Life at Boarding School - Winnie's Story

As Spring Break kicks off and kids and parents are enjoying a little break from school, we thought it would be fun to share a little insight to school here in Uganda.

School does not work the same in Uganda as it does in the States.  In order for kids to go to school, they have to pay school fees.  This can be very tough for families on a limited income, especially if they have multiple children.

Meet our friend Winnie.  Winnie is one of the lucky children who has the opportunity to go to a good school, she attends a Boarding school about 30 minutes from her home.  Winnie lives at school and only gets to come home on school holidays.

We had the chance to spend the day with Winnie and during lunch she told us about her life at school. We thought you would enjoy an insight into a day at Boarding School.

6:00 am – 6:15 am - Wake up; Take a bath in cold water that was drawn from the borehole

6:15 am – 7:00 am – Early class for extra studies

7:00 am – Breakfast, which consists of dry tea (no sugar or milk), and either bread, gnuts (peanuts) or popcorn.

7:30 am – Dress in school uniform and wait for the other children who do not live on campus to arrive to school.

8:00 am – School begins.  Winnie is in Primary 3, there are 52 kids in her class and only 1 teacher.  The students in her class vary in age due to the fact that some kids are behind in their schooling.

10:30 am – Break time!  Kids have the chance to play if they have finished their work.  However, Winnie says she usually has so much work to do that she misses playtime.

11:00 am – Back to class

12:45 pm – Lunch time.  The students eat Posho and beans every day for lunch and dinner.  Curious what posho is??

At the end of one month they get treated to a meal of meat, rice, sweet potato and gnut sauce.  This is the only time they have a veggie incorporated into their diet, other than this special meal there is no other fruits or veggies in their daily diet.  After the special meal it is back to beans and posho for every meal.

2:00 pm – Back to class for afternoon classes

5:00 pm – School is dismissed and the students who do not live on campus go home.  The students who live on campus go  bathe and prepare for evening classes.

6:00 pm – Dinner, yup you guessed it…. Posho and beans

7:00 pm – Back to class for evening studies

9:00 pm – Night class is dismissed and it’s off to bed

Winnie’s mom, Apio,  is allowed one visitation day per term, a term is 3 months long.

Discipline at school is very different from the States, there is no detention and no being sent to the Principal’s office.  The teachers handle the discipline themselves.  If the punishment needs to be severe it is done in front of all the students to “shame” the one being punished.   Discipline consists of caning on the back or bottom.  Some of the things you can receive discipline for include; not combing your hair (that is why most of the children shave their heads, girls included),  not tucking in your shirt, making noise in class or being late for class.   The teachers will also check your fingernails; if they are too long or they are dirty they will smack your hands.

In order for Winnie to attend this boarding school her parents have to come up with 450,000 Ugandan Shillings per term, plus all school supplies. This equates to roughly $160 - $180 USD per tem depending on the exchange rate.   Keep in mind also that Winnie’s dad works a 12hr shift, 7 days a week at his job and is paid 150,000/month.  YES! Roughly $60/ month to work in a factory without a day off, 12hrs a day.  His entire salary would have to go towards her tuition and then they still have to find ways to pay for school supplies.  Not to mention care for their other 2 children, their school fees (they are unable to go to the better boarding school and go to a local school where tuition is about 100,000 per term, per student), and all their household needs such as rent and food.  School is a life choice here.  Sometimes there is no choice to be made because the parents don’t even have the chance at the “good” factory job.  Parents often have to decide which one of their children will get to attend school.

It was so good for our family to get to see Winnie again.  Her family has been a part of our family for almost three years now.  Her education, and her sibling's education, is so important to us.  It isn’t always easy hearing what life is like for others, but I think it is good to educate ourselves on these things.  To give  perspective.  It was good for our kids to hear all of this as well (and maybe accounted for why school went so smoothly starting back up this week). 

Thank you for taking the time to read about Winnie and get a perspective on her life at Boarding school. 

Jessica WoodComment