Friday, May 27, 2011

School Requirements

Many parents have the luxury and pleasure of sending their children to their first day of school with a new backpack, some unused crayons even though the old crayons are barely used, a set of markers…maybe the kind that change colors, pencils with Barbie printed on the outside, and a few fancily-designed folders to hold their papers. We might also send them to their first day in a new outfit. I don’t recall any of these items actually being required of the students, although today things may be slightly different.

Parent sending their children to school in Uganda are given an arms-length list of requirements for each of three terms in school. In addition to the items we’d consider to be school supplies (paper, pencils, etc.) and clothing (uniforms, shoes, casual wear, etc.), children are expected to bring with them: two containers of black shoe polish, four rolls of toilet paper, mopping rags, laundry soap, a broom with a handle, two local brooms, three kilos of sugar, and so much more. Not only are students required to bring these items they’re also required to surrender them to the dispensary for general school and student use.

Those cute pencils sponsors purchase for children make their way to the dispensary and may never be used by the child herself. That sugar is sold to children who are given pocket money to make their food taste a little better. This means that a child is required to bring three kilos of sugar and may never get to eat that sugar because she spent all her money on the sugar in the first place and thus has no pocket money to purchase the sugar for her meals a second time.

Many parents cannot afford these requirements let alone tuition fees so their children stay home until the money is collected. A child may begin the term two or three weeks in, which expectedly hinders their studies. Mission emphasis seems lacking when schools send children home for lack of requirements.