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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

bearer of bad news

Uganda, catapulting into the 21rst century, introduced a new service:  receive national exam results by sms.  So the over half-a-million 12 to 15 year olds who finished primary school at the end of 2009 and sat for their all-important Primary Leaving Exam (PLE) could send an sms this morning with their exam number, and receive instant results.  Great news for many kids who performed well (including the late Dr. Jonah's two daughters supported by the Kule Family Care Fund in their Kampala school, with excellent results).  There are four half-day exams in four subject areas:  English, Science, Math, and Social Studies.  1 is the best score, 9 is a failure (low # = good, high # = bad).  So the best possible outcome is an aggregate of 4.  The worst would be an aggregate of 36.  When WHM started Christ School, Bundibugyo ranked at the very bottom of all districts, and our first classes of CSB comprised students with scores in the mid-20's (and above).  Last year we had made our way down to the low and mid teens, a decade of improvement, and we are no longer listed in the papers among the five worst districts.  Still we have far to go here, there are many top secondary schools in Kampala who only take students with perfect scores of aggregate 4, or maybe 5, while we would be HAPPY to get someone with a 12, and usually settle for 14-18.  In the paper I learned today that thanks to the Universal Primary and Secondary Education schemes, there are 916 government-aided secondary schools in Uganda which are supposed to absorb 390,000 new pupils (that's over 400 per school, which sounds frightening, since they will probably be in at most 2 or 3 classrooms).  The 3,000-some private schools will take the other 120,000 (40 per class, a bit more realistic).

That is a long background to say that the instant sms system is a lot less fun when the student cries.  One of Jack's good friends, to whom we leant study aids, had at our house a lot over the last year, and really pulled for, scored a 27.  It isn't a failure, but it is a LONG way from his dreams.  He's a complete orphan, no mom, no dad (both died of AIDS), in a public crowded chaotic school (one where our kids attended briefly years ago) across the street, 15 years old, pleasant and conversant in English and an all-around nice guy.  But the PLE is the final word on whether, or where, one continues in school.  It is the sole number which dictates the future.  And this number tells him that his future is not at Christ School, where he longed to join his biological brother as well as my kids and his other friends.  My mom-heart felt heavy giving handing my phone over to this boy today.  Like many, many kids in Bundibugyo, he will probably struggle on in mediocrity, in a sub-standard secondary school with poor discipline and unmotivated staff.  My words that God was still good and in control of his life felt hollow as he held back his tears.  

Prenatal care, stable families, good early nutrition, protein, iron . . . stimulating nursery and early elementary schools, reading material, interested adults, an organized life, protection from disease . . . there are so many steps before the PLE that stand stacked against this kid and many others, that I know we have to take a generational long-view . . but that's small consolation to today's sad student.


Tricia said...

I am so sorry. I will pray that God comforts him and helps him along the way whatever school he goes to. That much like David of the OT, he will rise to the top in every situation and be able to look back and say that God used all of this for good.

Margaret said...

What are the customs/regulations that prevent him from being accepted at Christ School? Are the test scores binding on a private school?

DrsMyhre said...

Margaret, I'm sorry to say that this student could not manage academically at Christ School. We are not legally bound to exclude him, but practically he would not make it. We believe there are other schools where he can get an O-level certificate and then go on for some vocational training.

Cindy Nore said...

As a follow up to Margaret's question and your answer, can you please let me know if monetary funds would be helpful to this sweet boy either now or when he does go for vocational training? My heart just breaks for him and the thousands of others like him who were not given much of an edge to start with and are now in many ways paying a price for things that were totally and completely not their fault and not in their control. My husband and I would be honored to offer whatever financial support might be helpful at whatever time it might be helpful. Please let me know if there is anything we can do - with love, Cindy