Pen Pal program leads Ugandan teacher to visit Harby Junior High School



Paul Bukenya, a teacher from Uganda, walked the halls of Harby Junior High School at the end of August. It was the latest development in a relationship that began seven years ago when Melissa Watkins' 6th grade class at Harby Junior High School started a pen pal relationship with the Nkumba Christian Mixed Day & Boarding Primary School in Uganda, Africa.


That relationship turned into something more than just letters when students at Harby helped raise funds to help the Uganda school. Late in 2012, the lone restroom for the school in Uganda had been destroyed when a flood from Lake Victoria hit. Harby Jr. High stepped up and raised money to help the school rebuild their restroom.


“On Christmas Eve, I got a personal letter from the teacher wishing me a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and hoping that my holiday break was going well and then, also, to tell me of some bad news that they had. That the one and only restroom for their school of 650 kids had collapsed in a flood from Lake Victoria.”


In 2018, the Uganda school had their water well replaced when Harby Jr. High students stepped up again to give a helping hand.


In March 2019, Watkins traveled to Uganda for the first time to see for herself the Nkumba Christian Mixed Day & Boarding Primary School. The two schools have been exchanging letters for years but now she was going to experience what living and attending school in Uganda would feel like. Watkins shared her experiences with students and the community at an open house on March 26, 2019. For a couple of hours, students and parents got to visit several display stations highlighting the differences between the two cultures.


Now, it was Bukneya's turn to witness the cultural difference as he spent a couple of days as a visitor to Harby Jr. High. 


He says he was impressed with size of the campus and enjoyed hearing the different music that fill the halls when students get to class between periods. Bukenya says in Uganda, it is the teachers that are moving class to class and not the students. 


Bukenya says he felt like he was in a second home after learning about Harby for the past several years in letters, but he got to experience even more by interacting with classrooms and teachers and even giving several high fives to students.

He adds, "This is a good relationship and should be pursued. It's helping everyone in the relationship to go beyond the classroom and build relations that can have a lot of meaning beyond just letter writing."