|Posted on April 17, 2014 at 9:00 AM|
In Uganda most schools are privately-owned. However, the government has established Primary and Secondary schools throughout Uganda, particularly in vulnerable areas to facilitate education. In those areas ‘deep in the village,’ a single school is built to serve students for several kilometers in all directions. These Government Schools do not charge school fees, but parents must provide school requirements (ream of photo copy paper, brooms, toilet papers), school supplies (books and pens), and school uniforms.
For the children of Kisozi, the nearest school is Busheka, about 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) away for those nearest to the school. Other children could walk upwards to 6 kilometers (3.7 miles) one way to school daily. (NO kidding!) There are no school buses, so children walk to school. Schools never cancels due to rain, so even during rainy season, school is in session. The road to Busheka is a narrow, pot-hole riddled, dirt road covered on both sides with heavy bush of thick trees and tall weeds. This road is the solitary road leading in/out of Kisozi, and it feels like you are walking directly through a cattle pasture. Children carry their books to school, along with the lunch (usually only a tin or bottle of milk) daily to school.
School is supposed to begin at 8am. But before school, children have the household chores of fetching water, attending the family’s cattle, or garden work, so the majority of students actually arrive to school around 10am. Teachers have shared that students are often so exhausted by the labors of their morning work that they sleep through a couple of lessons. Many of them will come with a single notebook for 4 subjects of study and a single pencil grinded down to the nub. There are no visual aids on the walls or textbooks for reading. But students are eager to learn. They are attentive and cooperative during lessons. Due to the long walk home and evening chores at home, school must release classes no later than 3pm. (Here at SMKOM, classes are strictly scheduled from 7:30am-5:00pm.)
The Kisozi community has 2 great challenges in sending children to Busheka for schooling. The first challenge is the distance and safety. Realistically preschool aged children (under 5 years) do not have the physical stamina for such a long walk one way to school, and younger elementary students (under the age of 9 years) are feared to be lost or injured along the way. So education for the majority of children in Kisozi begins around 10 years. There are several secondary challenges associated to this late start to schooling. Some critical years of formative learning have been lost, so learning basic concepts at this advanced age often proves difficult. In addition, students are physically larger and more developed, if there happens to be an age-appropriate class mate. With the great age delays, students are reaching adulthood while still in Primary school.
Physical maturity leads to the second challenge of education in the Kisozi community, which is the high priority placed on cattle-rearing over education. For generations, the first challenge has existed, so as you can imagine, a very small percentage of students actually complete Primary School in Kisozi. Such a reality has resulted in a largely illiterate, impoverished, developmentally stunted community. Rearing cattle provides some family income (about 30,000UGX $14 USD/monthly, if one is lucky to become employed by a larger rancher), so there are tremendous pressures, particularly amongst the boys as they mature, to forego education to rear cattle and create their own home-stead. For girls, the pressures to forego education relate to early marriage and providing dowry for the family.
When the church initially established itself in the community, Kisozi Healing Tabernacle Church established a small community school for Baby Class (like Preschool in America) through Primary 3 for a couple of years. It was a tremendous success! Students flocked to school (although still late after completing their morning chores) eager in their simple school uniform, small pail of milk for lunch, small note book, and pencil in hand. At that time, the church had a funder who provided the salaries for class teachers (about $90/month per teacher), and Pastor Jovia provided the teachers’ lodging (about $16/month per teacher). It was like an answered prayer to the community. Children were learning and thriving. They were even going home to teach their parents basic phrases of English or how to add/subtract. But then the funding stopped, and despite the church’s best efforts, the school had to close. The community has continued to mourn the loss of this small school, and they desperately want to find a means to reopen the school at the new church location.
Truly one of the greatest gifts America has bestowed upon its citizens is a free, well-rounded, readily available education. Here in Uganda, an education is an almost elite privilege, even to the youngest of children. Students here are motivated beyond anyone I have ever met with this almost insatiable desire new knowledge and learning. Students must go to incredible lengths to attend school, even for a single lesson. They walk literally miles in the teeming rain, if they must. They often beg their parents to allow them to continue attending school. And you will NEVER hear a single complaint from a child attending school. Not one.
When I was in the 3rd grade, our family moved to a rural area. Our home bordered the northern boundary of the school district. My brother and I attended a small public school, so we rode the bus every day to and from school. Because of our home’s location, we were the first on the bus in the morning and the last ones off in the evening. I thought a lot about that childhood experience while being in Kisozi. If I was born in Uganda instead of America, my brother and I would have had to walk to school daily. We would not have had the great education with textbooks, maps, visual aids, charts, and fully stocked library. We would not have eaten a hot, freshly-cooked meal for lunch. The stark contract of the reality of American and Ugandan education continues to astound me. (And I don’t think it can ever stop astounding me.)
For this community need in Kisozi, I am being prayerful for a funding opportunity, perhaps a private benefactor or a small grant, which will allow Kisozi Healing Tabernacle Church to reopen its school for the youngest youth (Baby Class through Primary 3) in the community. Also, I am prayerful for some educational supplies to enhance these classrooms. It could be textbooks/storybooks, maps, learning charts, pencils, flashcards…anything that will stimulate the minds of these youth and feed their thirst for learning. I hope to one day visit Kisozi to listen to the sounds of children reciting the ABCs, witness them doing math problems, and hear a story read by one of the students. Yeah… that would indeed be a great day in Kisozi for all!
Categories: Kisozi Healing Tabernacle Church