Don't Assume .....
Elspeth Dugdale | March 20, 2022
Looking back over some of the SD articles from 2020 & 2021, and reflecting on some of the concerns we expressed at that time, I think that we/I assumed wrongly - completely underestimating the capability and versatility of so many WTA students.
Since January, it has been so good to catch up with very many students, chatting to them both in small groups and individually. As ever, the best time of the day is after lessons, when the heat has gone out of the day and there is time to really have some really interesting conversations. These often take place en route from the library or classroom back to Mirembe House, when I am desperate for a huge pint of tea! However, I have learnt to stop, listen and engage.
When schools closed so abruptly exactly two years ago, and the expected 2-3 month lockdown turned into almost 2 years, I could not imagine how students were spending their time. I imagined them bored witless at home, with nothing to do, sitting sadly in the shade with few exercise books to refer to, literally waiting for the day that schools would reopen. Many of their rural, remote homes are without electricity, so online learning was a laughable notion, only realistic for the wealthy, urban elite. The situation seemed hopeless, especially as time dragged on.
How wrong could I be? It has been fascinating listening to the students talk so positively and confidently about how they benefited and rose to the challenge of being out of school. Many ended up working for their parents - doing either agricultural work or in family businesses, delivering and selling. Many are expected to spend hours doing household chores anyway - in every holiday. Some set up their own small businesses, selling snacks and drinks. Several talked about having had very little time for study in the evenings. Some decided that they might not even return to school as they were rather enjoying having a small income! In many cases, the parents have different ideas on that matter and have insisted they return to complete exams.
It would be naive to suggest that everyone had a wonderful time and that all was well. There have been some very distressing stories too. Some girls have not returned, sadly due to the very high pregnancy rate. Some feel they have fallen too far behind and are now two years older, so returning is not an option. However, most are back at WTA. The fees bursary scheme has really helped so many parents this term. (Thank you yet again, if you played a part in that.)
Catching up on the missed academic work is certainly a huge challenge for both teachers and students and a tough reality. All exam classes will stay in school to continue studying through the next holidays. Apparently, there will be no concessions or allowances from the exam board, when it comes to exams. But the attitude is to always look forward, always be optimistic about the challenges ahead. Every student's and teacher's response is 'But we will make it, we can do it. It will be OK.'
The rest of the 2022 academic year will certainly be a lot of hard work for everyone; however, it is right and wise to assume that they know what they're talking about.