The last weekend in Uganda has just passed us by. Ray, Emma and I traveled 350km west of the capital Kampala to a town called Fort Portal. Its at the seat of both the Kabarole district and the Toro kingdom. It is named for Sir Gerald Portal, a British Special Commissioner for Uganda, whose statue graces the main road of the town. Situated between the Ruwenzori Mountains, Kibale National Park and Queen Elizabeth National Park, it is an important market town. Several crater lakes and the Semliki Valley also lie near the town and it also hosts the aptly named Mountains of the Moon University. The university campus caters predominantly for horticultural students but it was their computer lab and e-learning centre that attracted us.
After four hours of driving with our contact Johnny, we arrived at the sleepy town which doesn’t resemble Kampala’s pace or form. It way nice to get away from the fumes of Kampala to the fresh mountain air. Johnny the Scot is part of the MMV volunteers in Ireland who dispatched him to Western Uganda for bad behaviour eleven months ago. He has been working at a furious rate setting up their IT infrastructure and E-learning centre. We wanted to get a feel for the projects he was working on and maybe use him as a partner for Camara in Western Uganda.
Johnny showed us the facilities on the campus which include a satellite for connection to the Internet donated from an Austrian NGO that facilitates the e-learning center through an Indian satellite provider and internet cafe with a sufficient connection for browsing but not for downloading, We ran through security issues and put some processes in place to ensure adequate browsing speeds, sorry users but no Mp3 downloads in the e-learning centre; work files only.
On Saturday morning we were treated to a four hour trek up the surrounding peaks and we teased Ray about his chest pains which we believe firsthand from the four hour journey down was actually just wind. After a lunch of egg chapates, we met with some of the university IT team and showed how to install Linux Edubuntu on some of their Pentium III machines which were running very slow under another operating system. It took a few hours to train them up but it ensured that if we were to send a compute shipment out to the Mountains of the Moon, there would be technical teachers familiar with the operating system.
The day ended with mince and mash over interesting conversation with Johnny the Scot, the Dominican Brother Patrick, his German brother the soldier and his wife the part time secretary with Johannus the horticulturist from Vienna arriving late. We chatted in Johnnys mountain lodge at the foothills of the Kings Palace which like the great Mosque in Kampala was a gift from Kadifi.The Irish stayed until the beer was drank and lids became to heavy for sight but we didn’t regret it this morning as the 7am Kalita bus pulled out of Fort Portal main street. Each of us enjoyed the weekend for different reasons and it was great to make a connection with a educational institution in Western Uganda who have a strong and genuine interest in IT for education. I hope a shipment can be secured to fill the Toro kingdom.