Black Shoes

At the orphanage in Uganda the youngest kids wear bright orange uniforms and khaki shorts. They wear tube socks that they hand wash twice a week. They must have black shoes.  If they come to school without their black shoes they are sent home.  The youngest walk down the dirt roads together. Six women stand around the doors of two shabby red brick buildings.  They are the teachers.  They welcome the kids with smiles.

The elementary kids at the orphanage walk past St. Mark's elementary school down to Bulenga Light Primary School.  They wear green and white checkered shirts. The girls wear dresses and the boys wear shorts.  They all need black shoes, or they get sent home.  Light School goes up until 7th grade.  All of the kids at the orphanage are gauranteed school up through P7-as long as their sponors keep sending them.  As long as there is a little money, they can go through P7.  But after P7, things get more difficult.  After P7 things are not so certain. 

In Uganda, you must pass an exam to move on.  The national examinations are a Ugandan event. Every child in P7 takes the same exam.  The whole nation holds its breath, waiting for the exam results.  The newspapers reserve the front page for the biggest national exam headline.  Seven of the kids at the orphanage took the exam.  We held our breath with them.  

On a Monday in January, 70 kids from Light Primary School in Bulenga took the national exam. Some passed, some didn't.  We checked our emails for weeks, waiting to hear how the P7 students did.  Six of those seven are now at a secondary school where they wear green sweaters over white collared shirts.  Their socks have stripes, their shoes are black, and they are smiling in the picture that Patrick sent us.  

One of the students got the very highest score in the entire school-among the best scores in the nation!   He got in to a private school where he will continue studying.  He gets to be one of the best and the brightest.  All of the kids passed!

We are so proud of the 7 kids who studied so hard-who took nothing for granted.  School was never a given for any of these kids. At points in their lives, it was an unlikely prospect.  Passing their P7 exams seemed like an unknowable future.  Getting into one of the best private schools was an unrealistic dream.  

Now, sending 7 kids, plus next years kids, plus next years kids, plus next years kids through high school is an intimidating future for us.  Sometime we worry about where the money will come from. But when we are in Uganda, we tell the kids what our parents told us, "Your job is to study".  Work your hardest, do your best, study and learn-and have fun doing it.  That is their worry now.

These kids have carried more worry in their lives than any kids should.  Through the generosity of sponsors, the work of the staff at RUHU, and God's grace, their job can simply be to study, to play, and to keep track of their black shoes.