Why I support a longer school day

It’s dinner time and once again the kids just HAVE to talk about sex, which is quite remarkable considering the only Miley Cyrus they watch is from the days when she was a fully-clothed Hannah Montana who kept her tongue to herself.

Of course, the best way to end any kids’ sex talk is to talk about other more exciting things, like school, specifically making their school day longer. Much longer.

Here’s how it went.

Liz: “Dad, do you know who Aphrodite is?”

Dad: “Yes, as a matter of fact I do.”

Liz “Who?”

Dad: “Well, she was a sort of sex god for the Greeks.”

Liz: “She was the Goddess of Love.”

Dad: “Close enough.”

Hannah: “So the Greeks went to her naked?”

Dad: “Well, Hannah, the Greeks did a lot of things naked.”

Hannah: “That’s why ladies weren’t allowed in the Olympics!”

Dad: “Yes!”

(This, in fact, is true. Especially the Winter Olympics. No naked ladies allowed in the chilly Greek Winter Games.)

Liz: “And this is why Dad wasn’t allowed in the back of the school.”

Explanation here: The other day Liz and I were visiting Liz’s Ugandan friend, Catherine, at Catherine’s new boarding school. Boarding schools are common in Uganda. Thousands of Ugandan children in middle school years and up attend boarding schools, all hoping to land in the next school of a higher level to then land in the best possible university, to get the best possible job, which usually doesn’t exist. (Sort of like Canada, but much more hopeless.)

As it happened, once on the campus, I was not allowed past a certain line because apparently it was getting too close to the girls’ dorms where they, as the guard explained to me, might be half-naked.

This is where any Dad with even average dinner table skills can turn off all this sex talk quite easily.

“That’s right,” I said to the kids. “That’s why I wasn’t allowed in the back of the school. Speaking of which, I think you guys should go to your school longer. For 25 hours a day.”

Liz: “Dad, there’s only 24 hours in a day.”

“Well, you should go at least as long as Catherine.”

Catherine’s Monday to Friday is as follows, in all seriousness, as she told Liz and myself:

3 a.m.- Rise for breakfast; 4 am to 10 am – Classes; 10 am – 2 pm – Break and Lunch (usually rice, beans, maybe some meat); 2 pm to 4:30 pm – More classes; 4:30 to 6:30 pm – Break including bath time; 6:30 – 7 pm – Supper; 7 – 7:30 pm – Prayers; 7:30 to 10:00 p.m. – More classes; 10 pm – Bed.

On Saturday these Ugandan kids get a choice of waking a 3 am as usual, or sleeping in until 6. Classes run through the day until 4 pm only. Then, later at night, it’s movie time to late.

Sunday, you can get up at any time but be at the Sunday Service by 8 am After it ends, it’s free time the rest of the day. That is until you’re up at 3 in the morning on Monday to do it all over again.

This, in a developing nation where what you learn tends to be taught rote, very heavy on memorization, very light on application. But, as Catherine pointed out to us, they don’t beat you if you don’t perform well. (The just expel you …. But beatings, indeed, are common in plenty of other Ugandan schools.)

“Yes,” I said, to the kids (who are currently on holiday from their international school).  “All three of you should go to school for at least as long as Catherine goes every day.”

Silence.

“Pass the pizza.”

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