Now I am all for setting rules and implementing structure but to go around putting the fear of God through people who are trying to do their best amongst so many challenges is a little unfair and to be honest a little like a power trip. There are only a handful of schools in Uganda that are run by the government and they are limited in their geographical location and full. Most of the schools in Uganda run a fee paying system and that is seen as the norm. Our school is no different. There are no government schools in the area for our children to attend. Rose set up this school in 2003 to help the children in her area get a basic Primary Education but many of the parents just don't have the money to pay the fees (As at today the fees are between £6-£8 per term) and so when I met Rose back in 2008, the school was about to close as she could no longer pay for food, teachers salaries.....basically anything, and she was getting herself into debt by taking out bank loans.
This scenario is seen a lot across Uganda. So in December 2012 Rose contacted me in a panic that she had had the dreaded visit by the Division and that they were threatening to close the school as it did not meet 'standards'......I say that loosely as this is an underdeveloped country we are talking about. I told her to tell them I would be there in January to discuss this.
And so we met....and we talked and I said my piece.....which is basically this.....why is it that they say to these school 'do it or we will close you down'......why is it never 'how can we help you keep this school open?' Like I have said to these people time and time again.....closure should be the absolute last resort. There is no where else for these children to go and so you are sending them onto the streets to become beggars and thieves.....this is not a solution!!
I explained my plans, the challenges we faced, but above all my commitment to helping these children and this school and please could they politely give us some time to overcome our challenges. They agreed. They did also go through the document of the new rules and wow....I realised we were in big trouble here!!
It is great to have rules but in Uganda and many similar countries the standards go from the super luxury to the absolute poverty and so one set of rules cannot cover everyone! Now we maybe in the poverty criteria but I want our school to hold its head up high amongst the other schools and so these rules indicated to me that times were changing.....and so must our school.....