We returned to Gulu for one last visit with the schools and sponsor children until next year. Our last meeting was at Lela Obaro School in the Richard Theriault Memorial Library to meet and welcome the new headmaster of the school, Mary Odida. The District Education Officer, District Inspector of Schools, Parent Teachers Association, School Management Committee and teachers were on hand to meet the new head teacher. It was a great meeting with lots of discussion on how to move forward to maintain the new structures and resources and improve the academic quality of the school. A report was just released in Uganda and dismally identified the poor standards of public education, with 72% of children dropping out prior to primary 7. In addition of those reaching higher primary levels, the level of reading and writing was very poor. Uganda has a policy to move students forward regardless of their performance resulting in students in higher levels that are reading at a primary 1-2 level. As many of you know, Northern Uganda is behind the national average on quality of education so these results are worrying.
Archive for August, 2011
We visited Jules’s home for a few days with Clay and his cousins for a little rest and relaxation. Jules lives just on the outskirts of Kibale National Park and it is truly a beautiful place to be- both mine and Clay’s favourite part of Uganda. Jules has three very lovely dogs- Foxy Lady, Slim Shady and Sparkles- and three children whom she cares for: Hope, Dillion and Amos. As usual Sparkles was up to her madam ways; our annual night walk would not be complete without Sparkles trying to eat some poor creature. Unfortunately she choose Howard, Jules’s cow. Luckily we were nearby and able to fend off Sparkles and move a very stressed out Howard to safety, but it was very exciting. Philip as usual slept through the whole thing. He really does relax when at Jules’s place. We also visited the nearby school supported by In the Shadow of the Chimpanzee, a non-profit organization run by the local community (including Jules). This year The Ssubi Foundation helped purchase and set up a water tank for the new girls dormitory they just completed.
The Ssubi Foundation is constructing a new kitchen and serving area for Lilly School, including a storage area for food and energy efficient fireplace. We are experimenting with new bricks for this project. Most bricks used for construction in Uganda are dried in ovens using firewood. For this project we rented a brick machine and made the bricks with cement and 2 types of sand and they dry in the sun. So far we are impressed and think they are much stronger.
We were invited to a birthday party for some of the orphans at Lilly Kindergarten and Primary School this week. There are 30 orphans living at Lilly School and every month they have a birthday party for the children celebrating a birthday in that month. In August, four of the children had birthdays including Rita, one of our new sponsor children. It is a big celebration where the children enjoy meat and rice, sodas, cake and dancing. The children were turning either 10 or 11, but they look much smaller. We brought lots of food like milk, rice, sugar and cookies- items we know they do not get to have very often. With the scary prices of food at the moment, most orphanages are eating yellow posh and beans for lunch and dinner, which is not very nutritious over the long term. On a more positive note it was nice to see the kids enjoying a celebration and having so much fun.
We have been traveling quite a bit over the last week: to Gulu, Kampala and Fort Portal and back to Gulu again. You see many interesting things while traveling, here are a few pictures from along the way.
Every year throughout our time in Uganda we meet and have discussions with students we are supporting to attend school. Currently there are five students in the Gulu region we are supporting, Michael (Secondary 5), Opio (Secondary 5), Carol (Secondary 5), Beatrice (Primary 4) and Daniel (Secondary 1). Everyone is doing well and we have had many discussions on continuing to work hard so they can improve their marks. Right now they are on break with third term staring in September but most of them are using their time off to study. In fact, Opio and Daniel both went to Lela Obaro Primary School and live close by, so they study in the Richard Theriault Memorial Library during school breaks and Michael lives near Palenga Primary School and studies in the library we built there last year. Isn’t that cool. We also had discussions on moving the students to boarding school in Kampala for a few reasons but mainly due to the higher quality of education of the schools in Kampala.
The hand-over ceremony at Lukoto Primary School was small but very moving. The chief guest was Honorable Jacob Oulanyah (Deputy Speaker of Parliament) whom also brought The Ssubi Foundation to originally visit Lukoto because he felt they would greatly benefit from a relationship with the foundation. The school was handed over by The Ssubi Foundation along with scholastic materials and sporting equipment. Perhaps the most promising moment was a speech by the District Education Officer (DEO) that the government had officially registered Lukoto Primary School as a government school and at the beginning of next school year they will be sent up to 6 teachers on salary by the government. In addition, he encouraged parents to start building teachers huts and toilets so they would have a place to stay. He is also actively working with other NGO’s in the region to provide additional assistance to help the school thrive. In the words of Jacob, by working with Lukoto Primary School, Ssubi has started something that has and will continue to create positive change.
Building a school at Lukoto has really been a journey, at first we felt a little hopeless given the state of the school. Lukoto is a community school with 80 students from P1 to P3. The parents have hired 3 community teachers who have limited english, the head teach completed primary 7 (grade 7 in Canada). However, the Honourable Jacob Oulanyah told us he was speechless when he visited this school and the state of the school haunted him, as he felt every child in Uganda should have an opportunity to obtain a quality education. The primary 1 class was under a mango tree and the teacher was drawing images in the dirt with a stick to teach. But this has really been the most rewarding project and we have been so impressed with the community support and effort to assist John (engineer) and his workers. Every time we visit the school we are greeted with warmth and enthusiasm, I wish I could insert hear the women yelling their support as it is a unique and beautiful sound. Before we post some pictures of the handover ceremony, here are some pictures of the before and after construction. The classrooms are furnished with desks, teacher desk and book shelf and one has solar lighting and a cell phone charger (everyone is excited about that as it is a very long trip for recharge phones).
On the evening of the hand over ceremony for Lela Obaro, we had a lovely meetingand dinner with the Rwot Rubanga Lakica Women’s Group at the Acholi Inn. The group is made up of 25 women of various education levels and has an objective of empowering women toward self-sustainability. We continue to learn from and work with the Rwot Women’s Group as we find them to be very empowering. They continue to be a successful model for learning and supporting each other towards sustainability. The group paid back 50% of the loan we offered them last year as per their commitment. The loan was provided to increase the amount members could borrow to help promote their businesses or pay school fees. There were many success stories this year of how the group has helped members achieve success with examples involving raising domestic animals for sale, opening a medical clinic, purchasing seeds and staring a small restaurant. It seems many of the group members are using the loans to pay school fees for children. They have developeda new education account this year, where members contribute to the account whenever possible with a goal of allowing members to borrow at a reduced interest rate in comparison to their regular microloan program. We provided the group witha gift to support their programs as we think their success should be rewarded and the donation will enable them to increase the number of members who can borrow at any one time. For the next year we discussed the possibility of The Ssubi Foundation supporting members time and transport to work with other women’s groups and share their model and experiences. In addition, the group would like to develop an event business where different members businesses would contribute to the business; they have prepared a proposal to The Ssubi Foundation to help them establish this business.
Here are some pictures of the buildings we handed over to Lela Obaro Primary School.