Have you ever wondered what your sponsored child’s school life looks like? Join us today as we take a deep dive into some of the similarities and differences between school in the United States, and school in Kenya and Uganda.
Where we are more used to the semester system, Kenya and Uganda use a trimester system. Each country’s schedule is slightly different, but essentially they have three months of classes, with 2 week breaks in between, and a longer break at Christmas.
Kenya’s grade system is actually very similar to the U.S. They have eight years of primary school, followed by four years of secondary school, or high school. Instead of calling it 1st grade, they call it “Primary 1,” but it’s the same concept. The difference is that Kenyan students take a big placement test at the end of Primary 8 (8th grade) that determines their options in high school. Rather than families choosing where to send their child, Kenyan schools pick students based on their test scores. The system is similar to a draft, and means that a child’s whole future is riding on their 8th grade exams. So if your child mentions in a letter that they are “revising” for exams (their term for studying), now you know how important that is!
Uganda’s grade system is a little less familiar. Ugandan students do seven years of primary school. Similar to Kenya, they then take a big test that determines their options for high school. Unlike Kenya, Ugandan students do pick their schools, based on the tier they tested into. That’s where your sponsorship support can be a huge benefit, allowing students to go with a higher quality school, even if it’s something they couldn’t otherwise afford. After four years of standard high school, what they call Senior 1 - Senior 4, they then take another big test. Depending on their scores, they might continue on for two additional years of high school (Senior 5&6), or enroll in trade school. Senior 5 and 6 classes are primarily focused on college prep. After Senior 6, students take a final test that determines their college placement eligibility. These tests typically take place in November, and results aren’t released until the Spring. This gives students a nice long break to rest (and wait anxiously for results!) before they start college classes in August.
The school day in both countries looks pretty similar to the U.S. Students have classroom study, punctuated by recess and lunch breaks. Class sizes vary significantly, of course, but in Uganda many of our students are in classrooms of 60-70 students. In Kenya, primary class size is around 45 students, and high school class size is around 60 students. One big difference between our sponsored kids classes and classes here is that almost all schools require kids to wear uniforms. Children can be sent home for not having the correct uniform, which becomes a real barrier for the kids we serve. Thankfully, through your sponsorship support, kids receive the uniforms they need to stay in school!
Another significant difference is that in high school, many students go to boarding school. Many areas don’t even have a day school close enough for students to get to from their homes, making boarding school the only option. In both Kenya and Uganda, boarding schools are considered preferable to day schools, and are associated with higher academic achievement. Around ¾ of our high school kids in these countries attend boarding school. Boarding school tuition is all-inclusive, covering both room and board. Students sleep in dorms, and spend most of their time on campus.
The specifics might sound pretty different from what you’re familiar with. But at the end of the day, school in both Kenya and Uganda is all about helping children achieve their dreams, just like it is here.