When I was 11 years old, my school days were hard like rocks because even if it rained cats and dogs I had to leave very early for school to be there for 7 a.m. Hunger and canes were my daily friends. We were hit with sticks for many different reasons: for being late, for not wearing the right socks, for dirty uniforms, for not finishing work. When we came late, we were told by our beloved teachers that “latecomers eat bones.” We were also hit for not putting on the proper school uniform at the school campus. Our teachers used to tell us that “You are caned because we want you to improve your academic performance.”
I also had to run barefoot the 20 kilometers (more the 12 miles) to and from school since my parents are poor like church mice and couldn’t afford shoes. This isn’t unusual in Uganda.
The transition into high school wasn’t easy. I was a boarding student and made sure to sit in front so I could understand what the teacher was teaching, especially during mathematics and physics lessons.
At this level the studies were more complicated but the shortage of textbooks made the situation extreme. Especially for the girls in the class. One day, a mathematics teacher sent students for textbooks. He ordered the student to bring 50 books even though the class had 78 students. Boys were given one book each and girls were given one book on each desk. This meant that we girls had to share one book between four people while the boys read individually. After reading, the boys disturb the girls by taking our books from us. This practice is causing some of the female students to lose interest in their studies.
I don’t want to drop out of school. I want to become a doctor. At school I spend a lot of time on my science classes, including biology, chemistry and physics. But how am I supposed to study and learn and beat the boys in my class if I only get one quarter of a textbook to learn from?
This essay serves as my plea to the directors, headmaster and staff: Please buy more books and distribute them evenly among the students. I can’t help our people who suffer from malaria and diabetes unless you help me learn.
This story is part of Teen Voices at Women's eNews. In 2013 Women's eNews retained the 25-year-old magazine Teen Voices to continue and further its mission to improve the world for female teens through media. Teen Voices at Women's eNews provides online stories and commentary about issues directly affecting female teens around the world, serving as an outlet for young women to share their experiences and views.