Wednesday 7 am, nine year old Ishmail rouses himself from sleep, climbing over his mother and two younger siblings who are all sleeping on the floor of their tiny, one-room hovel in a slum outside Kampala's city centre. He slips on a dirty t-shirt, slides his feet into a pair of shoes that are so broken down there is no resemblance to actual shoes but at least he is ready to head to the wholesale banana sellers.
Today Ishmail will not be able to attend school for he must sell bananas to the tourists and business people who congregate at the royal palace, a 90 minute walk from his home.
Ishmail knows he is the man of the house after his father abandoned the family and his mother's tiny wooden shop was knocked down by developers. He is their only source of income, a responsbility Ishmail takes very seriously so every week he must miss two days of school to sell bananas. This is a terrible situation for Ishmail as he is desperate to for an education. Ishmail plans to be a doctor and up until today, that dream seemed impossible.
When he can go to school, Ishmail does very well, he is motivated and he is smart. Even in his banana business Ishmail has learned good business practices, attracting regular customers and in two days he can earn the equivalent of $20 to pay school fees with a little extra to help with the rent for his mother.
Up to now, life has been desperate and hopeless for Ishmail, at least until this morning when something extraordinary took place.
The Canadians had arrived at the royal palace for a tour and first witnessed a group of young theives looking for opportunity. Ishmail however, just wanted to sell his bananas and when he was approached by the Canadians he shared his story, without self-pity and with much hope.
Thirty minutes later, the Canadians and Ishmail were tromping through the filthy, narrow laneways of the slum to visit his mother and his school: a wooden structure with three stalls more suited as a cattle barn.
Ishmail's mother is shocked at seeing these Muzugus standing in her doorway but she is welcoming and speaks of how important it is for her children to receive an education even though she has never been to school herself.
Justine, the teacher/librarian from Cambridge Secondary School, is with the Canadians. She is a woman with a huge heart and immedidatley falls in love with this little boy. With the Canadians' financial help, she will now make sure Ishmail gets into a better school where he will receive the education he so desperately seeks, without having to miss days to sell bananas. And when he is old enough, Ishamil will be offered a bursary so he may attend the Cambridge school.
This was a day the Canadians were scheduled to meet with government officials, meetings that were cancelled at the last minute but it was time that allowed them to meet Ishmail and change the life of one small boy.
Ishmail (in the orange tshirt) his teacher and Justine (on the right) in their school
The slum where Ishmail lives