Do you remember what it felt like to join secondary school for the first time? The new school, uniform, subjects, teachers, friends, traditions and so much more.
And if like many others you were joining boarding school for the first time that too would take some getting used to, not forgetting the home sickness that plagued most of us. There is, oh so much to get accustomed to in a very short period of time.
In a few weeks, pupils who passed their 2019 Primary Leaving Exams will be joining secondary school. They too like many before them will go through that phase of newness. Secondary school level education has two stages.
The first four years of Senior One to Four make up the O-Level period which plays a role in laying a foundation for what one wants to be in future. This is why joining Senior One is such a big deal. It comes with a mix of excitement and anxiety for learners and even their parents.
The big move
As a primary school pupil, seeing secondary students in their uniforms made me look forward to the day I would join secondary school. I would imagine myself wearing a necktie, well-tucked in shirt and white socks. Little did I know that the uniform or dress code would be the least of my worries when the time came to join.
Graduating to secondary school entailed hard work, determination and having to cope with new schedules and subjects. I had more than 10 books in my locker which for someone who had had only four books just a year ago was overwhelming. The attitude with which the continuing students talked about some subjects and teachers made me hate them, before I even knew what they were really about.
Adjusting to a new curriculum
Stephen Mukasa, a teacher at BLK Muwonge Senior Secondary School, says the transition from the primary level of education to secondary is always a wide leap that comes with lots of changes and expectations.
Most of which is the adjustment to the new curriculum which has many more subjects one has to study compared to primary school. This usually overwhelms new students.
The secondary curriculum comprises of seven compulsory subjects. Among these is Chemistry, Biology Mathematics, Physics English, Geography and History. The rest of the subjects are an additional from the school administration.
“Joining Senior One is the time to redefine yourself and lay a firm foundation for the rest of your life. However, because students are still trying to fit into the new system of education, many tend to lose track,” Mukasa says.
Desire Nalubega, a former student of Gayaza High School, says unlike primary school, secondary schools requires more self-directed learning that is based on group discussions.
“By the time I joined Senior One in 2013, there were 16 subjects on the line-up, but the only way I managed to grasp most of them was through group discussions with friends,” Nalubega says.
Apart from having to deal with the many subjects, Nalubega also run out of books. She says every teacher who walked through the classroom door required a new book for their subject of instruction. By the end of the second week at school, she had no books left.
“I was not sure of the number of subjects there were so I carried 12 books. When they were used up, I had to make a phone call to my parents requesting for more. And at some point I was forced to use a book for two different subjects. One at the front and another at the back,” she recalls.
For Divine Nasolo, a Senior Four student at St. Joseph’s Senior Secondary School Naggalama, secondary school is goal-oriented. This calls for students that are self-driven.
She says unlike primary school where one is pushed and reminded by teachers to read, in secondary school, you simply follow the school rules and the rest is for you to decide.
For instance, you decide on when to go to the library for personal reading, with whom to hold discussions with, on which topic and at what time or you can decide to stay in the dormitory and spend your free time sleeping.
“To a certain extent, you are your own master and everyone, teachers included, assumes they are dealing with a grown-up who has a fair idea of what they want. Not grown up in terms of age but in the capacity that you know what is expected of you and what is good for your future,” she stresses.
As a secondary school student, you need to be a self-motivated learner who looks forward to new ways of improving their performance and acquiring more knowledge.
Trevor Ainembabazi, a Senior Three student at Lugazi College says, as a new student you will be persuaded by old students to join a number of school clubs. But you should not join every club because all you have is a four-year course that needs your concentration as well. He says that you will not want to be the kind of student who joins many club but accomplishes nothing.
Instead, think about what clubs are truly in line with your interests and passion. Those are the ones that you should join.
“In Senior One, I was confused as to which school club to join. I found most of the clubs interesting. Before I knew it, I was shifting from one club to another. At the beginning, I thought it was fun, but came to realize I was wasting a lot of time. Today I am a member of the writer’s club because that is where I finally discovered my true interest,” Ainembabazi says.
What are your expectations?
Joseph okedi, "I hope to a find an environment that will be suitable and friendly for learning. I expect my new teachers to help me to balance all the subjects I will be studying."
Liana Birungi, "I am looking at starting a new level of education in which I will have over 12 subjects to pursue. But this scares me because I do not how I will perform, but I will stay open minded and work hard."
Maria Clara Asiimwe, "Joining secondary means I am now grown and know what to do. The fact that I will be in a boarding school I have to take care of my property. I am planning to join the debate club."
Jerry Simon Mugisa, "One of my expectations is the fact that I will be taught more than four subjects. I also look forward to meeting new students from different schools."