African School is a British television documentary series produced for the BBC by Lion TV and developed under the DFID/Commonwealth Broadcasting Association Broadcast Media Scheme (Travel Bursary Fund) which documents the reality of school life in Masindi, Uganda.
The series premiered in the UK on BBC 4 on 21 June, 2005. There are 10 half-hour episodes in the series.
African School premiered in South Africa on DStv's BBC Knowledge on Tuesday 4 November 2008, at 21h30. Double episodes air back-to-back each week.
Wednesdays: 04h00, 06h00, 09h00, 14h30
This eye-opening series is set in two Ugandan schools - primary school Kamurasi Demonstration and Masindi Secondary School - where the pupils express a real willingness to learn.
The children in these schools deal with the same issues as all children their age, including teenage romance, exam pressure and prefect elections.
But they also face serious issues outside of school, such as HIV/AIDS and severe poverty. Find out the great lengths these children will go to just to learn, and how precious their education is.
Visiting the schools was a challenge for the production team, but the students’ and teachers’ eagerness to participate in the filming is apparent, creating a very real and open insight into their lives.
We meet Mrs Mukasa, the new secondary school headmistress who is forced to lay down the law with students who fail to pay their fees. And we are introduced to Susan, a headstrong girl who applies for the role of Head Prefect, a position that was previously only offered to boys.
Heart-rending storylines about disease and teenage pregnancies are twinned with delightful tales of academic and social achievement, making for a fascinating and thought-provoking documentary series.
Episode 1: Show Me the Money
Mrs Mukasa, the new headmistress at Masindi Secondary State School, finds herself in dire financial straits; three quarters of the students have failed to pay their school fees and the teachers have gone without full pay for three months.
She is determined that all children should be forced to pay and instigates a tough new gate policy that is supposed to catch the defaulters.
But her students are desperate to get into school; Eddie, an orphan, tries to scrape the school fees money together through odd jobs and support from his brother. And Justice, a skilled dodger, crawls under the fence and tricks his teachers with a borrowed payment card to get into class.
Episode 2: The Candidate
Each year Masindi Secondary School runs Prefect Elections but this year is going to be different: a change in the rules allows girls to run for Head Prefect for the first time ever.
Susan, a remarkable and strong-willed girl, takes up the challenge and competes to be Head Prefect, a job that all the boys in the school think can only be done by one of their number.
Nelson, meanwhile, stands against her.
Twenty-first century feminism takes centre stage and male pride, female emancipation and girl power are all at stake as Susan and Nelson take to the hustings to fight for the top spot.
Episode 3: Football Fever
It's not just the reputation of Masindi Secondary School's coaching staff at stake - the pride of the whole school is hanging on the progress of its soccer team.
This is the fast moving story of of the school’s progress in the highly competitive Coca-Cola Cup. It's a chance to experience the dreams of the players.
Shem and the others dream of the potential riches on offer if their skills impress the talent scouts - enough to support their whole families.
But football fever can be contagious, and as it grips the school a pitch invasion and a full scale riot unfold.
Episode 4: Sex Education
Early pregnancy forces 6,000 girls out of schooling in Uganda every year.
When he took up the post of headmaster at Kamurasi Primary School, Mr Ntairaho introduced a system of surprise pregnancy testing believing that it protects the girls from prostitution and ‘defilement’, and reduces the drop-out rate.
We follow Christine, a final year student who fears she is pregnant, as she is put in for the test.
Episode 5: The Womaniser and the Evangelist
16-year-old Dickson is a schoolboy womaniser in a puritanical country. He risks seven years imprisonment for having sex under the age of 18 and the evangelical Christians ram home the message that sex before marriage is wrong.
He has already seen his father, 6 uncles, 3 aunts and his sister die of "that disease", as he calls AIDS.
This remarkable film gives insight into why God is so big in Africa. The local evangelical church, The Miracle Centre promises Dickson spiritual salvation and possibly a cure from AIDS, if he’ll become born again. He is spurred on by the outspoken schoolgirl evangelist Prossy and a touching friendship emerges.
It’s a personal journey in which he confronts himself and God whilst facing the consequences of an HIV test.
Episode 6: Running for Your Life
Primary School Head, Mr Ntairaho is taking part in a survey of displaced children in the Masindi district.
The area is full of people who have fled the gruesome fighting further north where the Lords Resistance Army (LRA) is taking on the Ugandan government and terrorising the local population. But ordinary life goes on too.
This moving film is also the story of Opio, an orphan who came to Masindi after his parents were killed by the LRA fighting. Opio is a skilled athlete whose father ran at national level - Opio is striving to run in his footsteps.
Episode 7: Boy Meets Girl
Having a love life in Uganda is not easy. Teenagers face being expelled from school if they admit to having a boyfriend or a girlfriend; teachers struggle to afford to get married and those that have managed to tie the knot can find themselves posted to schools at opposite ends of the county.
But this revealing programme shows how love can flourish despite the challenges.
Episode 8: Fred Gets To Z
This touching and revealing film follows Fred, the first ever boarding student at Kamurasi Primary school, where staff are determined to create the best Special Needs Integrated school in their district.
Fred is blind and spends his first term learning the Braille alphabet from A to Z with his friend Miungo.
As well as Fred’s determined progress, we get to know his remarkable teacher, Harriet and the headmaster Mr Ntairaho who is determined to support Special Needs despite the constant demands on the school’s limited resources.
Episode 9: Culture Clash
We come face to face with the witchdoctors of Masindi. The schoolchildren are growing up in a melting pot of modern, western and traditional influences - 60% of Ugandans still visit witchdoctors.
Mr and Mrs Bagamba watch students learning a traditional 'witchdoctor dance', but for them witchcraft is a means to boosting their fortunes.
Head teacher Mr Ntairaho opposes witchcraft, but the school choir's traditional 'witchdoctor dance' is a different story - it's their best chance of winning the District Music Competition and Mr Ntairaho wants to bring the trophy back to school.
Episode 10: Masindi Dreams
Pop star, nurse and reaching Secondary school are the ambitions of three Masindi pupils as they prepare for exams.
Secondary school would be a dream come true for 10 year old Anifa and her illiterate mother.
Esther, 18, aspires to be a nurse. Her farming family have sacrificed everything to keep her in school. She underperformed in her mock exams and sleeps only 3 hours a night to revise for her finals.
Meanwhile Patrick, 17, is less bothered about school - he wants a pop career. He sneaks out of the school’s music competition in Kampala to record his hip hop track about teachers and is soon performing live.