Friday, September 28, 2007

ChooseANeed Scholarship Recipient

An update from Matt as he visits Busalamu Secondary School to interview candidates for a full secondary school scholarship provided by our partners at ChooseANeed. He interviewed 4 students who are all in Secondary 1, the Ugandan equivalent of 7th grade.

Sangala Faizo, UVP Scholarship recipient

"All four S1 candidates were present at Busalamu Secondary School. The deputy headmaster was very kind. She helped me find the four students and assemble them under a tree. There are no A Level schools very close. The closest one is Bukoyo Senior Secondary School Day and Boarding and it is still far enough away that the students would have to attend as boarders. This is the information I collected from each student:

Musenze Asuman

1. Favorite subjects: history, geography, chemistry
2. Hobbies: football (soccer)
3. Ranked 33rd out of 110 students in his class for the second term.
4. He intends to go to Bukoyo Senior Secondary School for his A Levels as a boarding student.
5. Hopes to attend university to become a doctor.
6. Both parents passed away when he was young.
7. Has 2 sisters, 1 brother. Asuman is the oldest. His younger siblings are all attending primary school.

Kyotalimye Sauti

1. Favorite subjects: history, chemistry
2. Hobbies: music
3. Ranked 8th out of 110 students last term.
4. Initially said she was planning to go to Wanyanga Girls in Jinja for her A Levels, but quickly changed to Bukoyo Senior Secondary after I mentioned we would like to see our students stay in the district. These students are only in S1, so a lot can change in the 4 years before they are ready to move on to A levels.
5. Hopes to attend university to study to become a caterer.
6. Lost her father, mother is still living
7. Has 3 sisters, 2 brothers. She is the eldest with her siblings in primary school

Nakawoma Moreen

1. Favorite subjects: history, math, netball
2. Hobbies: debating, netball
3. Ranked 6th out of 110 students last term.
4. Intends to study at Bukoyo Senior Secondary as a boarding student for her A Levels
5. Hopes to attend university to study to become a nurse
6. Both parents passed away. Stays with her Aunt.
7. Moreen is the youngest of 3 girls.
1. The first born is currently studying at Makerere. She is being sponsored by members of the family's clan.
2. The second born has already finished Teacher Training College and has a job.

Sangala Faizo

1. Favorite subjects: mathematics
2. Hobbies: debating, revising his books
3. Ranked 10th out of 110 students last term
4. Hopes to study at Iganga High School as a boarding student.
5. Hope to attend university to study to become a doctor.
6. Both parents passed away. Faizo is staying with his step-mother.
7. Faizo is the youngest with 4 brothers and 3 sisters. He is the only child in school and the only person in his family to study as high as secondary school.

I chose Faizo to be sponsored by ChooseAneed because I felt that he stood out in terms of the combination of his need and work ethic. He was very humble and visibly grateful for being sponsored. I didn't have to try to hard to get him to smile for the pictures either. The two girls ranked higher in class, but they seem to have a stronger support network, either through a living parent or through siblings that are currently attending school. Asuman did not rank as high and his siblings are all in school.

I think Faizo's performance in school is exceptional given his family situation. Clearly his older siblings have set a trend amongst themselves for dropping out, but Faizo is taking full advantage of the opportunities given to him through a sponsorship. He also stood out to me when he said that he enjoys revising his books.

I know that school attendance in Uganda is far from satisfactory. Many people do not attend for a large number of different reasons, but I haven't found myself significantly moved or touched by the problem as it has been difficult to put a story behind the faces of the out-of school youth that I pass by on a daily basis. In Nawansaso, the village I lived in, there was a very weak secondary school with drunkards as directors and administrators. The school barely held over 100 students. Of those, many did not seem to care if their teachers did not show up for class and seemed content with paying fees to lounge around in the grass all day, copying notes from each other (many times a teacher would come, write notes on the board, then leave). The somewhat more serious students made attempts to teach themselves. Some of the lucky brighter students managed to attend a better school for the second term, but for the most part, very little learning was going on. We found that the most serious students woke up very early to make the trek or bicycle ride 3 or 4 kilometers away to the nearest secondary school. This school wasn't very strong either, but it was relatively new and seemed more promising.

Faizo at school

Anyways, enough reminiscing, it was a breath of fresh air seeing some of the UVP scholarship recipients ranking amongst the top in their class in a strong and serious secondary school. Faizo is a kid who lost both of his parents, his older siblings have not been in school for years and he has managed to maintain an incredible will to work hard and value his education…working hard enough to rank 10 th in his class. Listening to the words, "I am the only one in my family to study at secondary" come out of his mouth hit me unexpectedly hard as thoughts of anyone in my family not attending high school, or any school for that matter, flashed through my mind before I almost immediately dismissed the thoughts as ridiculous. That unexpected intense moment forced me to put my life in perspective and made me realize how often I take not only my education, but also its quality, for granted. I thought that I had become desensitized to a lot of the scenes of poverty I see each day, but I found myself seeking refuge in my small notebook as I stared blankly down at the paper for a minute trying to collect my thoughts. "

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