Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Peer Group Drama at Namitanga

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. 

A cornflower 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. 

Besides my 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 boys.
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.
The players 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.



Anonymous http://www.boardingschools.in/ said...

The old students have to encourage the students of their schools by providing the required information for them.

4:56 AM  

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