Photo Essay: Apollo’s First DayMarch 4, 2016 by Diana Coombs
Photos by Sarah Ponce
The first day of school can be full of uncertainty, excitement and anticipation. Apollo, from the Ilula Children’s Home, wears all of these emotions on his face as he stands in the parking lot of his new high school. His belongings sit on the ground around his feet: two thick blankets in plastic grocery bags, a green trunk, a bright pink lidded bin, a foam mattress.
Arms tightly crossed across his chest, he laughs self-consciously when asked to pose for a photo. He casts a quick glance over toward the classrooms—presumably to see if anyone is watching—and obliges.
Nickson, an Ilula Children’s Home parent, emerges from the front office. It’s time to get registered as a Form 1 (high school freshman). The two pick up Apollo’s things and head over to an empty classroom to get underway.
Apollo (far left) is accompanied by Nickson (middle), who helps him go through the Form 1 registration and check-in process. This includes paying fees, obtaining a student number, making sure all supplies are in order and reviewing and signing forms.
A large message is left on the chalkboard in the registration room. Tumewaongoja sana roughly translates to “We have very much waited for you.”
New students need to come prepared with all of the required school supplies, such as reams of paper, notebooks, a calculator, pens and textbooks.
Students must also come with their own personal supplies: a mattress, a trunk with locks, blankets, shower slippers, a bowl, a spoon, a mug, a flashlight, shoe polish with brush, laundry detergent and a number of toiletries (shown below).
Nickson and Apollo review a document of the school’s rules and policies as a school employee screen prints Apollo’s student number onto his uniform.
Every article of clothing—shirts, tie, socks, blazer, trousers, pajamas, gym shorts and even underwear—as well as bed sheets and towels must be printed with one’s student number.
After a careful reading, Nickson and Apollo sign the document on the school’s rules and policies, acknowledging their understanding of the contents.
A faculty member arrives with more papers. It’s an intake survey. She and Apollo work through the questions one by one: what he wants to be when he grows up (a banker), what church he’d like to attend, what clubs he’d like to participate in and so on.
Brian, a Form 2 (high school sophomore) from the Ilula Children’s Home, stops by the registration room to greet Apollo. The two boys chat and share some laughs as Apollo puts on his dress shirt, which now bears his student number in bright yellow paint. Nickson sees that he is fumbling with his tie and walks over to assist.
The man screen printing numbers onto Apollo’s clothes and linens asks for his shoes and dress socks for labeling. Nickson grabs Apollo’s shower slippers for him to wear and notices that the boy’s trousers are a bit too large. Apollo has not packed a belt. Without hesitation, Nickson removes his own belt and gives it to him.
Outside of the registration room, older students chat and get some fresh air in between classes.
A fresh batch of Form 1 boys await their instructor.
With registration completed and the comfort of knowing Brian is around, Apollo relaxes. “Brian is here. He can take care of him,” Nickson says. He play boxes with the two boys, landing soft punches on their arms. He gives them hugs and firm handshakes as they exchange byes. Brian returns to class, and Apollo goes to join his own class as an official Form 1.