Many of the questions read out during assembly at Newcastle High School for Girls reflected the everyday concerns of teenagers: career ambitions, family, the weather.
Others, less so: HIV infection, rape and how to avoid being forced into marriage before the end of school also came up.
When Hilary French (pictured, centre left), headteacher of the Newcastle upon Tyne independent school, was invited to accompany representatives from the girls’rights charity Plan UK on a trip to Uganda, she asked her pupils to compile a list of questions for their Ugandan counterparts.
“They wrote the kinds of questions you’d expect secondary school girls here to ask,” Mrs French said. “What do you like reading? What subjects do you like at school? What’s your favourite food? Do you go to the cinema? What do you want to be?” She took the questions with her during her visit to a girls’ school in Kamuli, a rural area of Uganda. And, along with the answers, she returned to Newcastle with a list of reciprocal questions from the Ugandan teenagers.
Some of the questions were exactly what the Newcastle pupils might have expected: “What’s the weather like in your country?” and “Is your country as beautiful as ours?” And then there were others. “My parents want me to get married, and I’m only 13,” one Ugandan girl wrote. “What do you think I should do?”