As I was walking through the village of Alobo Rom in Northern Uganda, I met Janet, not far from an unprotected spring that I was there to check out. She had a small pile of laundry in front of her and was washing her clothes by hand. When we started talking, she said that she did not go to school that day because her clothes were dirty. So, at age 13, Janet was washing her clothes rather than sitting in the classroom.
There are a lot of things that ran through my mind at that point. Why she would be kept out of school for dirty clothes? Why were her clothes not washed the night before? Was there no one to help her? When did she stop being a child? But, this is part of life here. I know that the rest of her day is likely full of other chores, including carrying water for her family’s needs. I hope that some day this is not her reality, that nothing will keep her from school – not laundry, not carrying water, and not illness. But on the day that I met Janet, all I could do was share a smile and wish her the best when she returned to the classroom.