Phiona Mutesi is 18 now, but half her lifetime ago, when she was 9, she followed her brother to a shack in their city of Kampala, Uganda, where a missionary was teaching a chess class. In the next nine years, her progress in chess was phenomenal, so that she became one of her nation’s top chess players and was dubbed the “Queen of Katwe” with first a book, and soon a Disney movie, about her life.
As part of a 33-day tour of the U.S. that included an award from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Phiona and her coach, missionary Robert Katende, are visiting at three local schools to talk to the students about chess, education and faith. The tour is designed to raise funds for US programs and to build a chess academy as part of a new Kampala education center.
They will be at Greenburgh’s R.J. Bailey School on May 2, speak at the opening of the chess tournament at White Plains’ Mamaroneck Avenue School on May 3 and at the Bronxville School on May 5.
“Because acquiring proficiency in chess does not require mastery of language, a little girl who couldn’t read was able to demonstrate her innate intelligence and a future leader for her nations is being developed from a community that offers little hoep for girls and women,” Sunil Weeramantry, executive director of the National Scholastic Chess Foundation, said in a press release about Phiona’s visit. “It is a remarkable story that we hope will show our students the importance of education and perseverance in overcoming any adversity.”