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Wife Swap couple trade city life for African literacy

BUST A MOVE: Pupils in Uganda take part in an African Yoga session

WHEN SOUTH London-based couple Pablo and Ife Imani switched the hustle of city life to reconnect with "The Motherland", they knew theirs would be a special quest.

Ife, a youth educator and Afrikan Yoga expert, and her husband Pablo moved permanently to vibrant Uganda to set up the Afrikan Yoga Literacy Project.

The move involved setting up an education centre for young people in the local area with the aim of improving their literacy and health through the practise of Ancient Egyptian derived yoga.

Pablo Imani told The Voice: “I moved out of south London roughly three years ago, but I had been talking about moving to Africa for the past 12 years. The plan was always to move here permanently."

“Originally, the plan was to be in Ghana but it didn’t quite manifest that way. My wife ended up leaving for Africa first whilst I took care of things in the UK.

“Through a friend in Uganda, she was invited there and ended up staying. Another reason we chose Uganda was for spiritual and historical reasons since Afrikan Yoga itself originates from Ancient Egypt. The main source of the river Nile is in Uganda,” he stated softly.

“At the moment we’re working with 133 children, and we get around eight children that come everyday.

“At first they felt like we were working them hard, but now they love the fact that they’re feeling fitter. They can be still for 20 minutes without being fidgety. They’re really enjoying it," he said.

"The literacy classes are very organic as we’re still building and developing a library. We’re basically getting some shelves together to increase the resource section.

"When that’s developed everything will be abit more structured. We go through some books, reading and I'm canvassing now for more volunteers to come and go through the actual teaching process.

"One of the great things about the literacy project is that Ife is a teacher/writer and one of the founding members of a Saturday school in west London. She already had some of the key things needed to help this run smoothly.”

The married couple of three children may be remembered for their appearance on Channel 4’s Wife Swap who switched spouses with a junk food eating, working class family from Oxfordshire for ten days.

Both were praised for their positive representation of a functional black family with strong values.

Ife and Pablo hope their healthy standards of living and love for education will go down well in the Uganda, where less than 2 percent of children attend nursery school and only 54 percent of children complete primary school.

Very few children have access to any reading material.

In a world where colonial languages dominate governance, education and the media, competency of the English language is vital for a young Ugandan.

"English is the language of instruction in the Ugandan education system from late primary age right up to University, with the mother languages taught as subjects.

"Generally, Ugandan languages are discouraged from being spoken in the school and many of them are even punished if caught speaking their native tongues. That’s the colonisation factor", he asserted.

"We need to raise awareness literacy in Uganda where half of the population are young people. They only read generally in school, so reading is not done for pleasure and the love of books is not inherent. Reading is seen as from a certain class where the general population are farmers and rural workers so you can see there’s more emphasis on young people supporting families.

“On top of that, they have to pay for their schooling here. Although from primary school it’s free, the standard from school to school varies.

"At the moment, the project is self funded where much of the money is coming from our own pockets. When we first started, I sold my personal belongings to raise money.

“We’ve recruited a couple friends to look for donors and there's been a drive for books. But eventually, we want the Afrikan Yoga Literacy Project to be taken to the UK, the US, the Caribbean and all over Africa.

"We've done yoga for youths in the UK and the youngsters really enjoyed it, so we’re going to return in September to raise more awareness of the literacy project and master classes.

“We want this to be a global movement!”

The Afrikan Literacy Yoga project provides workshops for 133 children aged 7-15 based in a slum area of Kabalagala, and local youth from Kansanga, Bunga, Buziga, Nsambya of the city of Kampala Uganda.

To become a volunteer or simply donate books, visit http://afrikanyoga.com/get-involved/literacy-project-donors/

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