A day in the life of Petua Atai

Despite low pay, 12-hour days and a class of 174 pupils, this Ugandan teacher is passionate about making sure that every child in her primary school class achieves their best

I am a humble but hardworking teacher who loves children, and I have dedicated my life to teaching. I serve Kitante Primary School in Kampala, which is one of the best schools in Uganda and was even visited by the Queen in 2007.

I started my career in 1987, working in a very remote school in a rural village in Pallisa District. I have taught pupils in all year groups at primary level up to the age of 12 - mainly maths and science, which is what I teach at Kitante, as well as PE and music, dance and drama, or MDD as we call it.

Owing to a very limited amount of accommodation in the city centre of Kampala, I commute in from the district of Mukono, which is about 28 kilometres (17 miles) away. My job demands that I wake at 5am every day. I have to use the early morning taxis to ensure that I get to work for 7am.

When I arrive at school, I give morning work to the pupils who are already there as we wait for the others to arrive. I mark and correct the morning work and the previous day's homework, which pupils are given every day.

The first lesson begins at 8am and is usually maths. I teach 11 periods of maths every week and 10 periods of science. Every Tuesday and Thursday the PE lessons are conducted; the children and their teachers are put into their respective houses and they change into their coloured sports kits.

MDD is also taught twice a week, and afternoon lessons are filled with RE, social studies and arts and crafts. We have morning break at 10.30am for 30 minutes, then we resume lessons from 11am until 1pm, when we have an hour's lunch break.

Every Friday we have an assembly, in which each class must discuss something connected to the Presidential Initiative on Aids Strategy for Communication to Youth. We talk about trying to prevent the spread of HIV and Aids. We also announce relevant news and a thought for the week.

As well as Monday to Friday, I have to be at school on Saturdays between 8am and 1pm to do remedial work supporting the academically weaker students.

On weekdays I don't finish until 7pm, as I have to make sure that all books are marked and the lesson plans for the following day are prepared. I catch a taxi back to Mukono town and usually get home by 9pm. Sometimes it is later if there is bad traffic.

I teach a class of 174 with just one other teacher. All the talking and just trying to make myself heard leaves me exhausted. I am not just a teacher: I am a policewoman trying to keep law and order in my class, a psychiatrist offering counselling and a parent, particularly to the orphans who always need my attention.

Half my salary of 300,000 Ugandan shillings (pound;67) is spent on transport and accommodation as there is no government allowance for these things, nor any health cover. Despite this I am committed to our profession, enduring the meagre resources because of the passion I have for helping children.

Your day

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