Fearless Batwa “Pygmies” Begin to Learn English

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Norah (see the video above) was one of the 10 Batwa “Pygmies” of Rwamahano who got a Batwa Community English Class certificate at Edirisa today. In other words, they completed an introduction to the English language to help them with their guiding and with the Gorilla Highlands Batwa Jamboree that they are co-organising (April 2019 update: the jamboree has been moved from Easter to Christmas 2019).

Their volunteer teacher was Pauline Amuge (famous for her work on Kampala’s Radio One), helped by Chris Weigers (musician who teaches music in Uganda’s capital city), Tezy Masozera (coordinator) and Bright Owen (translator). Pauline posted daily updates on her Facebook page, that you can — summarised a little — enjoy below:

Day 1, 17 December 2018: Bonding Session

Agandi. Amazina gangye ni Pauline Amuge. Nashemeregwa kubabugana. (I hope I got it right!)

We met 10 amazing Batwa community leaders from Rwamahano Village today; most are farmers and some of them also guide in nearby Echuya Forest. We had fun learning their language and culture.

As we introduced writing skills today, we noticed most do not know how to write. Kabara who you see on the picture spent most of the day excited to learn how to write her own name. She would like to be a teacher.

Day 2, 18 December 2018: Basic English Commands

Today was an amazing class. We introduced letter sounds to help them form and read words easily, then basic English commands to begin the session of interacting with people. The practical class left us in stitches.

For the elderly people like Norah and Yohana (the chairman of the community) to come and learn English at their age is truly humbling. Because of their bravery, we took them for their first boat cruise ever, to learn from the guide who was telling us about the 29 islands and their rich history.

Day 3, 19 December 2018: Tour Guiding

If there is an opportunity to build others, take it. I had heard of the Pygmies but never met one, so when this chance came I could not miss it. I have learnt over and over again to go far with others; Chris was the Master for today’s class. (The Batwa call a teacher ‘Master’. Amazing!)

So, today we passed on tour guiding skills and gave four of the trainees an opportunity to practice on a canoe ride, hill hike and craft design. Paul Ishimwe, manager at Edirisa, guided us on today’s tour. Craftmaker Annah was excited to teach her own people and that is what the #IAmGorillaHighlands is all about.

Even with the Batwa way of life long gone, their memories show you that they are still proud of who they are and have hope that one day they will be compensated and have their own land and rebuild their name.

Day 4, 20 December 2018: Filing and Reports

Thomas Obunde once said “you never know how or when you die but you can certainly choose what you do with your life now.” I choose to live for God and love people to see them thrive, every single day.

Today was my turn to be quiet and listen. To hear Norah say ‘good morning’ and Yohana ‘how are you’, Robert ‘yes please’, Eunice ‘thank you’, James ‘photo you’, Kabara ‘I am happy to see you’, David ‘come’, Reuben ‘I am fine’, Alexander ‘you’re welcome’, Phiona ‘I want go with you’ was my proof that a foundation has been laid.

Records and filings are crucial elements in tour guiding. Today we covered the basics, encouraging them to take notes of dates, events, activities and memories. Everyone got a chance to have a two by two conversation.

James and David who desire to own business cars received driving tips. They had never seen what’s in a car that makes it move and they did drive it a bit too… Eunice and Robert paddled on the lake for the first time; they used English to show me what they were seeing and asked questions of what they didn’t understand. They did well.

Day 5, 21 December 2018: Class Appreciation

Today I salute our 10 brave Batwa leaders for completing this week’s class; their grateful words overwhelmed us with joy. We had everyone leave a love thumbprint to show that they where present and laid a timeless foundation for the rest of their people.

Thank you Edirisa for caring for the Batwa and for inviting me to be a part of the Batwa’s community development! Have a Merry Christmas and productive 2019!

photo: Tezy Masozera, Bright Owen, Paul Ishimiwe