town center. It
hosts a few boarding students and a larger group of day students. The Peer Group project meets regularly each
month. At Namitanga the group has grown
in numbers from month to month. Last
year in preparation for the start of the program, a Ugandan colleague, Angella,
and I provided some training for the Trainers on weekends. This is our first chance to see how the peer
groups are doing.
Today is a
visiting day for parents so there is a guard at the gate. Most boarding schools in Uganda have visiting
days each term when parents can visit children who are boarders. Snacks and drink are brought, teachers are quizzed
and family groups sit together in the compound.
Groups of students, dressed in spotless school uniforms stroll hand in
hand on the grass; raffle tickets are sold; greetings fill the air. Namitanga has few boarders and it is just a
couple of days before exams for the higher classes so a more muted atmosphere
prevails. However once we are in the
classroom where the play will be held, the excitement is quite palpable.
blue curtain has been stung across the front of the room. It has a small hole to the left of the middle
where various eyes peer out at us. The
play is introduced by the female teacher who acts as the Peer Group
sponsor. She explains the male teacher is
unable to attend. Although the full play
has 16 scenes and touches on most of the contemporary issues faced by students
today, for the sake of brevity it has been edited to 4 or 5 scenes. The writer and director, a member of the Peer
Group, is also one of the actors in the play.
It seems almost all the members of the Peer Group have been given a role
in the drama.
colleague Angella, our small group includes John Senoga, coordinator of the
Peer Group project and Dr. Sharif Mutabazi, Exec. Director of HEADA. We all have seats inside. At the windows on both sides of the room,
watching intently as the play unfolds is almost every one of the boarders at
the school today.
The title of
the play is The Dud. It seems a play of
words on Dad, but Ugandans do interesting things with the English language,
playful things, so we are not fast to come to consensus on what it could
mean. The many actors in the play are wonderful,
a step mother, two stepsisters, a brother all vying for the attention of the
father. At school there are a set of
allegorical characters, Salacious, a youthful, would-be womanizer; Degree, a
serious type wanting to be part of the group but with his eye set on the
future; and Temperature, a hot, joyful, bon-vivant, who has fallen for the serious,
studious but lovely Cinderella.
Salacious, Degree and Temperature cavort about the stage with their
outrageous comments, their gaiety and their wonderful depictions of teenage
The costumes and
props are few but clever and worn with panache.
Temperature has a mammoth, heavy lock on a chain around his neck, a spoof
on the heavy gold of street gangsters.
On his head a close fitting toque of turquoise blue with a pink scarf
flung around the neck of his white jacket.
He loops and glides across the stage, his movements a dance with
Salacious and Degree that appears choreographed by a master, bringing guffaws
and ringing laughter from us all. Temperature, along with his fellow Peer Group Members, is clearly a gifted actor and also
the writer and director of the play.
touch on all the sad, trying moments of keeping on the straight and narrow;
maintaining relationship with peers and parents; the temptations of being part
of the “in” crowd and the sheer joy of being alive. We are kept on the edge of our seats. Kept wondering what else happens in the ten
or more scenes we are not to see today.
There is great applause at the end with the students beaming with the
pleasure their performance has brought us.