This is an important time of year for Ugandan children. The end of the third school term marks the examination season. It is when children in Class 7 have to take their Primary Leaving Exam (PLE) which is the culmination of their three years in nursery classes and the seven in primary school.
But it is far more important than that because the results are capable of shaping their entire future lives.
If the boys and girls fail, they must either repeat year 7 and hope to succeed next time, 12 months hence, or their formal education is over. Success at PLE is the only path to secondary school. Fail and your education is over. Quite simply, you cannot progress into the secondary sector without a pass. That – quite brutally – is nor permitted.
If you do pass, it then depends on whether your parents can afford for you to stay in education. Or whether, in the case of our sponsored children, the sponsors are able to find the increased fees that the next stage requires.
An additional problem is that there are no secondary schools in the villages where we work. So Bubebbere children have to go to boarding school which of course requires additional expense. On the positive side our colleagues have founded a secondary school specifically to help these youngsters.
It is an annual challenge when we must approach sponsors and ask them if they are able and prepared to find the additional costs. When they say “yes”, the child’s educational future is assured. But of course not everybody can afford the extra, so the challenge is on to find people to share the sponsorship costs. To date, we have not failed a single one of these youngsters and in 2016, our UK and French sponsors are supporting 20 students at this level and beyond.
This year we have another five children taking their PLE. The challenge is on to ensure that, if they pass (and “mock” results suggest that they will), they will be able to continue their education. We are discussing the possibilities with their sponsors.
We do not want to let them down.