It had been a while since the last time we visited the Banulule School of Orphans. As we had some things to take there, and there were only the two of us, we had to go by car this time. Driving west from lower Muyenga through the narrow, bumpy street of red dirt, there’s a stage where the walls and big houses disappear, and the path (for that’s what the street has become by then) is lined by wooden shacks and other low buildings the colour of mud. That’s where the orphans live.
We parked next to the school lot, stunned after seeing that there were no longer any buildings in the little fenced area. A group of children was rapidly accumulating by the gate. Inside, there was nothing but a pile of bricks. The school was gone. “Sister?” Kaija asked. “Yes. Sister!” one of the kids gestured down the path. She took Kaija’s hand and off we went through the slum, with a few children in close contact, two white faces in a sea of locals. The little guides soon led us from the main path to a network of narrow passageways filled with nakes toddlers, chickens, and open sewers. After a couple of minutes, we found the Sister in a minuscule room with her two co-workers. Children were swarming everywhere, little ones carrying tiny ones. The welcome was as hearty as always.
The women explained that the Local Council had taken the former land. Apparently something is going to be built there. They had relocated to this cramped set of rooms, where they could just about fit the beds. There was no classroom. The school sign was leaning against a wall in the little open space between the huts; I hesitate to call it a courtyard. The Sister said there was a house available, but she would need seventy million shillings, half the total price, to be able to move there with the orphans. The house is nearby; we later visited it with the Sister.
One of the women walked with me to the car, and I drove back at walking pace via a longer, passable route, making sure I didn’t hit any buildings, animals, or charcoal fires. It was dinner time. The few kilos of potatoes, beef, and vegetables we brought won’t last long, but we decided to go back next week and bring sacks of rice, posho, and other dry food for Christmas. All the children’s clothes donated for Banulule by friends in Finland will certainly be in good use for as long as they last. If there was something in the boxes that the orphans at the school cannot use, I’m sure there will be another willing owner living within twenty metres.