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Saturday, February 17, 2024

Back-to-School FANTASTIC news and yet . . help our unbelief!

 Two weeks into the 2024 school year: Ugandan schools follow a year-round calendar-year schedule, with three 3-month terms spaced by three term breaks, the longest one being between years and encompassing Christmas/New Year so just over. Every late January/early February finds us repairing/mending/improving the physical buildings, gathering teachers for training and spiritual formation, praying, and then receiving our Senior 2 to 4 (O level) and Senior 6 (A level) students back . . . while also promoting the enrolment of new Senior 1 and 5 classes. That's where we are right now.

The new students come a week or two after they old, because they must wait for the release of their end-of-school exam results by the country. Primary School (P1-7) finishes with the PLE (Primary Leaving Exam) whose results determine qualification for S1. Secondary (O Level) is judged by the UCE (Uganda Certificate of Education) exam at the end of S4 whose results send students into S5/6 or other pathways, and the Advanced "A" level UACE exam at the end of S6 determines who goes to University. In the last two weeks, the PLE and the UCE have been released, which allows us to rank applicants . . . but the UCE and UACE ALSO allow applicants to judge us. So we were very very grateful on Thursday to find that our Nov 2023 end-of-O-level UCE scores were amongst the best ever, and by a LONG margin the best in the District. 

Bundibugyo ranked 133rd out of 136 districts for secondary school exam results this year, nearly the bottom.  That's why we are here after all. God sends his people to the margins, to the places that most need to hear good news . . injustice is not equally distributed in this world, meaning those called to model and sweat for justice need to be in places like this.  So when Christ School's results show 75% of our students scoring in the top two divisions, and all our averages making us comparable to the top 10-15% of schools in the country, we're thrilled (to put it another way, we are living in a place that otherwise is in the 2.2%ile from the bottom but by God's grace we're enabling students to get to the 90th%ile!). 

All good news, but all that shining costs more than most families can afford, to pay fair teacher salaries, buy some books, and feed everyone. Yes, thanks to our loyal and generous supporters EVERY STUDENT pays a subsidized, reduced tuition cost, a bargain compared to similarly-performing schools closer to the capital. And 10 students per class receive full OVC (orphan and vulnerable children) scholarships, targeting kids who are even needier than the baseline. We gave 76 students the opportunity to join S1, but likely many will not show up on their first day on Monday because even our subsidised fees stretch their single moms or their grandparents raising kids left behind or their intact farmer families just trying to scrape by. Every half hour it seems another parents is knocking on our gate asking for help. 

So the back-to-school reality carries the same paradoxes as most of life here. We are so proud of our staff's good work and our students' great performance. We believe in the way this education allows kids to serve their district, sets them on the road to being nurses and teachers and pharmacists and politicians and pastors. And we know that the zero-tolerance for cheating or abuse means they are safe here, and the daily value of worship and Bible study shapes their souls. So much hope as the new school year starts!  And yet . . . the poorest parents will struggle to pay and so opt for crowded government day schools instead of CSB, and the few who have steady incomes will often succumb to the illusion that it's always better to send their kids far away so opt for schools in Kampala. We and most of our team mates will help those we can, but we also long to see the community believe and invest. This morning Scott contributed to a dad of disabled twins, but we wonder if he'll have the courage to commit to sending them. It is emotionally and spiritually exhausting to live with such flimsy filters of protection from all the sad stories. . . . but even more exhausting to be a parent trying to do your best for your kids, or a student dreaming of belonging.

Faith never gets easy. Lord we believe, help our unbelief, just as the parent of the child in Mark 9 exclaimed

First chapel back to school for 2024

Cocoa prices enable school fees: eat more chocolate for Bundibugyo!

Repairs to the stoves and chimneys to cook 3 meals a day for 300 people ... 

Leadership team organising entrance interviews

Running a school means stocking a clinic to treat minor illnesses. . . especially malaria!

The hopeful new students taking an entrance exam, managed by our excellent Director of Studies Kiiza

The never-ending projects include improved drainage around the entrance gate and . . 

Installing the many new smoke detectors we brought back. Chairman of the Board wears many hats, and climbs many ladders. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Wonderful achievement and encouragement ..."Faith never gets easy. Lord we believe, help our unbelief, just as the parent of the child in Mark 9 exclaimed. " So true ...sending love and praying. Pam Howorth