The children of Bowa – how 400 euros can change a whole life

A report by Monika Koczi – Founder “Stream of Life”

The children of Bowa have a dream: to be able to attend a school one day. But in many rural areas around Kampala this wish is never fulfilled for a very simple reason: there are no schools. 

While we Europeans believe that the whole world is already so well developed and largely progressive, we have seen exactly the opposite in Uganda. During our project trip in June 2019, we were invited to a remote small village called Bowa.

The inhabitants of this village had never seen a white person before our visit, the village elder assured us.  We met contented people, who exist with minimal material and financial support and hardly have a vision of their future.

The village leader also explained the living conditions in his homeland. Poverty and deprivation characterize people’s everyday lives there. They live on the scarce income from agriculture. The farmers are self-sufficient but they can hardly live on their agricultural products, let alone have anything to sell. The children have to help their parents, from their earliest years, with their hard work in the fields. There is little hope that something will change for the better. The only way out of this bleak situation would be to attend a school. To go to school, to learn something, that is also the dream of many children in Bowa. But there are no schools here. No “elementary school”, and certainly no middle or high schools.

In Bowa, therefore, children live without any hope  for change. This is the case in many rural areas around Kampala as well as in the peripheral areas of the Ugandan capital. There is only one way out of this misery for every single child and therefore also for their families. That means is an education. This education can only be acquired by attending a so-called boarding school. In these schools, which are far from their home villages, the children spend the entire school year and come home only on vacation.

 

But the attendance at a boarding school, which ultimately represents a quality education, the parents can not afford. Such a school space costs between 200 and 400 euros per year. These fees include the cost of the necessary initial equipment which includes not only a mattress, sheets, a blanket, a mosquito net and school uniforms and materials, but also laundry and hygiene items. These are the items for which the parents and families would have to pay.  

Despite the high costs, the boarding schools offer no luxury. The schools and dormitories are simple buildings in which the boys and girls are housed separately. In the dormitories are densely packed simple metal bunk beds, because the available space is used as efficiently as possible. The sparse personal possessions are kept under the bed in tin boxes, which is a mandatory requirement by the school Administrators. There is hardly room for the children in these narrow rooms. Tables, chairs and cabinets are only available in shared rooms, if any. Even a separate seat next to the bed is a rare commodity. There is no privacy in the boarding schools. In general, the children usually spend time outside of the rooms and buildings.

In many cases even the lessons take place outdoors. Such a school day is filled with lessons and compulsory study time from early morning until late in the evening.

The pupils also do a lot of work in the boarding school, such as washing their own clothes and shoes. The shoes are among the most valuable possessions of the children, so they are cleaned every day. Many children have very little clothing, often just one of the prescribed school uniforms. Uniforms and the other clothes are therefore carefully maintained and washed almost every day.

The children of Bowa do not know exactly what to expect of a boarding school, nevertheless, they have the dream of being allowed to go to such a school someday. An education would be the pride of their parents. The parents, in turn, would be happy if we could help them to finance a place in a boarding school. Even an annual amount from 150 euros, the average price for a place in a boarding school including the initial equipment for the students, would help. The cost falls to 40 to 50 euros in monthly school fees. No big sums, but not affordable for everyone. The funds would be well spent by improving the future of a child from Bowa and in the financial relief of their entire family.