Back in August we (Peace Corps Volunteers in Uganda) had a few different camps happening here. I was lucky enough to be able to send girls to two of them, West GLOW and Girl Tech. I personally went to West GLOW and participated as a director, but I was unable to attend Girl Tech. Before the girls went to camp I had a little talk with them about the expectations I had for them and the behavior they should adopt while at camp and when I did this I focused mostly on the ones going to Girl Tech. I wanted to make sure that they were on their best behavior especially because I wasn’t going to be there. I didn’t want any volunteer from camp to come back to me and say “Why did you send that girl. She was a pain in the neck.” So I reminded all of them that they represented not only themselves, but also their school and most importantly, me. All that being said, I sent the girls to camp and hoped for the best. After camp, I had a number of volunteers involved in Girl Tech, mostly the mentors of each individual group at the camp, come to me to tell me how great my girls were, which is always nice to hear. Now that camp is over (and has been for months now) things are starting to come up again and for one particular reason…
Girl Tech was held in Jinja at an all-girls secondary school called Wanyange Girls’ S.S. This school is one of the top girls schools in the country and not only is it difficult to get into, it is also expensive. The head teacher of Wanyange loved Girl Tech so much that she decided that she wanted to give out 2 scholarships to 2 girls that attended Girl Tech, one for Senior 1 and one for Senior 2. She wants to offer them admission for the remainder of their secondary education (up to Senior 4) and they would only have to pay 150,000 shillings per term. To put this in perspective, the girls at my school pay somewhere between 300,000 and 400,000 shillings per term and at Wanyange it costs 800,000 shillings for the first term and 500,000 for every subsequent term. So this is an amazing opportunity for 2 girls who attended Girl Tech.
When this scholarship idea was first mentioned to me about a week and a half ago by the director of Girl Tech, Stevie, I thought that maybe one or two of my girls would get nominated. I did send 7 girls and 5 of them qualify for the scholarship (the scholarship is not eligible for Senior 3s despite the fact that some Senior 3s went to Girl Tech), not to mention they were some of the top performers at my school. As the week went on Stevie kept updating me on how things were shaping up. She was also at TOT, so I saw her every day this week. At the end of the week, she told me which girls were nominated. She had each volunteer mentor nominate 2 girls from their group, which would total 16 girls. Out of all the girls at Girl Tech all 5 of my girls who are eligible for this scholarship were nominated! And even one of my Senior 3 girls was nominated (although she is not eligible so she will not apply). To me this was really exciting! It makes me feel like I’m doing my job right.
Now over the next week that I’m at site I have to talk to the head teacher of my school and explain this to him. This may not be easy, because it is in his best interest and the best interest of the school for these girls to stay here. Although he isn’t a totally unreasonable person and this is an amazing opportunity for these girls so, hopefully things will go smoothly. The girls will have to go through a phone interview with the head teacher of Wanyange Girls, take an exam that I administer, and complete two essay questions. Wanyange is also going to look at the details of the school these girls are currently at (like their current school fees and the school’s test results). After all this, Wanyange will select which girls they are going to take for the two spots they have available. They are not going to select more than one girl from each school, so at most only one of my girls will get it. Nonetheless, all the girls are going to get a certificate (and people here love certificates almost more than the prizes themselves) and a small monetary price for being a finalist in this process.
To me, this is really exciting and I hope my school sees it in the same way. When I was telling someone about this the other day I said “I might be losing one of my girls next year if she goes to Wanyange.” And he said to me in response “It’s not that you’re losing her. It’s that she is being upgraded.”