A Boston Journalist Visits East Africa, Part 5
September 8, 2012
A Boston Journalist Visits East Africa, Part 1
September 8, 2012
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A Boston Journalist Visits East Africa, Part 6

Mary and I had a number of schools to visit while we were camped out at the nun’s guesthouse just east of Kampala. We visited two high schools, a college and two nursing schools. Each day we went straight out from early morning to mid-evening. If we weren’t driving around in the van, we were at the schools, inspecting the facilities and interviewing the students. Usually, I was bushed by dinnertime and fell quickly to sleep after eating. Mary seemed to have a little more stamina than me. But she is used to treking around Africa.

All of the high schools where GTL sends students are boarding schools and all have their own campuses, where buildings typically border a courtyard. The girls all wear uniforms and must cut their hair short, lest they waste precious study time doing their hair.

Generally, the buildings are neat and clean. Each school had a library, some with more books than others. I didn’t see many computers. The girls usually sleep in bunk beds in dorms.

The principals all know each student by name and seem to care. Mary and I did find one school, Mukono Hillside, to be lacking in some respects. It wasn’t real clean and Mary spotted broken glass on the ground. When we got back, we recommended that GTL no longer use this school, and it has since been dropped from our roster. Our girls now go to other schools.

In our interviews, we asked the girls many questions and had them fill out questionnaires. The girls were usually very enthusiastic about their schools, their teachers and their principals. Many said they wanted to be doctors, specifically neurosurgeons. That is said to be because most of the schools require the girls to read a biography of Ben Carson, a famous black U.S. neurosurgeon.

Others said they wanted to be nurses, accountants, engineers or teachers. Nearly all said they would wait to be married. Without GTL, many would probably already be married with babies.

The drive into Kampala to interview some nursing students was rugged. The traffic in the capital city was like nothing I have ever seen before. I was starting to get very tired of being in that van. Fortunately, Cissy, Sister Salome’s faithful assistant and our guide, enjoys much of the same music as I do, so we passed time listening to songs on my phone. It was useless for phone calls or email, but it saved the day because of the music. Oddly, country music is popular in Uganda, and my ITunes has a bunch of old Merle Haggard and George Jones classics that Cissy liked a lot. She also dug my collection of New Orleans funk as well as Paul Simon’s African album, Graceland.

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