As I’m sitting here in my house tonight grading papers from my Senior 2 classes, I’m starting to realize how bittersweet it is really gonna be to leave here. I got to thinking about this mostly because I was grading the Senior 2 papers. These students, the Senior 2s, are my students more than any other group of students. These were the ones I was teaching from the beginning. I’ve been teaching them computers from the time I got here a year and a half ago and I also taught them Math for a while. I can’t say I know any other students better. These are the ones that I even know a lot of their names. For a lot of them I can even put together both their names (their Christian name and their local name) and I can also pronounce most of them. This was something I never thought I would learn. As I’m grading their papers and looking at the list of names, I can picture the students.
A lot of people here keep asking when I’m leaving. I think people are concerned that they won’t know and then they can’t say goodbye to me before I leave. And as the end of the year is approaching even more people ask me this because it is really natural for teachers to leave at the end of a year. But no students ask me this question more than the Senior 2s. They heard that I wasn’t going to be here for the rest of this term starting next week. They found this out because their computer exam was moved to this week to accommodate me. I think they took this as I was possibly never coming back and so the questions were even more than usual.
As I sit here thinking about all this, I look back on the progress some of these girls have made since I got here. I also can’t help but think of the girls that are always at the top. These are the ones I seem to know the best. They are the ones that keep going to camp and they seem to be the ones that are most likely to come and chat with me. Many people would probably look at my situation and say how much I’ve changed the lives of some of these girls. Going to camp alone really gives them something they would have never had otherwise. They also have all these new computers in their computer lab. And who knows, maybe I’ve been such an influence that a lot of these Senior 2s will opt to take computers next year as Senior 3s. But what most people don’t see or think about is how much these girls have changed me. Upon arriving in this country I was told that girls here are told they are no good at Math and Science and because of that they often just give up. I was told girls here are generally not assertive and won’t look you in the eye. They don’t speak up. Just from taking a handful of my students I could prove most of these myths wrong. They’ve changed the way I look at Ugandans and stereotypes in general.
A lot of students (or people in general) will ask me to take them back to America. Usually I would just brush them off, but I knew I crossed a certain point when I actually wanted to take some of my students back with me. As far as Uganda goes I’m at a pretty good school and therefore we have some really good students. It just kills me that if these girls were given the chance to go to University in the U.S. (or any other developed country), they could really make it. But because they were born here and their families don’t have money, they will never live up to their full potential. Unfortunately, I don’t have the means to make this happen. Not to mention the fact that these girls aren’t ready to go to University yet, but even if they were I’m still helpless when it comes to this matter.
Despite any ill will or discouraged feelings I may have developed toward my school, especially lately, it will be bittersweet to leave my students. I can’t wait to get out of here, but I hate to leave them. As a whole, they have never truly disappointed or disgusted me. There are very few things in this country that I will really miss, but this is one of them.