This year we were lucky to spend time with the Ssubi sponsor children in northern Uganda. They are all doing well, some better than others in school, so we spent time discussing how they can improve or address challenges. Dusman spends a lot of time coaching and providing advice to all the sponsor children as some of them are missing parental guidance. It was lovely seeing them all and we wish them the best of luck in the future.
Archive for August, 2010
About three years ago we provided microloans to three sponsor child caregivers, this year we went and visited some of the recipients. Florence, mother of Jordon (now in P3) set up a beauty salon and second hand clothes stall. Despite some up and downs Florence survives off the salon and has hired two employees to help out. We went and visited her salon and were pleasantly surprised to find her doing so well. However, she has not been successful at paying back the loan, so we have encouraged her to improve on that front so others can benefit from the funds. In addition, we supported Marie, mother of Opio (now in S4), with a loan, which she has continued to pay back when ever possible and is almost clear now. She sells goods in the market and changes items depending on demand. The last microloan was for Irene’s grandmother and she has not been able to pay back the loan and Irene who choose not to continue after P7, is now married with children.
About 2 years ago Gulu District in Northern Uganda was divided into two and Amuru District was formed. The District Education Officer took us on a tour of some community schools (not currently supported by government) where parents pay fees to cover teacher salaries. We travelled on the great northern highway which links northern Uganda with Sudan, a very bumpy marum road frequented by large trucks carrying supplies to Sudan. There are plans to pave this road, which we think will help with working in the area substantially. We visited two community schools in the district and were amazed at the efforts by both teachers and community to provide their children with an education. One school supported 500 children with 6 teachers and are teaching under two mud thatched school classrooms. No desks, text books, latrines, musical instruments, sporting equipment and only two movable blackboards to share among all the classes. The other community school was perched on top of a hill overlooking grassy plains; it was so very beautiful and peaceful. When it originated they started under a mango tree with 200 children, over time, they built a mud thatched structure. The parents have built latrines and support 4 teachers and last year a school in Norway raised money to build two classrooms and an office. Both schools have applied to be supported by government which would help with hiring more teachers. Both schools are seeking support to help with infrastructure and teaching resources to improve the learning environment. It was an exhausting day but fascinating day and we hope in the future that we are able to help both of these schools.
We are back in Gulu for a few days for meetings. The District Education Officer and Ssubi met with the teachers of Palenga to discuss how to improve the school’s academic performance. If provided an opportunity for the teachers to talk about successes and challenges at Palenga in relation to academic performance which is currently very low at the school. There is a high drop-out rate (over 50%) from P6 to P7 due to failure to progress. In addition, there are currently no division 1’s and 1 division 2 at Palenga when compared nationally to schools in Uganda. The head teacher suggested a remedial program implemented in P1 to 3 to build a stronger foundation, including more instruction in English which usually does not occur until P4. The remedial program includes extra lessons (teaching time needs to be covered), instructional material and exams. This is a program designed by the school staff to address poor performance. The Ssubi Foundation will fundraise to support in their 2011 workplan.
In addition, we handed over the solar lanterns donated by Centennial High School Legacy Project to Palenga Primary School. The lanterns will be used in the new library to accommodate extra studies in the evening. The solar lanterns were developed by Star Ecoworks as a portable light source.
The Rwot Lakica Womens Group was established to help women take care of themselves and their children. Currently the group consists of 20 women whom take part in weekly savings programs (to encourage saving), welfare fund (where they help group members in need) and workshops where they learn from each other. They come from all walks of life, some have master degrees while others are peasant farmers but they recognise that regardless of education level they can learn and help each other to promote positive changes in lifestyle. They have established a micro loaning program, where by a member can borrow money to pay their own or one of their childrens school fees or to strengthen or initiate a business. Last year Ssubi provide the group with some seed money to strengthen the loaning program – we were blown away with the processes established by this group and the successes they have achieved by working together. Meeting with these women was one of the most inspiring experiences I have had this trip- truly empowering to see how far they have come with so little resources. One women was accepted into a masters program in business administration, she needed help with school fees, so she borrowed money for school fees and to start a snack making business. Her business established successfully, so she was able to attend school and sell snacks on the weekend. She fully paid back her loan with interest in six months. Many of the women in fact use the loan to pay school fees for children, which requires a lump sum that often mothers cannot afford to pay at once.
One of the group’s current issues is they are not able support every request given the current amount they have available for loaning (approximately $2500.00 Can). The Ssubi Foundation therefore provided the group with a loan for a year to enable support of more microloans within the group.
Philip’s really close friend Paul is getting married in a weeks’ time and today we attended his Kwandula. A Kwandula is an introduction ceremony where the groom is introduced to the bride’s family. Everyone is in traditional dress and the grooms party arrives in a convoy bearing many gifts such as cows, goats, chickens and other foods as well as money. The groom and the bride side both have speakers representing them whom engage in lively discussion (mostly humorous) about the grooms request for marriage to their daughter and if he is worthy. My favourite part was when the women, dressed in colourful basuitees carried gift baskets on our heads to the bride’s family. It was my first time wearing a basuitee, somehow I have managed to miss out on this opportunity for the last 12 years. You can see from the pictures they are not the most flattering of outfits, lots of layers to make you look very fat and they are hot. I kept tripping on mine, which made walking and half dancing with high heels and a basket on my head in front of a large number of people rather exciting. To my relief and likely Philips I did just fine. The experience was great fun and really interesting and I’m very appreciative of Paul insisting I wear traditional dress.
After the opening ceremony we took Clay and his cousins, Billy and Zoe to visit our friend Jules. Jules lives on a beautiful piece of land on the edge of Kibale National Park, it is truly one of my favourite places. She shares her home with three lovely dogs, sparkles, slim shady, foxy lady and carlos the cat and sometimes with chimpazees and elephants. Jules also helps out with one of the local primary schools and took us for a tour of the new girls dormitory they are building thanks to a generous donor. They are using solar bricks, something we would like to experiment with for Ssubi next year.
We returned to site the next day and found the classrooms and library in use.
After 28 days of marathon construction, on August 8th 2010 The Ssubi Foundation handed over renovated and newly built structures to Palenga Primary School in Gulu district. The buldings included 3 new teachers houses, 5 newly renovated classrooms, and a fully furnished library. It was one of those days we wished all our volunteers and and supporters were around to share in the excitement, the joy this has brought to the community and the students of Palenga Primary school.
When we arrived the morning of the opening ceremony we found kids lining up the road waiting for us, all dressed up nicely in their uniforms, we got out of the vehicle and the children lead us to the sitting area where we were welcomed with songs and traditional dances.
After the opening speech by the head teacher and the local area chairman, we took the guests to the tour of the newly built classrooms and staff houses. At each block pupils from the primary classes gave presentations that included poems, songs and dancing.
Here are some pictures from the ceremony.
Although Philip and Dusman play an essential role in the speed of construction, our project engineers Mwanda and John and their teams from Kampala and Gulu are the forces on the ground. Thanks to all of you who worked so hard this summer in the pouring rain and hot sun to get these structures done.