Text: Julia West, Photo: Freepik Every parent wants their child to be happy and as most children over 5 spend the majority of their day in school, then parents want to choose the right school for their child. No-one can choose for you, you will have to do your research and here we will try […]
Text: Julia West, Photo: Freepik
Every parent wants their child to be happy and as most children over 5 spend the majority of their day in school, then parents want to choose the right school for their child. No-one can choose for you, you will have to do your research and here we will try to help. Having decided to move your children to Kampala with you, or as a long-term resident, time has come for school decisions; how do you choose the right international school for your child? As you will see from the Education pages of this guide there are many schools eager for your business (as most of them are International School of Uganda (ISU) is not-for-profit parent owned) and all will try to tempt you with glossy brochures, or at minimum, an easily-navigated website full of smiling children having a ball! How do you differentiate and make the right choice?
You can narrow down the choice by asking some fundamental questions: which language of tuition do I want? [Most international schools teach in English, but the French School caters for Francophones or those who want to be!] Do you want an overtly religious school? [most international schools are non-denominational, but Heritage is Christian] Do you want a school which offers primary and secondary? [some smaller schools eg Ambrosoli and Kampala Community International School (KCIP) only offer primary, and 7 Hills only middle school]
Consider the location of schools in relation to your accommodation if you have not yet chosen or been allocated your home base, this may become a chicken and egg question because the time spent travelling to and from school can impact on children, particularly younger ones who will get tired simply from the long school day. Traffic in Kampala is notoriously unpredictable but nevertheless it is worth doing a test run at appropriate times to estimate travel time. Some schools provide transport for pupils [ISU, GEMS Cambridge], relieving parents from the chore, but may increase the travel time as buses pick up numerous pupils en route.
Which curriculum do you favour? Which exam system would you like your children to follow? You may want your child to continue in a system with which you are familiar, but dont rule out others until you have taken a look. Particularly at primary stage [ages 5-11] the exact system may not be so important so long as your child learns to read, learns basic mathematics, to make friends and love learning. So take your time to look around. As a quick guide: IB schools are ISU, Acorns (offering PYP and MYP), 7 Hills (only MYP), while KISU follows the British Curriculum to IGCSEs and IB Diploma, Heritage follows International Primary curriculum (IPC) then High School Diploma, Ambrosoli follows Early Years and Foundation Stage ( EYFS), English National Curriculum for English and Maths and IPC, and KCIP follows the English National Curriculum.
Most international schools teach topic-based units which include a variety of subjects. The British system singles out numeracy and literacy as separate classroom subjects. The modern approach to education is to teach children how to learn and how to research, both of which are emphasised by the IB system from PYP, through MYP to IB. It is worth researching the different curricula online. Some parents find it difficult to understand how children learn without being tested regularly, but the idea is that you see progress as the terms advance; writing becomes more fluid, spelling improves, neatness improves, drawing skills improve, so to follow this system the school depends on well-qualified teachers who can properly assess individual performance against norms for that age.
The most important part of your research, if you are able, is to visit a short-list of schools which have ticked the boxes after these initial questions. Take your children with you as they are remarkably good at picking up things you might miss. Try to visit during a normal school day rather than an open day when the school is on display. Observe normal classroom activities; see how the children look, how they interact with each other and with the teacher and classroom assistants. How do the classrooms appear; lots of child produced work on display? Colourful? What resources are there; computers? Art materials? Toys? Books? Do the resources look used, or are they there for show? How are the desks arranged? How big are classes? You will no doubt be shown any special facilities like sports fields, swimming pools, but check if there are dedicated art rooms, music rooms, computer laboratories. Is there a library and if so, how often can children access it? Are parents allowed to use any of the facilities?
Prepare some questions to ask which will invite conversation about activities on offer and the ethos of the school, languages taught, sports facilities, frequency of sporting activities, art and music lessons, whether the school caters for special needs children, is there ESL [English as a Second Language] support if needed? How are more able pupils stretched? How do they help newcomers fit in? How are children assessed at various ages and how is this information transmitted to parents? How often will you meet with teachers and are children included in these meetings? How many times a year do you receive a formal report on your childs progress? By the end of your visit you should have a feel for the school. If you still need advice you could ask to be put in contact with parents already at the school to ask their impressions.
There are many schools claiming to be international, but many are in name only, or follow international curricula but with Ugandan teachers and pupils. You will see for yourself when you visit if the mix of nationalities is right for your children. You can always check whether the school is accredited to approved international organisations.
We circulated a questionnaire to the largest international schools and the full results to help you compare them, can be seen on our website: www.ugandaexpatsguide.com and downloadInternational Schools Kampala comparison
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Asian Fusion at Fairway Hotel Date Visited: Tuesday, April 27th 2016 Reviewed by: Deborah Isharaza I know it makes sense to start at the beginning but today I have to start at the end. The sizzling chocolate brownie. Wow. I would head to Asian Fusion for this dish alone. A scrumptious soft chocolate brownie served […]
Asian Fusion at Fairway HotelDate Visited: Tuesday, April 27th 2016Reviewed by: Deborah Isharaza
I know it makes sense to start at the beginning but today I have to start at the end. The sizzling chocolate brownie. Wow. I would head to Asian Fusion for this dish alone. A scrumptious soft chocolate brownie served with ice cream and hot home made chocolate sauce sizzling on a platter in front of you. We were so full by the time this elegantly presented dessert arrived but we still managed to scrape the plate clean. Did I mention it was delicious? Actually beyond delicious.
Let me rewind and set the scene a bit. Asian Fusion is an outdoor restaurant located within the premises of Fairway Hotel though set aside from the main body of the hotel. It’s leafy, shady environment makes it an attractive location for meals or refreshments at all times of the day, as well as a great place for a meeting, for the surroundings are quiet and relaxed. It is hard to believe when you are sat in the restaurant gardens that you are just minutes away from the notorious Fairway Roundabout. But what an excuse to abandon the jam and head into Asian Fusion to relax and re-energise.
All the food we ate was beautifully presented and appealed to all our senses - just looking at and smelling the food, even the colourfully layered juice, made them appealing and more than whetted the appetite. We started with the garlic chicken, beautifully spiced and the softest chicken I have eaten in a long time, it just kind of melted in the mouth. The portion was a generous size and was accompanied by a well dressed salad.
For our main courses, we shared some traditional Indian dishes. The restaurant specialises in both Indian and Chinese food, and soon hopes to introduce dim sims too, but for today we stuck to the Indian dishes. My favourite of the dishes was Navratan Korma, my first time to try it and definitely something I would order again, not too sweet or spicy, and went very well with the Jeera rice. It is named after the nine jewels of the Great Mughal Emperor Akbar, represented by the nine vegetables included in the dish. We also had chicken tikka masala, a very commonly served dish although sometimes the marinade on the chicken can be too much. But again this chicken was cooked perfectly and was delicious. We ate all this with garlic naan too, a proper garlic naan, where you can actually taste the garlic in the naan.
By this time we were starting to fill up, but we were encouraged to go for dessert. This brings me back to sizzling chocolate brownie. Thank goodness we went for dessert, it definitely goes up there with my favourite desserts in Kampala and certainly cured my chocolate fix. It is not easy to find a rich, moist, not too sweet, not to bitter brownie in Kampala and the ice cream and chocolate sauce balanced on top were a classy alternative to a chocolate brownie sundae.
I was also thoroughly impressed with the service we received, which is definitely not something to take for granted in our city. Our waitress, Anna, was very attentive, regularly checking if everything was ok without hovering around the table, and other tables around us also seemed to be served promptly.
Several evenings a week Asian Fusion has live music of a variety genres, making it an all round attractive restaurant or venue to hang our, whatever time of the day.
Ndali Lodge is an exclusive lodge, 27 kilometres outside of Fort Portal on a pretty good murram road. For April & May 2016, Ndali are offering, in conjunction with the Uganda Expats Guide, a super kids under 13 go free deal. Ndali offered Uganda Expats Guide a chance to check out the lodge and put […]
Ndali Lodge is an exclusive lodge, 27 kilometres outside of Fort Portal on a pretty good murram road. For April & May 2016, Ndali are offering, in conjunction with the Uganda Expats Guide, a super kids under 13 go free deal. Ndali offered Uganda Expats Guide a chance to check out the lodge and put it to the kid friendly test. This is what we found…
As I lay on the beautiful kikoi covered massage table enjoying the tranquil environment, it was hard to believe my kids were 30 metres away. They had been in the pool since about 35 seconds after our arrival at Ndali, and had only just about dried off enough for some lunch before diving straight back into the infinity pool. Lying on that massage table, I have never felt so rested and relaxed with my kids in such close proximity.
As a mother of two these moments are rare. As I looked out of our impressively decorated room over the Ruwenzori mountains, Jackie begins the massage and thoughts of my kids slowly disappear from mind.
A long Ugandan hour later as I stir from my massage slumber to witness the beginning of a beautiful Ugandan sunset, that familiar parental concern rushes through my mind. Peace & quiet: when you have kids? That is a lethal combination. I lethargically walk back up to the pool side to find them galloping back from their exploration along the crater lake, walking sticks in hand. “Mummmmmmyyyyyyyyy, we missed you!”. “I missed you too, kind of”.
From the moment we arrived at Ndali, the kids were on the go. Aubrey & Clare, the owners, and Olive, the hostess, had a never ending bag of tricks that entertained the kids all afternoon. The trampoline was rolled out to a perfect location next to the shaded pergola, only metres from the exceptionally well stocked bar (the fun is not just for the kids). After another swim, and a visit to the sauna (perfect for those chillier days) they venture round to the lake view garden for some swingball. It’s been a long time since us grown ups got our hands on swing ball and the kids had to do some hard negotiations to prize the rackets away from the grown ups.
Even the food was tailor made for the kids. Whilst the grown ups devoured a scrumptious Thai fish curry, the kids were served a beautifully presented fish fillet and chips. “We thought they might prefer this” said Olive as they served the kids: yes, you are absolutely right about that one. Ndali’s personal touch and attention to detail not only caters for kids’ different tastes but also other dietary requirements and allergies including gluten intolerance on request.
We spent the evening in the communal area, which is more like a beautiful thatched house with amazing views from both sides. There is the candlelit dining room leading through a library and into the elegant sitting room - which contains another magic trick for both the kids and the adults - two stool boxes full of board games & card games. I had carried our own cards and Jenga to entertain the kids but they never left the car as there were more than enough games to entertain us all hidden in the stools.
Although we were offered an earlier dinner for the kids with someone to watch the kids whilst we had a later dinner without them, we opted to all eat together. Food was consistently excellent, service was exceptionally well executed, and no one batted an eye lid when our kids behaved like kids in the grand dining room. After a bit of stargazing from the trampoline, we all rolled down the slope to our room, totally satisfied from our 4 course dinner. The kids were soon snuggled up in bed, slowly drifting off to sleep before we’d even finished a bed time story. Little did they know of the adventure Ndali had lined up for them the next day.
After a massive breakfast where between us we wolfed down: cinnamon pancakes, sausages, bacon, tomatoes, eggs cooked in every way possible, mushrooms, toast, fruits, fruits and more fruits, Steven, the Ndali guide, took us on our adventure. Ndali has extensive grounds and we were off to explore. As we headed down through the tranquil woods, we began spotting: birds, insects, leaves, berries, fruits… anything we didn’t spot, Steven showed us. His patience with the kids was phenomenal.
We weaved the palm leaves, and plaited banana fibres, we visited the local waragi brewers, and played locally adapted musical shakers. We waded in rivers, jumped in puddles and squelched in mud. We discovered cocoa & vanilla and learnt all about the processes involved in the production of both (both of which are farmed & processed on the estate), and sheltered under our leaf umbrellas as the rain trickled through the forest canopy. As we reached back up to the lodge, it was hard to believe the kids had walked for two and a half hours with very little complaining.
Our time at Ndali came to a close far too quickly and we were all sad to leave. There was still a lot more to discover: we never made it to the yoga platform overlooking the crater lake, and we never made it on the hike all the way round the lake, which would also make for a perfect running track. We also never had time to have a long soak in the bath with the best view in Uganda. Ndali Lodge is a beautiful haven, tucked into some of the best landscape Uganda has to offer, and even if we had stayed for a week (I’m fantasising now) it would still have left us with more to come back and discover. No wonder their visitors book reads like a dictionary of all the most positive superlatives in every language and a recurring theme: “we will be back”.