Kampala, Uganda Report of what it's like to live there - 06/04/18
Personal Experiences from Kampala, Uganda
1. Are you the parent of a child(ren) attending this school? A teacher at the school? Or both?
I am a parent of two children attending ISU in Uganda.
2. What grade or grades do/did your children attend at the school? During what year(s) did they attend the school?
My children started at ISU in August of 2016, they are now finishing their second year at this school and are currently in 3rd and 7th grade.
3. What was your reason for living in the city where the school is located (e.g., government, military, corporate, NGO, retired)?
US Government employment in Kampala
4. Are other schools available to expatriates in this city? Why did you choose this particular school?
Yes, there is actually a good variety of schools available at this post/Uganda. However, ISU is known as a very inclusive school, fully IB accredited (PYP, MYP, IB/AP & diploma course), and promotes learning diversity. It has a large and well functioning Optimal Learning Center that provides a variety of support services to children with special needs (all the way through high-school). As a result, my special needs child in middle school has been able to thrive at this school.
Admissions & Welcome:
1. Are the admissions and placement procedures clearly stated to prospective families, either on the school website or through other means of communication?
Very clear admission procedure, very quick response on admission request and related questions, and open and frank communication on issues of concern. Best admission process we have had during our FS careers.
2. How would you rate the school's support and welcome/integration of new students and their families, and why?
Very welcoming to new students, strong sense of community, and as inclusion and learning diversity are part of the schools mission and vision, students from all background and levels are and feel welcome of mainstream quality education at ISU.
Administration & School Procedures:
1. How is the overall communication between teachers and parents, and the administration and parents? How is communication facilitated?
Generally communication is good - however, all teachers and administrators have different communication styles, as do parents. Time is made to have student/parent/teacher interactions as needed.
2. Aside from school fees, are there required expenses such as uniforms, laptops/tablets, musical instruments, or field trips that parents are expected to cover? What are the approximate costs?
- no uniforms, except for sports/PE kit
- students in senior school (6th grade and up) are required to have a Mac Book laptop - you can either purchase your own or lease one from school
- musical instruments are available, yet personal instruments can be brought in as well
-field trips within Kampala are free; field trips (senior school only) outside of Kampala have a reasonable fee, and provide quality services (transportation, lodging, food, etc.)
- international sports events in the east/southern Africa region are relatively expensive (airfare, sports kits, team & individual participation fees).
Academics & Resources:
1. What personal or academic counseling resources are available at this school? Is there a dedicated college counselor at the school? Is he/she familiar with universities worldwide?
yes, counseling at all levels (junior/senior school) is available, and much is invested in preparing high school students for their next step and move onto college and university.
2. Is there before and/or after-school daycare available? What are the costs?
-school started at 7:50am, and most students come in on the large bus fleet the school have that goes to most neighborhoods in Kampala en Entebbe. I don't believe there is a before school 'daycare'. There is an extensive schedule of after school activities for junior as well as senior school students available which changes 3 times a year.
3. Does the school have a library? How large is it? How updated are the books? Can students borrow books to read at home?
The school has a sizable library, divided into JS and SS levels. students can check out books and have 'library' class in junior school.
In addition there are books in languages other than English, as the school also has a 'mother tongue' program for junior school that goes beyond the general French and Spanish classes offered as part of the regular curriculum. Books in these other languages are also housed in the library for check out.
4. How are information technology resources at the school. Are they up-to-date? Is there a computer lab?
yes, the school moved to an all Mac-based system in 2017, and they are as such up to date with the latest, including in their computer lab.
5. What are the technology requirements for students? Do they need their own laptops/ipads? How is technology integrated into the classroom and homework?
Senior school students (6th grade and up) need to have their own laptops (Macs) - either own purchase or lease through school. Junior school students can borrow laptops as well as ipads for class assignments as needed.
Technology is fully integrated, both in the classroom as well as in the homework requirements.
6. Describe the physical education resources at the school. Is there a gym? A swimming pool? Are there playing fields or tennis courts available?
Available resources included, indoor & outdoor gym, multiple basketball courts, tennis courts, 25m swimming pool, multiple soccer/rugby fields, track & field course, golf driving range.
The school is located on 35 acres of pristine land that has lots of outdoor play space (open air, or covered) in addition to all the sports related resources listed above.
7. What is the approximate teacher-to-student ratio in the grades that your child attended?
The maximum class size is 22 children to 1 teacher, but there are often less than 22 students/class - more like 18-20 - with only a few children rotating in and out during the school year. For junior school, all classroom teachers have a teaching assistant.
8. Are Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB) courses available in upper grades? If this is an IB school, is the full diploma required of all students?
AP and IB are available, and students can chose; they do not have to do the full diploma course.
9. Are students generally challenged appropriately by the curriculum? Please describe any particular strengths or weaknesses in this area. Do you have any thoughts how the curriculum is applied and implemented at this school?
yes, I believe children are challenged appropriately.
10. Is the amount and type of homework generally appropriate for the age and grade of the students?
There's much discussion on this point as different cultures come with different standards, and a school that is so culturally diverse (60+ different nationalities) cannot possibly respond to all these standards in a fully satisfactory manner - however, I believe that in general and overall parents and students are satisfied.
11. What fine arts electives are available (music, drama, visual arts)?
yes, all are available - music, visual arts and drama - and are taught to all students throughout the year. Higher grades do have to make choices at some point between the three.
ISU has just started the construction of a new performance arts (drama) center on the school compound - to be ready sometime in 2019.
12. Are the teachers at the school required to speak English as a first language--or at least fluently?
yes, all teachers are fluent in English (Ugandan staff also speak English as primary language).
13. What services are available for gifted/advanced students at the school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
gifted programs/advanced classes, as well as support for those with special needs due to learning difficulties are highly integrated and available. Learning diversity is central to the mission and vision at ISU.
14. What services are available for students with learning disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
See above - We have a special needs child who has been able to thrive at ISU as he gets specialized support he needs to do well. Careful, child specific support is provided in the classroom as well as through pull-out sessions as needed, in combination with counseling, and with special attention to assistive technologies. We are more than pleased with the special needs learning support at this school and have extended our stay in Uganda to 5 years in an effort to keep our special needs child in this school as long as possible.
15. What services are available for students with physical disabilities at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
Different students with physical disabilities are part of mainstream education at ISU. however, the school is located on a hill side, as such there are many steps between the different levels at which classrooms, sport facilities are located, and as a result the school is currently not very wheelchair friendly. However, grade 9 students designed wheelchair ramps this year as part of a maths/design project, and their design was approved by the school board for construction of wheelchair ramps to start in the coming months.
16. What services are provided for speakers of English as a second language at this school? Please describe your experience with these services, if applicable.
There is a full ESL department available at school. In addition, the school has a fully integrated 'mother tongue' program in Junior school, and additional in the Junior School will be offered from August 2018 including Arabic, Chinese, French, Kiswahili, Luganda and Spanish.
17. What extra-curricular activities (including sports) are available at this school? Have your children participated in these activities? What activities do you feel are missing at the school?
swim, soccer, basketball, arts, hip-hop/dance, games galore, robotics, rugby, teaching deaf kids how to swim, tennis, reading club, dance/gymnastics, mountain biking, climbing wall, music/performance, astrophysics club, etc... (the list is much longer than this!) - yes our children have participated a quite a few of these.
Our children miss the American sports - baseball/softball, american football - however, there is talk that this will be integrated in the after school activity program next year.
Social & Emotional Well-Being:
1. Do expatriate students socialize with local students at the school? Are both groups successfully integrated into the school culture?
Inclusion is hugely important at ISU and they do well on this.
2. Are there are any problems with exclusionary behavior, cliques, or bullying at this school? Please describe any problems your children may have experienced in this area.
Unfortunately there are always (at any school) cases of bullying - however the school does well addressing these issues directly with the students, get counselors involved and has sessions with parents as well to address issues as they arise.
The end of school year middle school arts festival is themed "Inclusion, Community & Acts of Kindness" and the 7th grade visual arts students focused their work on the development of 'anti-bullying' posters, which was a great and hands-on way to involved students directly to think about this important issue.
Different from other international schools our children have attended in the past in other countries where they experienced lots of bullying, they have not had this negative experience at ISU.
1. What letter grade (ranging from A, excellent, to F, fail) would you assign to this school based on your overall experience? Would you choose it again?
B+ - a school can always do better, and there's always room for improvement but thus far we are VERY pleased with the support that ISU in Uganda provides. Learning diversity and inclusion are hugely important to us, and the school doesn't just have this listed as part of the mission and vision, but actually practices it, and ensures that these values are thought throughout the curriculum at ISU in Uganda.
2. Please tell us anything else you think prospective parents and students should know about this school. Thanks for your contribution!
Apart from inclusion and learning diversity - which also relates closely to the attention ISU gives to children with different and special needs - the school is set on a beautiful hill side (35 acres) thus providing an amazing park-like learning environment for children where there is ample space next to all classrooms to play and learn outside, enjoy the outdoors and nature and have these elements integrated into learning as well. The climate in Kampala is absolutely amazing, which makes the learning environment comfortable. Field trips upcountry go to some of the most beautiful environments Uganda has to offer, from game parks, to crater lakes, to camping along the Nile, to climbing the highest mountain peaks. In all, a pretty amazing place for a child to grow up and learn and become a well-rounded world citizen.