My Mom Tricked Me into Going to a Ugandan Boarding School
Uganda’s boarding schools have a slightly dodgy reputation, in that they’re basically Victorian borstals in the sun and quite regularly host dormitory fires, killing tens of students at a time. So you can understand why the threat of being sent to one might put the fear of God into any tearaway British teenager, especially if the threat were sprung on you out of nowhere and you were given absolutely no say in the matter.
In 2011, Rachael Nakaye boarded a plane to Uganda with her mother and younger sister, under the impression that she was going on a three-week vacation. Turns out she wasn’t. Instead, she was sent to a boarding school where she had her head shaved, was sexually propositioned by one of her teachers, cowered in classrooms while the school rioted on two separate occasions, and had guns pointed at her by Ugandan police. She was stuck out there for about a year, but she’s back now so I had a chat with her about her experience.
VICE: Hey Rachael. What were you like before you were sent to Uganda? A terror?
Rachael Nakaye: No, I was good but stubborn—just a typical teen, really. I failed my exams because I was focusing on my athletics. I trained so hard that year and was ready to enter nationals and possibly European trials. I also started taking modeling seriously and was looking for a new agency.
Why did you fly out to Uganda in the first place if you had so much going on in London?
My mom told me I was going to be a bridesmaid to one of my favorite aunties, who used to live in London. There was a wedding, but I never got to go. Instead, my mom told us that she didn’t book a return ticket and that we were starting boarding school in five days. I was so angry because I’d already heard about the multiple fires at Ugandan boarding schools that had killed students. Oh, and the caning. My little sister was hysterical.
Did you like Uganda before you found out you were being effectively trapped there?
I love Uganda, but only for a holiday. I think being gay shouldn’t be illegal and woman should have the right to an abortion, especially when poverty and HIV rates are so high. It’s not fair. In 2008, I saw a woman stripped and beaten after trying to pay with fake money at a restaurant. Also, they banned hotpants and showing too much cleavage and used to beat you up if you did either, which I could never get used to.