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Monday, May 23, 2011

Day 4, Part Two; School Children and Smart Casual

The students gave us a whole new perspective on what life is like in the Ugandan school systems. During lunch, we were given the opportunity to talk with the children and young adults about school, their life and culture, and social norms. The students of the secondary school had a lot of questions, and we shared with them what we knew. They asked questions that ranged from what music we liked, to what relationships were like in the US, to what kind of food we ate. They were eager to learn about our lives, as we were eager to learn about theirs and about the atmosphere of a school surrounded by walls with sayings such as “No Gain Without Pain” and “Think Twice Life is Precious” written on them.

After lunch, we engaged with the students in discussions about what we believe are the issues that ace the youth of our culture. Issues such as the pressures of sex, homosexuality, and internet usage among others were discussed, and the students seemed to enjoy realizing that there are similarities between these two cultures that seem so different. After discussions, we were given a tour of the grounds, including the chickens, piggery, crops, and fish pond. You’d think that what with our school being from Iowa and all the pigs and farm animals would have been no big deal, but we still took pictures and cooed at the piglets.
The school seems to have a good handle on the idea of sustainable development within their own compound. Their whole system seems well thought out, from feeding the animals to feeding the students, each process uses as little as possible. The fish are fed chicken droppings and the fish, chickens, turkeys, and pigs are used for food for students as well as the eggs and other such products gained from animals. The cows, chickens, and turkeys wander freely on campus, which makes for an interesting view when you look out the windows.

After the tour, students from all three schools (Drake, MUBS, and the secondary school) were invited to play volleyball in a friendly match. Drake won one set, with the secondary school team squarely winning, but all in good fun and with a wonderful sense of humor and friendship. After the game, we were taken around to view the female dormitories, where a bunk bed with small amounts of personalization to each bed distinguishes the beds from each other. With no air conditioning, personal space, privacy, or attached bathroom, I believe that some of our students may be rethinking complaining about the on campus housing we lived in our first two years at Drake. After the last dormitory, we were taken to a building on campus where the school presented us with a small statue showing their gratitude in being involved with our education and allowing them to be the representation of Uganda’s educational system. After signing the guest book for the school, saying our last goodbyes to those students who we had made especially good friends with, and marching our exhausted bodies to the bus, it was time to head back to Kampala.
By the end of our school visitation, the Drake students had experienced another culture’s school system and learned about a child’s view of Americans. The questions were shocking, the children inquisitive, and the experience unforgettable. Overall, I believe that the opportunity is what most people in our group would describe as eye opening.

If you think our day ended there though, than you, my friend would be quite silly. After driving back through the traffic (that always seems to be jammed in just the direction we are going), we all rushed back to our cabins and hurriedly changed into dressier clothes (or what was called “smart casual”, which turns out to be about business casual) and headed to the opening dinner of the Commonwealth Association of Polytechnics in Africa (CAPA), a convention which allows five different African countries to join together over issues of education and discuss. This year, it was held in Uganda and the principal of MUBS invited us to join in the dinner. Due to traffic and staying a little late with our secondary school friends, we arrived at the dinner later than we expected, and it was a shuffle to in without causing a scene. But we were all seated and enjoyed delicious food and beautiful music and dancing performed by MUBS students. We were separated among many different tables fill with people from some of the five participating countries including Kenya and other parts of Uganda, and even Scotland! There were also students from a college in India there as well, and both groups were invited by the principal of the college to enjoy to diversity and entertainment of the night.

I think I speak for all of us when I say that as long as today was, it was a richly rewarding experience full of new people, laughter, and discoveries that will alter how we see our own education system and culture as well as those of Uganda.


  1. Smart casual...I like it. :) As a consumer behaviorist I have read that young people are young people no matter where you find them...that despite very different situations and resources, there is an uncanny "sameness" to issues being faced. Sometimes we can learn more about dealing with our own issues by seeing how others have dealt with similar things...can you think of a way you might approach some of the issues you discussed with the secondary and MUBS students differently than you did before this trip? How might a student in Uganda respond to the same question?

    *Dr. Adkins*

  2. I thought that the discourse with the students from the secondary school was enlightening. I thought that this school did a whole lot as far as creating well rounded, educated students who, by the time of graduation, and possibly before that would be well prepared for Ugandan life. I especially liked the electives that they had such as farming and fine arts. I feel that these are great promoters of critical thinking skills and creativity, as well as teach real world skills that are viable in Ugandan society. These electives especially farming were aligned with sustainable development. Even if the students did not fully complete their schooling they would still have the skills necessary to survive in the largely agrarian Ugandan society

  3. As an education major, this school was exactly the type that I would hope schools all over Uganda would emulate. They provided a diverse curriculum that produces well-rounded students. The students were allowed to practice some of their traditional culture through song and dance in their extracurriculars, but they also dabble in many core subjects. Their ordinary-level curriculum consists of about 20 subjects, allowing students to learn about not only the typical subjects, but also commerce, entrepreneurship, and agriculture. Allowing students to investigate these subject areas at an early age prepares them for the real world. With an economy based on 80% agriculture, it is impractical for schools to only teach English, Math, Science, and Social Studies. This school requires their students to practice farming and animal keeping; not only does this help students gain these necessary skills, it also makes the school a self-sustaining entity that can produce its own food. This secondary school should set the stage for all of the schools across the country. I was impressed with its progressiveness and hope to see more schools like it in the future.

  4. Eating lunch with the students was one of my most favorite parts of the trip. I loved being able to connect with them and find out more about them and their culture. They were extremely interested in getting to know us, as well as telling me about their lives. Throughout all of the conversations there is one thing that really stood out to me, and that was how much the students thought that we as Americans had the answers to everything.

    They asked me some pretty tough questions that I had no idea how to answer. Some of the questions I got were; how can we get sponsored? Why do white people come to Uganda and take some of our jobs? How can I get to America? These questions were extremely hard for me to answer because I truly did not know how to answer them. I tried the best I could, but there were moments that I felt so helpless because I wanted to be able to help and answer them as best as I could.

    Later on, even though I did not know how to answer the question the students kept asking me even more questions, which really helped me notice how much they believed that Americans or “white people” could solve problems. They had this view of Americans and it was hard to remove that stereotype.