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RUBBING SHOULDERS WITH ROYALTY

It began with an odd proposition when a friend came to me with a question, "Would you like to meet royalty?” The easy answer being yes, I was introduced to The Duke of Edinburgh International Award Programme. And so, a curious series of events was set in motion.


Five students, Grace Murungi, Joella Lutwama, Aminta Kisakye, Teri Kaddu and myself, were up bright and early that morning, filled with electric nervous energy, the thought of how we would present the SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals) that we’d been studying tirelessly to understand, plagued us throughout the journey to Kabojja, where everything was set to happen. The instant we got there we were greeted by security that rivalled the president’s, some guards sizing you up, others patting you down, and busy people in suits rushing in and out, it all felt very official, still, we were promptly checked in and ushered into the school, it did feel like entering the belly of the beast.


The social scene inside was vibrant, the present schools were mingling, everyone catching up with friends they hadn't seen in years, I found a few it was thrilling, and then the event began in earnest. All of a sudden, we were being herded into rooms, each allocated an SDG to discuss, but it was all at random! I had researched education, but here I was in the middle of climate change, everything was more trees this less plastic that, I felt out of my depth, but a new friend I'd made earlier named Katrina helped catch me up on everything, she was immensely helpful and smart as a whip. 


A few debates later, it was lunchtime, and the cafeteria was abuzz with conversation, I sat with two of my friends (Joella and Grace) plus a prefect from Kabojja, the food was brilliant, the banter even better, I was having a great time. Once the plates were emptied (bones and all) it was announced that the Duke was finally on his way, and a security sweep of the building was to be done, the teachers led us outside, where we cooked in the sun for a bit while they checked us again. 


Every single person was tense, “how would we perform?”, “Would we freeze if we spoke?”, “What if he just decided not to show up?” everyone had something to say, but it was alright because they told us what the protocol was and it wasn't too complicated. Divided into our old groups once more, they told us to keep talking and the Duke would find us mid-discussion, to be honest, we didn't talk about anything climate-related, the whole class (along with the teacher) was confused about whether to bow or curtsey or lie down on the ground, however, you show the royals the respect they're due. Eventually, we decided on a few people bowing, and just in time too, because he walked right in just after. He didn't seem so imposing once he was with us, he had an aura surrounding him that put you at ease, he did however, have piercing blue eyes that felt as though he could see your soul. He liked to joke and tease, but he did mean business though.


In five minutes, he’d thrown tough questions at the whole class and then asked for feedback, I raised my hand, willing it to stop trembling as he turned my way, I posed my question, thinking that ah yes, finally something that would challenge him, but as I mentioned before, he was sharp, answering me confidently. After this, he said his goodbyes and thanks, leaving the room with a whirl of expensive perfume. The rest of it was just pleasantries, as the host school thanked him for coming, he even let us take a selfie with him, dancers escorting him as he left the school, His Highness waving the whole time. Then he just popped into an all-black SUV and was gone with his procession. Poof.


My friends and I were congratulated by our accompanying teacher, Tr. Providence and the ride home was filled with laughter and silly anecdotes. And we returned to school feeling victorious and a little more, regal.

That’s about it,

Isaac M. Opilla




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