Updated: May 24, 2021
Three months ago in November, the candidate class at Solid Rock took their Primary Leaving Exam. This exam is standardized, administered by the government, determines their future, and is hard! Our students often come in with little educational foundation. Their parents usually aren’t able to help them study, as many of them can’t read. They don’t have older brothers or sisters who have done this before. They don’t have so much as a table at home to study at. Everything about their environment and upbringing is working against them.
So what do these students do with so many factors working against them? They work harder than we have ever seen a student work. Most importantly, their teachers come alongside. Staff and students come to school on Saturdays throughout the school year to run practice exams. The week of the exam, students sleep at school, joined by a few staff each night, so that they don’t have to walk the miles between school and home. They are encouraged to meet with teachers on breaks, do homework before leaving school, and work together to help each other study.
The class. A “funny face” picture.
The grading system used in Uganda is different but can be translated into our system of As, Bs, Cs, Ds, and Fs. Last year, the graduating class of 2018 surpassed expectations with a 100% pass rate. Those 32 students were Solid Rock’s first class, and they essentially started their education at fourth grade. When all students passed, the vast majority with Bs, everyone rejoiced! They performed the best in the county, were going to high school, and stood as an example of hope for the younger students.
Students with their diplomas and graduation gifts- a new blanket and backpack to take to boarding school!
This year was an improvement beyond our wildest expectations. From mostly Bs and a few Cs and Ds in 2018, this year’s class progressed to entierly As and Bs, with three students scoring A+s, and one appearing in the local paper! In Arua district at large, 2% of students passed this same exam with an A. At Solid Rock, 22% did. According to the school director, Solid Rock is “the talk of the subcounty.”
Ugandan culture prizes education– people follow the local school’s exam results like Americans follow their football teams. In a communal society like this one, people identify with the performance of their group (family, school, tribe, etc) more than their individual performance. So when a school does well, everyone in the vicinity rejoices. Right now, Arua is rejoicing! Because of Solid Rock’s students the whole community, from the graduates themselves to their siblings to their teachers to families that don’t even have students at the school but just live nearby, has reason to be proud.
In the lives of these families, this pride is of much greater value than the test scores themselves. After all, the core of their suffering does not lie in low test scores but in low self-esteem. An abiding belief that you are unloveable and un-useable wrecks havoc in the hearts of children. But a belief that you are valuable and worthy– now that’s life-changing, empowering, and chain-breaking. Test scores alone do not conferworth, but rather reveal the inherent worth that these children have always had but have never seen in themselves.
Thank you to sponsors, supporters, teachers, and families for making this possible. God is doing a great work in this community and in each of these children’s lives, and His plans will never fail. We are humbled to be a part of it, and so thankful for all of you who have come alongside these children. As the students and teachers say, “to God be the glory!”