|The concept of "boarding school" for high school students in America carries the connotation of elite schools for
children from wealthy and privileged families. The general perception is that these kids live in a college-like
environment and are blessed with the best of education, sports, and social activities. Perhaps there is some truth
to that, but it is definitely not the case in Uganda. Yes, boarding school in Uganda is more expensive than day
school, but the similarity ends there. Boarding students in Uganda stay in dormitories that house from dozens to
hundreds of students in a single room, usually stuffed like sardines in closely packed triple-decker bunks. They
carry their own water for drinking and bathing in 20-liter jerrycans from boreholes that can be quite a distance from
their dorms. Their sanitary facilities are usually outdoor pit latrines and they bathe in outdoor "bathrooms,"
one-person-size structures that offer some little privacy and a drain hole. In addition to their personal toiletries,
students must come with their own mattresses, sheets, blankets, and mosquito nets (and jerrycans!). For
breakfast, they get a mug of watery porridge. For lunch and supper, it's posho (a solid form of corn meal mush)
and beans. That is what they eat seven days a week. For teens who've grown up in Kampala's urban slums,
boarding school is a dream come true.
More than half of our secondary students are enrolled in boarding school. While our decisions are based both on
the home situation and academic potential, the home environment is paramount. Orphans staying with an uncaring
guardian and many small children in the house are doomed to failure. Their stepmothers and aunts expect the older
girls to take over cooking, cleaning, laundry, and child care from the moment they arrive home from school until
bedtime. Boys and girls staying with a sick relative or an older brother or sister who may also be in school often
find that the school lunch we provide is the only meal they eat in the day. Lack of electricity is a another deterrent
as it gets dark between 7:00 and 7:30 pm, leaving most students with little time to study. Because girls tend to
find their options more limited than boys, seventy-seven percent of our boarding students are girls.
|About Boarding School
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