Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Child Sponsorship and Tuition

Students commonly board at school and as much as I disliked the idea at first, I see that the benefits of boarding far outweigh the detriments. For example, children in village who are fortunate enough to attend school have access to focused study (rather than doing gardening or other role-related work), they have access to lights for evening study (rather than an empty paraffin lamp), they have access to water for keeping clean (as opposed to hauling water for hours for the whole family), they’re surrounded by peers who often become lifelong friends, they’re away from raw home situations…I could go on.

Regardless of boarding or not, parents receive a circular at the beginning of each school year. This circular details the various costs to parents to have their child enrolled in the specific school. Costs include tuition, uniforms, “development,” IDs, and the like. We’re left to believe that each of the three terms will require similar payments and so we budget accordingly. After some hair pulling over seemingly ridiculous costs, we settle into the reality that no matter how much fuss, all the schools manage things this way and nothing we say or do can change that…so we pay.

Term two rolls around and we’re thankful the frustration over ridiculous fees is over and so we head over to the school collect the necessary bank slip (more on that later) to pay tuition fees. Oh wait, a letter from the head teacher describes a tuition increase – conveniently assessed AFTER starting our child in school – and additional fees. This year the Term 2 fees added were for increased tuition, medical needs (though Olivia already had her required exam), a t-shirt (because school leaders could not control theft), the cost of using permanent marker to label the t-shirt (which was enough to buy 5 markers), and another ID card.

Along with this agony, we were forced to demand that our child be fed during Muslim times of fasting. The school director imposed fasting on all students regardless of their religion and we imposed eating regardless of the director’s religion. After lots of circular talking, the bursar (accountant) promised Olivia would be fed. We’ll see.

With the bank payment slip in hand, we take a boda back to the main road, a taxi to Entebbe town and wait two hours in line at the specified bank to make the payment. The school doesn’t receive payments directly (unless it’s somehow “convenient” for them) and so every parent must come to the school to pick up the payment slip and go to the bank to make payment. I guess this is to be sure you’re aware of all the extra costs each term.

In preparation for each of the three terms, every student is required…yes, REQUIRED…to contribute certain items to the school pantry such as sugar, a ream of paper, soap, toilet paper, notebooks for school work, pens and pencils, buckets, mops, brooms, shoe polish and the list goes on. Next the student is in need of her own personal items such as deodorant, sanitary pads, tooth paste, gum boots, nail clippers, laundry soap, and scads more. In the end, Olivia will be ready to return to school.

Oh, we did mention that their caning sticks were a bit too thick as we left the compound.