The first thing to know in doing anything in Uganda is that they really value formal “letterhead” requisitions. Everything seems like it must be so official and follow protocol. This would be ok if the follow-through was just as thorough. But 9 times out of 10 you can expect for the unexpected. That is what makes field trips such an adventure. You really never know what to expect.
But, despite the odds, some teachers and I took the older students of Lulwanda Children’s Home Primary School on an educational tour to Jinja (about 2 hours away). To my surprise it was wonderful! We started at Kakira Sugar Works. Our group divided into two and the P7 students went to the factory where they process sugarcane into sugar granules while the other students toured the Confectioner’s Factory, where they make sweets.
I had no idea the process it takes to get our sugar. Wow. As we entered the grounds of the sugar factory we first received our fancy green hard-hats, in case of flying sugar cane or abrupt “sugar storms”.
As we entered, all senses were taken over, from the sights of the massive machines, to the overbearing grinding sound, to the sweet smell of molasses. We walked from one machine to the next, feeling the steam from the 3rd step of dampening the sugar cane, preparing it to be ground for its juice.
After the cane is ground, it must be purified through three processes: being washed with limestone milk, evaporation of the excess water, and then a sulfur smoking.
After this, the granules end up in another machine where they are steamed to remove the molasses that coats them and them emptied onto a conveyor belt to day and be packaged.
But if you ask the P7 what the best part of the tour was, they would all agree that it was at the packing station. Imagine: A silver bowl. A heaping mound of sugar. And permission to eat as much as they want. The only rule: not even a granule can leave on your hands or in your pockets as you walk out of the factory.
They saw the boiling vats, the“secret recipe” of making lollipops, and the machines that then shape the sticky sweet into the proper candy or lollipop shape.
The saying has never been truer, “They were like kids in a candy shop.” Only instead of paying for sweets, they only had to answer a question correctly and open their pockets. They left the factory so excited to eat and share the great treasures they had earned.
After spoiling our appetites with too many sweets, we headed into Jinja town for a simple lunch and then to the Tip Top Bakery. As we approached the mixing station, many of the children’s eyes started growing bigger seeing that three of them could fit into a single bowl that they used to mix the bread dough. They also were eager for the following days’ practical lesson of making bread like they had seen in the factory.
We ended the trip with a brief stop as Masesse Port, a small fishing village and port and then headed back to Mbale.