Meet Our First Ugandan Secondary Students: Jonathan's Story

04/16/15

Late in the afternoon, a small crowd of children gathers on the side of the road in rural northern Uganda. Their clothes are ratty, their eyes hungry. They lack almost every material thing you and I would consider essential. But there’s one thing they refuse to go without. 


These are the school drop-outs. The boys and girls who couldn’t pay for their semester and had to stay home. But every one of them hopes their fortunes will change. And when it does, they don’t want to be behind the class.
 
One by one, bright uniforms appear on the horizon—students walking home from school. The children by the road keep their eyes peeled for an old classmate, someone who might do them a favor. As soon as they glimpse one, they run to him, greet him, and beg for just a few of his notes from the day. If they meet someone willing to share, they will take these notes home and read every last word. It’s their only hope for an education.
 
This was 11-year-old Jonathan’s daily routine. After his mother left and his father passed away, Jonathan’s grandfather was unable to pay his school fees. “This was very traumatizing to me because I saw myself as a nobody without school,” Jonathan says. But he held onto hope that he would one day rejoin his class. When a friend would give him notes, “I would get home and pretend I am in class as I read aloud to my grandmom,” Joanthan explains. “She would keep on comforting me that one day I will go to school. This would get me to bed with a smile on my face."
 
It wasn’t long before Jonathan’s elderly grandfather also passed away. Alone and afraid at his funeral, Jonathan came to the attention of the presiding pastor, Reverend James Okalo Ekwang, who is also the director of Children of the Nations (COTN) in Uganda. This kind man asked about Jonathan. When he found out Jonathan hadn’t been attending school for the last year and now had no one but his grandmother to support him, Pastor James helped him register for COTN’s Village Partnership Program.
 
Thanks to his sponsors, Jonathan was finally able to return to school. He attended COTN’s primary school in Anai-Okii. It was a great school, and Jonathan loved it. There he not only caught up to his class, but also learned about the God of the universe, who created him, loves him, and rescued him. His favorite story that he learned at school was the story of Moses leading the Isrealites out of slavery. “It teaches us that there may be suffering now, but we have a destiny,” Jonathan says. Before, hopeless and discouraged, Jonathan used to cry about his problems. Now, he says he knows he can take them to God in prayer. 


   Jonathan loved being able to go back to school, especially because at COTN's school he also learned about God. 
 
It wasn’t long before Jonathan had another problem. He was one of the first graduates of COTN’s primary school, but because COTN didn’t yet operate their own secondary school, Jonathan had to attend a secondary boarding school in a different village.
 
The secondary school didn’t have the small classes and Christian leaders Jonathan was used to at COTN’s school. At night, older students would bully the younger ones. When it got close to lunchtime, students stopped paying attention to the teacher, and began to think about how they would get food. The school was overcrowded and there was never quite enough food to go around. “Little ones like me would be pushed even into the vat of food, when the older kids crowded the dining hall,” Jonathan says. Worst of all, his teachers were mediocre and uncommitted. 
 
This may sound like an abnormally awful school. But unfortunately, it’s hard to find a secondary school with qualified, committed teachers, decent class sizes, and leaders supervising the children well. That’s why Jonathan and his friends began to pray for a COTN secondary school. 
 
The boys moved to a new school while they waited for COTN’s first secondary school to open. Then, in February 2015, they settled into their new dorms on COTN’s campus, and started classes at COTN’s Marani Honors School. 


                         Jonathan (far left) will be in the first graduating class of our new secondary school!
 
“It’s really exciting to be a pioneer of this secondary school,” says Jonathan, who will be in the first graduating class. “It means I am part of the team laying a foundation for my fellow students so my foundation has to be firm here for all coming behind me. It is also my pride that I am the first in this secondary school. This is a story that I will pass on to my children many years to come.”