About a year ago, Building Tomorrow teamed up with the Jukes Foundation for Kids to provide ten scholarships for students to continue their studies following their completion of P7, the final level of schooling offered at Building Tomorrow academies. Of the 19 students who sat for the nationwide Primary Leaving Exam (PLE), 17 passed, and almost all of them earned what is known here as a ’second-grade.’ Two of our students were two points away from first-grade distinction.
Out of context, this might not seem that impressive. But this fall, the Building Tomorrow Academy of Lutisi, the alma mater of these ten students, will become the first authorized test center for the PLE in the sub county. Up until this fall, as a primary-leaving candidate in Namayumba sub county, you had to travel a measurable distance to simply have the opportunity to take the exam.
This afternoon, Joseph Kaliisa, our Country Director and I, drove out to St. John’s Secondary School to meet with our Building Tomorrow alums. The crew had much to say of their life as secondary school students–the workload, making new friends and seeing more cars in one day than can be counted on both hands.
For about an hour we shared a true African experience, talking under an acacia tree under an unrelenting sun. Moses told me of how his grandmother who lives in Lutisi sent word to his family living in the East of Uganda that a new school–and a good one, too–had recently opened in her village. Days later, Moses arrived in Lutisi and was enrolled at the Building Tomorrow Academy of Lutisi.
Agnes talked of being an anchorwoman; Rita and Justine spoke of their ‘excitement’ for the opportunity to read each day and to one day become nurses. Medie talked fondly of the generator–the generator that allows he and his classmates to study, even when it is dark outside. Moses talked about improving his English skills in order to become a lawyer, then asked if he could add one more thing.
“My mother and father told me that if I ever had the chance to say thank you on their behalf, I should take it. Not only have you helped me, but them, too.”
Alex looked up and said, “me too, we are all just grateful to have been introduced to civilization.”
Floored, I stopped taking notes.
Joseph and I looked at one another and let the silence sink in. Wrongly, I thought changing the subject might help soften things up. I asked everyone what advice they’d give their peers when they next go home. Alex lunged forward.
“I tell them to respect your teachers, read your books and reach what we haven’t; get first grades and make us all proud.”
Joseph stood up, later confessing it was so that no one could see his eyes well up. Though fighting the same urge, I couldn’t stop smiling.
“No, you all make us very, very proud.”