Reading Uganda

Today I attend a debate on the presence of Ugandan Literature in the secondary school curriculum (they still have the old ‘O’ and ‘A’ level system here). A spokesperson for the National Curriculum Development Council delivered a spirited defense of the current policy, where very few Ugandan writers are featured. She cites a number of factors, including poor editing and language use in published work. Most writers and editors would agree with that. Her case is answered by teacher and poet, Joseph Mugasa, who I first met here ten years ago. He gives a characteristically funny and energetic response, arguing that writers, publishers and teachers needed to work together in the interests of Ugandan culture. We discuss ways of doing this, including a poet laureateship and a ‘readathon’ to promote reading and awareness of contemporary literature. It’s a friendly but passionate debate and Joseph is on good form, making many of his points with jokes and aphorisms.

Afterwards I manage to access my email at Femrite and spread the news that Beatrice Lamwaka from Crossing Borders and the Lancaster/Uganda Friends Writing Project has been shortlisted for the Caine Prize for short fiction, which is generating real excitement here. Then lunch with Hilda and Tino and a call to an old friend – Susan Kiguli, poet and lecturer at Makerere – when we arrange to meet at the Guest House and catch up. I’ve already arranged to meet two postgraduate students heading for the Management School at Lancaster and find a note from an American Fulbright scholar asking if we can meet up to talk about her project – an investigation into imported sanitary towels. I’m not sure I’ll be able to help much, but call her all the same. Then I visit the University bookshop and pick up a Luganda phrasebook and ‘Birds of Uganda’ – Speckled Mousebird, Blue-Naped Mousebird, Narina’s Trogon…there’s a lot to look out for…


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