Monday, February 7, 2011

More about school

As I promised I would, here are some photos of my new school. It is very different to MECS and yet very similar. It has been started for similar purposes and to meet a need that was not being met. It is starting small (in building and infrastructure) and is filled with promise of being able to provide Christian secondary education for students who would otherwise not be able to get secondary education. It is 'owned' by a man called Robert Kafiro who grew up an orphan and has been able to be successful with transport. Rather than putting this money into making himself comfortable and living an easy life he is determined to help his people. He is also very involved with the village. There is always a fear that is quite justified in trusting African people when dealing with Westerners about their motives. We have known Robert for two years now and it is obvious that his motives are pure. He is a very hard working man who spends his time between the Village of Hope, the school (Hope community school) and his workplace in town with the bus depot. He lives in a very small flat that is situated in Bugembe, it is close to a bar and often his and his family are greatly disturbed at night by the noise from it. Due to his commitments to the village and most especially the school he lives a very simple life compared to our standards. I might be able to talk more with him and enlighten you some more about him but that is the basis of the school.
The school is a simple structure with open windows, concrete floor and most classrooms have three seater desks (up close and personal). The one classroom that doesn't have this type of desk has some single seaters because the school is trying to become an examination centre. This would mean that they could earn some money by hosting examinations.
At present there are four main classrooms which will house about 70 students each I think - word on the street is that I might have up to 80 students in my class! I would love to see another two classrooms being added because this would mean that they could have up to S6 which is the completion of secondary. We have already met many students who are struggling to go further because it then becomes not only about the fees but about the distance. There is a huge problem here because petrol costs the same as at home so to travel out of the area costs a huge amount relatively to locals. (we have heard of someone earning 4000 shillings a day and paying 3000 shillings to get to work) So, students finish at S4 even if they are very capable of continuing. This is something very important to me and it seems that it would only cost $17000 in Australian dollars to get this to happen!
Hope Community School would be doing a lot better financially if it was tougher on the students who don't pay their fees. There is a term here and what schools do is 'chase students out'. It is a privilege to be able to help this school by teaching there and we hope we are able to help in other ways. The fees are low but still very hard to manage for local people.
It is so hard to explain but I want you to gain a picture of what we are beginning to really understand. A labourer unskilled earns 5000 shillings a day, a receptionist at a hotel earns about the same and a skilled worker in building earns 10000 shillings a day. They are paid only for days that they work. So if they work every day for a week it is 30,000 shillings. A litre of milk costs 1000 shillings (if you buy fresh - 3000 for long life!). A loaf of bread costs about 2000 shillings. Potatoes were 800 shillings a kilogram. Rent is about 20000 shillings a month for a single room - I think. To catch the bus into town is approximately 1000 shillings from the highway but if you have to get down there it might be another 600 shillings. That is just to give you a bit of an idea of what the day's pay has to go to. School fees for lowest primary level are 30000 for fees, 5000 for interview, 12 000 for uniform, 12000 for sweater (they need it even if I don't), 5000 for books, and about 9000 for extras like toilet paper, broom, manilla folders, pencils etc. So about 70000 shillings at that start of the year for one child when you earn 30 000 for a week that barely covers your living expenses. This is especially true if you have a family. So the need is great and most people go without food even to pay. Secondary is much more expensive and so Robert's school is a real blessing to the community.
Before, I keep on talking about it all let me show you some pictures and stop talking about it all. We long so much for the cycle of poverty to be broken. Education will help.

This is a picture of my classroom with just a few students - all working hard though you will notice!
And below is a little visitor to the classroom.

This is the staffroom with a picture of Monique the other maths teacher. Please note the table is the 'kitchen' - distinct lack of sink, microwave, hot water on tap. Perhaps I will go back and not complain about anything!

By the way it is very humbling to realise that you can give $30 to someone and a child can go to school and the mother can be so so happy!

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