Saturday was Ttega Child Development Centre’s end of the year concert. They’ve been preparing for their big musical every day since I’ve been there, and for a long time before that. There were a lot of numbers, it ended up lasting around 4 hours.
I helped create signage and props for the kids. I became the teacher’s designated drawer because they insisted that they ‘didn’t know how” and I always just laughed, I never did ask whether they meant they’ve never had an art class or they are just not any good at it. Anyway I wanted to help in any way I could and I figured I’d at least probably do a better job than the students could, and the teachers were all very busy.
During the show I became the de-facto costume manager. This was absolute chaos. Each class had at least two different costumes to wear besides their regular uniforms. Most costumes had many pieces and some had different shoes. All of the kids wanted to be helped at the same time and it was very difficult since I can’t communicate with them very well verbally. It was also really frustrating since I didn’t know what songs were next, who was in them or what they were supposed to be wearing. While the kids were waiting to go on stage or change costumes, they mostly fought with each other. There was a lot of hysterical crying backstage which I was really worried was distracting from the show, since the stage was only a few feet away from all of this toddler turmoil which progressed as the show lasted longer and longer.
Despite all of the complications, everyone who watched the show said the kids looked great, and they had no idea there was so much going on inside the school. So in the end I’m glad I was able to contribute and I think I really did help the concert go so smoothly. The parents absolutely loved the show and even the children who attended sat quietly and attentively for the entire thing. I think it was a good showing for Ttega.
It was hard for me though, not to notice all the money that went into the production. There was a tent rental, chair rental, and even a generator to power all of the audio equipment (a mic, amp and some huge speakers). It was so hard for me no to think about how two days prior the kids each had one cup of porridge and no real lunch, or how some of them were still wearing shoes that were so small and had been cut by their parents just so their feet would be able to be squeezed in for as long as possible.
But, this is how things work in Uganda. There are certain expectations for families, organizations and schools. These presentations are supposed to represent how good your group or institution is, and no one seems to think of how the money would be better spent. Weddings and other celebrations are very elaborate as well.
There are two things that justified it a little for me. Firstly, they accepted donations and people really did give. I’m not sure how much and I’m sure it didn’t cancel out the costs, but there was still a little money generated from the thing. Also, I know that one objective for the concert was to recruit for new students, and if they can bring in kids with parents who can afford fees, then it might be cost-effective in the long run. They even had a few skits and speeches specifically asking parents to bring their children to Ttega.
I was sad realizing that the concert was the last time I’d get to see them all together. The nightmare that was the ‘dressing room’ made the separation a little easier at the time but now I’m sad that most of them I’ll probably never see again. I just hope the little time I spent with them had some positive impact on them and that I made a good impression.