By Dr. Hillary Kuteesa
I love cricket and wherever I go, I look for people like me. This time round the foothills of Mt. Rwenzori was my destination for a purely work-related safari. After settling in, the cricket seeking instinct went wild, I grabbed my phone and called Emmanuel Issanez and surely he was in the Kasese doing what he loves; this time conducting a wrap up of the cricket holiday camp. I jumped onto Bajaj, sorry Senke (the dominant trade name for Boda Bodas in the region) and into Kilembe we rode, lest I delayed and missed out on the action. My excitement was palpable.
The journey there was so amazing. I was torn between cricket and being a tourist at some point. The Katiri Primary School oval (or a shape akin to one), is in the environs of the mighty River Nyamwamba (the name brings chills down the spines of the locals for its violent past). Nature has a way of bringing beauty from ashes. The trails of the day the river broke its banks are so beautiful to behold. Someone remind me to focus, this is about cricket.
This area has produced the winners of the National U-11, U-13 categories for the last 5 or so years consistently, be it in the boys or girl’s categories. I was curious to learn how they did it.
There were two groups playing; the senior group and the Wembley group. The Wembley group were the younger lot that played with so much passion it was infectious. I stopped watching the seniors and focused on these.
The name KIBUBU kept coming up, and I tried to find whose it was. He was bowling left arm over. 1,2,3, steps, coil, uncoil and he chucked the ball over the other side and the wickets tumbled. Oh the joy and celebration that followed would have Sheldon Cottrell envious and reconsidering his own.
His teacher (Miss Wandera Jane) then got close, looked him in the face and signaled that he had 2 more balls to deliver. Boom !!! it hit me at that point that he was deaf and dumb. “KIBUBU” was not his name. It is a universal name for the deaf and dumb among most Bantu tribes in Uganda. Not sure how this had skipped my ears my whole life. His name is Kambale, a 7-year-old pupil of Katiri Primary School. An all-round cricketer in the true definition of it. A left-handed batsman with a love for the cow corner not afraid to hook a ball going for his head. His awareness behind the stumps was impeccable. All this in silence with occasional vocal endeavors that weren’t comprehensible accompanied frantic signaling.
Upon further inquiry, I learned that this protégé came to play cricket 2 years ago. His behavior then was impulsive, aggressive, antisocial and often violent; a difficult child with a disability to say the least. It was trying to have him in the setup but he kept coming to the oval. He was hooked to the game and eager to learn. The games mistress/teacher(Miss Wandera Jane) picked interest in him and throughout the training and the games, helped him regulate himself. These two understand each other fairly well even if the teacher has no training in sign language. This boy’s cognitive development is as of a child of his age.
Kambale is a transformed boy because of his passion for cricket and a teacher that cares. His story is evidence that cricket can change lives.
Special thanks to UCA, Cricket Without Boundaries (CWB), Emmanuel Isaneez (CWB Ambassador), the games masters and mistresses, local coaches in the Kasese region for the life-changing work you are doing.