In our continuing look at Volunteer Uganda’s partner schools, we visit the deceptively named Standard Academy.
Standard Academy. An odd name for an educational establishment. It does not inspire confidence in the academic standards or the quality of the experience enjoyed by volunteers.
But Standard is anything but standard. I will endeavour to tell you why.
The school which has just over 300 pupils on its roll is the farthest from the VU lodge, about a 30 minute journey over rocky roads and up steep slopes. On a clear day when the sun burns without haze conspiring to obscure the view, volunteers can look out over the magnificent vista of Queen Elizabeth National Park. The high plains of south-west Uganda tumble down to the savannah of Ishasha where Acacia trees dot the horizon. The view is anything but standard.
Classrooms form a perimeter around a small, central courtyard. Compared with other schools aligned with Volunteer Uganda it can certainly be described as petite, even intimate. It is not cramped, but perfectly formed allowing teachers to form close bonds with the pupils, not only from their own classes but all around the school. The constant buzz of pupils learning in neighbouring classes just adds to the energy of school. The atmosphere is anything but standard.
The teachers who welcome volunteers are as keen to learn from Bzungus (plural of Mzungu, or white person in Rukiga) as volunteers are from Bakiga (plural of Makiga, or the tribe of people who speak Rukiga). There is a friendly atmosphere in the staff room, not the “saved seat culture” that can be found in many schools in the UK – it helps that the seats are more like church pews making sharing a necessity. Teachers plan together, mark exams together, eat together, dance, laugh and gossip together. The welcome is anything but standard.
Finally, the children. The desire to learn and to treat education as a privilege in Uganda is well known, but the kids at Standard seem to want to go that little bit further to achieve success through education. Their behaviour is impeccable, their enthusiasm is limitless and their singing which greets a teacher at the start of a long day is among the best I have heard.
Standard Academy. What’s in a name anyway?