One thing that has particularly interested me during this trip is the difference between my school day in comparison to a Ugandan student’s school day.

The first major difference is the time I have to wake up in comparison to a student here. A PEAS student who doesn’t board on the school site will usually have to wake up at 5am. This is to allow time to collect water, care for their siblings and leave enough time to walk a few kilometres to get to school. They’re unlikely to eat or drink anything before school. A student who boards is a little luckier as they don’t have to get up until 6.30am and will been given breakfast.

I can no longer complain about my 7.30am start, two pieces of toast and 15 minute walk to school.

It’s strange because in the UK, boarding schools have a stereotype of being beautiful, traditional mansions only available to an elite group. While in Uganda it’s the complete opposite. Parents desperately want their children to board, purely because it’s much safer and it creates more time for learning. A parent knows that their child will receive 3 meals a day, have access to clean water, will not face the dangers of walking to and from school, sleep in mosquito nets and be safe at all times. It gets dark much earlier in Uganda and at the same time throughout the whole year. Students who have to walk back home in the dark are faced with the dangers of road traffic, trucks and physical or sexual abuse from strangers in the road. At PEAS schools safety is a huge feature; all PEAS schools have a 24 hour security guard, Dorm Mothers and outdoor lighting.  

The teacher was very interactive and made a boring lesson about spreadsheets actually quite fun

Another major difference is the huge contrast in class sizes. A typical PEAS class will have over 60 students. In fact one class I visited had 120 students! If there was a class that size in the UK, the room would turn into a kind of zoo where the children would be like the wild, naughty animals but instead the class of 120 were all concentrating on their work, quietly reading newspapers.

A similarity that I didn’t anticipate was how similar our lessons are taught. Before observing a lesson in a PEAS school I expected the teaching to be boring and old fashioned. However I was very wrong. I observed a computer lesson where the teacher was very interactive and made a boring lesson about spreadsheets actually quite fun. As well as that, I got to observe a chemistry class where the students were doing an experiment. I was surprised at the amount and variety of scientific equipment they were using.

My school in the UK has a school nurse but not one who lives on the school site and is in charge of a building called the ‘Sick Bay’. Due to the high risk of life threatening diseases in Uganda, having a Sick Bay is very important. The ‘Sick Bay’ is where all the medicines are stored, as well as having a separate room for students to stay in if there is a chance that they have something contagious.

One of the biggest differences was the sanitation. Firstly to get water, you have to pump the water out from a big water bore hole rather than just turning on the tap. Secondly, the toilets are just holes in the ground. Thirdly, the bathing rooms only have cold water. Although these descriptions may make the sanitation sound really awful, they are actually very good in comparison to what the students and teachers are used too. All the sanitation methods are clean and sustainable, so all in all they are very good, just very different to what I am used too.

Before arriving in Uganda, I thought the schools would be the complete opposite to schools in the UK. Indeed they are very different but they are more similar than I first thought - both have enthusiastic teachers, both have Shakespeare dominating the library, both have football pitches, both have science labs, both have the same school rules and most importantly, both have happy students.

Kate attends Fortismere School in Haringey and visited schools in Uganda with the Costa Foundation