Two years after meeting at the EEASA 2016 conference in Johannesburg PACE partners from The Seychelles and Uganda were reunited through a school exchange visit that they organised for their respective colleagues and learners.

All the teachers and 10 students from the English River Secondary school travelled to Uganda in August this year.  It was school holiday but 64 students and 16 teachers from Mutolere Secondary remained at school to receive and host their visitors.  They did a lot together – visited a wide range of local sites including mines, caves, lake shores, the border area with DRC, hiking on a volcano, in tea plantations and the Mgahinga Gorilla National Park. They shared their culture around camp fires – by singing, dancing and food preparation.  Fish was brought from Seychelles and they demonstrated how it is cooked traditionally. Mutolere Secondary School students prepared the Bafumbira traditional food almost every day. You can read more in an August post.

Today, we’d like to share the thoughts of teachers and students in Uganda, as they looked back on the exchange and reflected on what they learned from it.

The Ugandans noted how impressed their visitors were, but that they felt Uganda’s potential isn’t being exploited. “When we were in different areas, they talked about the bad roads connecting the national parks and also when they visited the cave, they thought not much has been done to make use of tourism opportunity, the same for the beaches, which they said were amazing. We hadn’t thought about this before.”

Students at St. Paul’s Mutolere S.S Wildlife Club said they learned ‘More about ways of conserving the environment through planting trees in the school and in their respective homes and about proper disposal of litter and the need for plastic recycling. Also, ‘how to preserve culture through traditional dances, folksongs, exchanging riddles and proverbs rather than irrationally following western culture!’ They learned ‘how to prepare sweet potatoes using a new and modern method of cooking and ways of communicating, listening and interacting with foreign people with different languages; how to change barriers into opportunities especially through making friendships; how to socialize with foreigners and that different countries have different geographical make up which make them have different flora and fauna species.’

Students at the host school said ‘The visitors were social, good time managers, Quick at acting reasonably, Good environmentalists’ and ‘Helpful’.

The headmaster of Mutolele commented on the visitors ‘Use of integrative approach in teaching and learning for conservation, and administrative  skills like peer collaboration in relation to developing school and community. He was also impressed by their strategies for financing school activities, by involving different stake holders for example the business community, parents and self initiative like club projects in school to rise income which could help in supporting wild life club and others.

Exchange visits like these can be expensive, Seychelles is generally more prosperous and an easier place to raise sponsorship, but it seems that the Ugandan hosts enjoyed and learned a lot from their visitors.  PACE is thrilled to have catalyzed such a positive activity and proud to be linked to such proactive conservationists. Our thanks to Denis Agaba, PACE Champion in Uganda for sharing.