For the fourth consecutive year students from two Swedish upper secondary schools have travelled to Uganda to undertake internships. For three weeks the students worked in different workshops – including at Scania in Kampala.
The project began in 2011 when the organisation Global School began placing students in Uganda. The Kattegatt School in Halmstad, Sweden, and the Viskastrand School in Borås, Sweden, were two of the schools that got involved.
“First, we applied to Global School for funds to send our teachers to Africa to evaluate if it was possible for our students to work in Ugandan workshops,” says Tommy Persson, headmaster for vehicle studies at the Kattegatt School.
During their evaluation trip, the teachers made arrangements with Ugandan workshops that they found to have safe working environments. One of these was the Scania workshop in Kampala. “A year later the first students went there,” says Persson.
The purpose of the project is to let students experience other cultures and see how people in other countries live. “Then it’s perfect to be able to work together in normal job circumstances,” Persson says.
According to Tommy Persson, the Ugandans think that it’s beneficial to receive students from Sweden since they have good safety and environmental knowledge.
First female service technician
18 year old Ida Larsson, from Kattegatt School, is one of the students who went to Uganda this year. “The first thing I noticed was the big difference between repairing a vehicle in Uganda compared to Sweden,” she says. “I now realise how spoiled we are. For example the ease with which we can connect to a computer. Although in Uganda they always find a way to solve the problems.”
The workshop where Ida Larsson was placed had never before employed a woman, so her presence was certainly noted. Some people didn’t believe that she could do the job while others were more curious about her.
”They asked me if it’s okay with my parents that I work with this and if it’s legal for women to work as mechanics in Sweden.”
“Grateful for what we’ve got”
It wasn’t just in the work environment that Ida Larsson noticed differences compared to Sweden. Her Ugandan colleagues for example lived in sheds without electricity. And some of them couldn’t afford to send their children to school.
”We should be grateful for what we’ve got,” Ida Larsson says. “Such as going to school, doing what we want to do, becoming a service technician, having a good salary and a proper house to come home to.”
Travelling to Uganda has made her think differently. Today she has greater appreciation for what she has.
“I get annoyed with myself for complaining about small things. It might sound like a cliché but I have developed a different view of things. The trip was a real eye-opener. I now realise how lucky we are.”