Letterland in Uganda

Elspeth Dugdale | August 4, 2014

Letterland in Uganda
S1 during a CRE lesson at WTA

During a distracted moment in a WTA (there's the first one - Wobulenzi Town Academy) Senior Management Team (SMT) meeting, it became increasingly clear how many acronyms frequent daily conversation in Uganda.  On first arrival, they may sound unintelligible and certainly add confusion for a newcomer, but they soon start to sound commonplace and even normal...

But on reflection, they also tell a few stories and reveal some key snapshots of life in Uganda....

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At WTA.....

Arriving at school as a new S1 (Senior 1 =Year 7) pupil, in addition to bringing your school fees, one must come armed with 2 rolls of TP to keep the latrines well supplied, plus your SESEMAT fee (towards Science and Maths teacher development). Of course, access to secondary school is only for those that have passed PLE - the Primary Leaving Exam....one important reason for the existence of The Bridge PRC (Primary Resource Centre), to give extra support to P6 and P7 students and help them succeed.

 Once on site, a student will come across the DOS (Director of Studies), the Senior Teacher who oversees the teaching and the staff.  There is also Madam Rebecca the SWT (Senior Woman Teacher) who will direct the student to the dormitory, which could be G1, G2 or G3 - for the girls and B1, B2 and B3 for the boys. Any student who is unwell, during their time at school, will pay a visit to TRHC (The Rock Health Centre).

MoTs, EoTs- Middle and End of Term exams: at secondary school in Uganda, it is quite common to have 2 sets of exams per term, which is both hard work and time-consuming for everyone. However, WTA is way ahead many other schools, that still insist on starting the term with BoTs (Beginning of Term) as well! It's all supposed to be good preparation for WAKISSHA mocks (a separate group of Head Teachers from Wakiso District) and then the O' (UCE) and A' levels (UACE), all set by UNEB (the Uganda National Examining Board). After S4, you might well choose to go on to PTC (Primary Training College).

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And as for the subject abbreviations and  A'level 'combinations'....MTC, Ent, Lug-Lit, CRE,  HEG and PEM are all in the timetable. (Maths, Entrepreneurship, Luganda-Literature, Christian Religious Education, as single subjects and  History-Economics-Geography,  Physics-Economics-Maths as A' level combinations)

During the school day, the HP or DHP (Head Prefect or Deputy Head Prefect) - are doing what prefects do in schools all over the world. HM (Headmistress) Gertrude and DHM (Deputy Headmaster) Patrick have titles that are easier to understand.

VD - Visitation Day - usually occurs on the last Sunday of the month when there will be a session of prayers and worship led by the SU (Scripture Union) and no doubt some MDD (Music, Dance and Drama) presentations for the parents and guardians. Once you finish school, you are then classified as an OB or OG (Old Boy or Old Girl) and hopefully ready for life in the outside world.

And to the World of Officialdom..

Beyond WTA, Ugandan life is still full of entertaining acronyms, to add mystery and intrigue. The flight from LHR to EBB (Entebbe) should be straightforward, but if the bags don't arrive, a contact at  ENHAAS (Entebbe Handling Services) will be your only hope. Once settled, if you buy a vehicle of any sort you will have to have a TIN (Tax Identification Number) from the URA (Uganda Revenue Authority) - and this will undoubtedly produce a memorable experience of TIA  (This is Africa) timing and officialese. Phil, Michele, Jerry, Elspeth, Stan and Sue can all recount examples of this... if you have the time to listen. Then there are international schools, KISU and ISU,  churches (KIC), plus numerous organisations, companies, thinktanks and NGO names.. AMREF, PACE, BRAC, LACOR, UWA, UCF - there are signboards everywhere.

But one of my favourites is from a small Kenyan village, which had the following community health signpost:

 "This Village is a NDZ. Please keep clean"

FYI, 'NDZ' quite simply means ' No Defecation Zone' ...so not much more to say other than... LOL!