5 January 2020
This morning my friend, Lydia, picked me up for church to attend the 9:30am service at All Saints Cathedral, a large Anglican church in Kampala. She had her daughter, Mary, her daughter-law, Anneth, her son James, and her granddaughter, Eliza, with her. This particular service is the contemporary service with uplifting music you dance to and sing your hearts out. There were actually 4 services today; the other ones were: 7:30am (traditional service with holy communion), 11:30am (a mixture of contemporary and traditional) and 3pm (the youth Holy Communion service). They have the words on TV screens around the sanctuary and everything was in English from the Bible reading to the Sermon and songs. They did one song in Luganda but the words were projected and just repeated over and over again and it was easy to catch on, while the singing was happening. I don’t remember all of the words now but it started out with “Ai Mukama”, which I think means The Lord or The Holy One, and then there were 2 other long words that started with “O” and one meant “wide or large” and the other meant “tall or high”, I think. The people made hand motions when these “O” words were sung. To one they put there hands out in front of their belly and pulled them apart as if you were saying “fat or wide” and for the other they either pulled their hands apart vertically, going up, or for some it looked like they were stepping their hand up on top of each other. I believe the meaning of the song is that God is all powerful and reaches all the ends of the earth to provide for and love us. The church was completely packed and there were people in tents outside the building. This was wonderful to see—the energy was palpable! Back home in the US, this has not been my experience. Another fascinating part of the service was the offering. This is when the gifts to the church and God are collected, meaning money is collected. As with churches back home, people came around with bags to put the money in (most often we use baskets back home). There were 2 bags: one was for the giving of money for their new church building project, which is almost complete after 5 or more years, and the other was an offering of thanks. Lydia said the church also collects tithes, the 10% of our earning we give back to God, but those are usually given in envelopes for record tracking. So, the loose money given in these bags was actually extra, above and beyond the tithe. As if this weren’t generous enough, after the regular offering collection, groups of people came forward to the front of the church with more money they were giving as thanks to God for the blessings given to them. Some of these people were giving thanks for something wonderful that happened during the prior week, such as getting over a sickness or coming through an accident without dying. Then they called up those who had birthdays in January and lots of people came forward to give money to give thanks to God for their birthday and living another year. The December birthdays were also called forward and gave more cash. These gifts were specified as going to the building fund. In the US, many children and some adults celebrate their birthdays with parties and the guests bring gifts, but I never heard of someone giving an extra offering to the church to thanks God for their birthday. This is something that I’m going to seriously consider. The service lasted 2 full hours, although it seemed to go faster than that and those for the next service were coming in as we left so it was pretty crazy getting out of church and leaving the parking area.
We then dropped James off at home and headed to the Kampala Sheraton Hotel for brunch. I have never been there before and it is really lovely. There were very many choices of food on the buffet including made to order stir fry, traditional local Ugandan cuisine, Indian cuisine, grilled chicken, salads, soup, and lots of delicious looking desserts. We stayed there for hours conversing and enjoying each others company. Eliza was very good, although not too hungry, and at one point Mary took her to get a balloon creation that was a ring and had her forehead painted with a pretty flower. I learned that Mary graduated with a teaching degree recently and is a primary and secondary school biology and chemistry teacher in Mbarara. She is currently on holiday break from school. The school system in Uganda starts in February each year and ends in November, so there is a holiday break for December and January. This is contrary to the US school system which starts in August or September, depending on the state, and goes until May or June. In Uganda, children start primary school at the age of 6 and the first grade is called P1 (for primary 1). In the US, this would be called 1st grade and we generally call the lower grades Elementary school. Primary school goes up to P7 and students take exams at the end of P7 before going into Secondary school. So when a child starts Primary school, they start P1 in February and go to November. The following year they start P2 in February, and so on. After P7, students go into Secondary school which starts with S1, which would be equivalent to 8th grade in the US. Secondary school has 4 grades: S1, S2, S3, S4. So after S4, which when US students are in 11th grade, Uganda students take big exams called the O-level exams. O stands for “Ordinary”. They are about 17 years old at this point and this is the end of basic education. If you want to go on with education and score high enough on your O-level exams, you can go into the A-level grades. “A” stands for Advanced coursework and has 2 levels and is also called Form 6, or grades 12 and 13. During these years, students study only courses that relate to the profession they want to go into. So for a student who intend to be a pharmacist, they will chose science and math courses while a student going into the humanities will not take any science or math. The A-level exam grade determines eligibility for university and in Uganda, the government sponsorships (scholarships) for university are given to those with the highest A-level scores. I was in Uganda awhile back when the A-level scores were released to the public in the NEWSPAPER! So anyone could see what students achieved. If a student desires to be a pharmacist but doesn’t achieve a high A-level score, she may go to training to become a pharmacy technician. Many pharmacy technicians go onto study pharmacy later and from my experience here and back home, they do have an edge up since they have been working in the field as a pharm tech and have gotten to know the drugs and become comfortable speaking with patients.
Lydia’s daughter-in-law, Anneth, is a physician in her 2nd year of the Master of Radiology program at Mulago National Referral Hospital and Makerere University. Her husband, Treasure, is also a physician (they met in school in Tanzania) and is in his 2nd year of the Master of Surgery program, also with Makerere and Mulago. In the US, after medical school, the training is called Residency and does not award an additional degree, such as a Masters, but is required to practice in the discipline you choose. Also, to go to medical school in the US, you much first graduate from university with a bachelors degree and then attend medical school for 4 more years, so a total of 8 years before residency. My son, Christian, graduated from medical school last May and is in his first year of his Neurosurgery Residency. This is one of the longest programs in the US and it will take him 7 years to become a Neurosurgeon. At that point, he would do extra fellowship if he wanted to sub-specialize. The US health professions programs include all of the experiential learning, like seeing patients in the clinics and hospitals, into the university education. While in Uganda, the student graduates from the health professions program at the university and then does a paid Internship for 1 year to be eligible for licensure. At this point in Uganda you can practice as a General Practitioner—going for your Masters is for those who want to specialize. My son was able to come to Uganda last March to complete one of his 4th year medical school clinical rotations. He worked with the Neurosurgeons at Mulago Hospital and with Winnie, my friend and collaborator, who is the Clinical Neurosurgery Pharmacist and lecturer for Makerere Pharmacy School. I’ll close with some of the photos he took during his fantastic visit here! It was a thrill for me to have him work with and meet many of my Ugandan friends!