Uganda’s Junior Chess Champion Phiona Mutesi and NSCF Chess Instructor Tharin Chadwick take on 6th graders Adam Pacual (12) and Jared Trupp (11) before the start of chess club at Richard J. Bailey School in Greenburgh. Photo courtesy of Robert McLellan.
A report courtesy of Robert McLellan:
On May 2, Phiona Mutesi Uganda’s Junior Chess Champion, shared her story of overcoming life in one of the worst slums of Kampala after learning the game of chess with students at Richard J. Bailey School. “We were sleeping in the streets. In Katwe the streets are not nice with concrete like you have here; it is just dirt and when it rains the water floods into people’s houses and many of them die. You have diseases like cholera and it is a very hard life,” she told the 400 students in the assembly.
Phiona told how she first went to the chess program run by a Christian ministry called Sports Outreach because they offered a cup of porridge to the children. “I was very hungry so I came for the porridge but after a while I started learning the game and I kept getting better.”
One student asked how she knew she had the aptitude to play the game. “When I first beat a boy,” Miss Mutesi said. “He started to cry and he never came back to the chess club because he had been beaten by a girl.”
Phiona’s coach, Robert Katende told students more about life in Uganda especially for girls who are marginalized in the society. He also spoke about the value of chess in teaching the skills needed to solve problems no matter where you live. He presented Principal Marguerite Clarkson with a copy of the book “The Queen of Katwe” which tells Phiona’s story. Then they joined the after school chess club for more Q&A time as well as to sign autographs and play chess with the kids.
The chess program at Bailey is one of over 70 programs in Westchester County operated by the National Scholastic Chess Foundation which sponsored Miss Mutesi’s visit to three schools in the Westchester area. In addition to raising awareness of the value of chess in education, the visits also helped raise funds to build a new chess academy in Kampala.