Speaker for 9th January 2018

President Mike Turner greets Des Johnston, with club member Joe Alcorn (L) and Speakers Committee Chair John McKegney (R)

Coleraine Probus and memories of teaching in Africa

Coleraine Probus were given many entertaining snapshots of a Uganda in changing times, when club member Des Johnston recalled his stay teaching there between 1969 and '71.
Having got the travel bug at an early age, Des - a young and recently married teacher - saw an advert recruiting staff for African schools. Soon he and new bride Irene were heading out to Kampala and accommodation initially in a posh hotel in that busy and developing city.

Des thoroughly entertained the club members with a fine collection of original photos and stories of his encounters with local folk while living and working in the city, as well as 'going up country', as sightseeing away from Kampala was called.

The first day at the new school was nothing like Des had encountered before. It was owned and run by a Muslim group but taught youngsters from a variety of religions. The teaching staff were also very mixed, coming from about ten different countries.

On making friends, Des was soon introduced to the essentials of the local area. This included ‘the thieves market’ - where stolen items were soon on sale. This was demonstrated by a friend who brought back the four wheels he had taken from his car the day before!

Shopping was also a total change of culture. Haggling over the price of things became second nature, normally ending at around a quarter of the sum first asked. Getting a new pair of shoes was a unique experience, with the shopkeeper asking you to stand bare foot on a sheet of paper and tracing the outline of your feet. The shoes were then ‘made to measure’ and ready in two days - a perfect and comfortable fit too. Suits were similarly hand made in the material of your choice, in under a week, and always at a bargain price.

One of the real pleasures of the job was holiday time and the chance to explore ‘up country’. Des had purchased an old Renault 4, which took him, Irene and their new baby, countless miles over dusty, bumpy, dirt roads (or mud tracks, depending on the season!).

Des had a wide selection of animal photos and spectacular views, especially from the Ngorongoro creator, which he described as a ‘natural zoo’.

Internally the political situation was becoming very unstable and Edi Amin with army backing took control of the country. Initially this looked an improvement, but history tells another tale. While thinking what to do for the safety of the family, Des unexpectedly received an offer of a job back in the UK. It came at just the right time, and the family moved back home.
Des gave club members a fascinating look into a land of contrasts, at the very time it was changing most of all. He shared his memories and his stories of a beautiful and troubled country, much to the enjoyment and interest of the members.

For members who (like your WebEd!) enjoyed the presentation Des gave, 'Click' on this link to take another look at some of the photos.