The Humanist Schools in Uganda: 2014 Update

I am writing to thank you for your ongoing support for the Humanist Schools in Uganda. Establishing good schools is a long-term challenge, but we are making good progress and I want to give you an idea of where your money has been going during 2014. I attach a list of grants awarded and a small collection of photographs which I think indicate that development is proceeding apace.

As a result of the funds being provided by our supporters:

  1. Scholarships have been allocated to 129 bright children from the poorest backgrounds to enable them to attend the schools. A new development in 2014 has been the introduction of full-boarding scholarships, which enable single and double orphans to make the school their home during term time. We try to provide 10 new first year scholarships to each school each year. This requires us to raise 30 new scholarships each year. Day scholarships are £120 a year and boarding scholarships cost £300. If you would like to provide a scholarship please email Hilary Hurd at: scholarships@uhst.org.
  2. We are able to pay for a range of learning materials including textbooks, chemicals and science materials, art materials and maintenance to keep the computer networks in good order. As the schools’ facilities have improved. and exam results too, there has been a large increase in the demand for places in the Humanist schools. This creates a constant challenge to keep up with the demands for learning resources. However, as Humanists, we value the possibility of students becoming independent learners so materials for independent study are given high priority.
  3. Gradually we have been able to help the schools with resources to foster out-of-school activities such as sports, music, choral singing, scouts (for boys and girls) and to take part in inter-school competitions e.g. debating. At Mustard Seed School work on levelling the land we purchased last year for a playing field has been completed and grass seed has been sown to create a playing surface.
  4. Improvements are being made in health and welfare. A new borehole, pump and gravity-fed water tank has been installed on the upper school site at the Mustard Seed School. Clean drinking water is essential for health and also, as we have found, to enable students to concentrate in class. In 2014 we worked with a Ugandan NGO to provide re-useable sanitary pads to the girls in all three secondary schools, and to provide a one-day training course on how to use the pads and to enable girls to understand the menstrual cycle. Fencing the school sites at Mustard Seed and Isaac Newton High School (Mbute) has also been completed. This is essential to prevent theft but also to create a secure environment for students in boarding.
  5. Boys’ Hostels are under construction at Isaac Newton High School (Kateera) and at Mustard Seed School. When completed, they will make a huge difference to the welfare of some of the really needy children and give them much better access to learning resources throughout the week and at weekends. The two hostels should be finished by mid-October.
  6. The Mbute Campus of Isaac Newton High School has had to contend with witchcraft rumours during the year. Most of the fears held by members of the community have been allayed by an education programme conducted by the school with help from outside experts. However, it has accelerated the need to progress work to improve the site which has now been securely fenced and trees have been planted to green the school site. Work is currently being undertaken to improve the quality of the access road to the site and also erecting poles so that the school can be connected to mains electricity.
  7. Mbute School is the least developed of the schools and it is a long way short of covering its basic running costs. It relies upon the extra funds that we provide to cover its periodic arrears on staffing costs.
  8. At Isaac Newton High School (Kateera) the school hall has been refurbished with new floors, walls, windows and doors so that it now meets the requirements of Uganda National Examination Board for becoming and Examination Centre. This means that students will be able to take their exams in school instead of going away to another centre miles away from where they live.

All three schools have made progress in 2014, but there remains much to do. Further infrastructure improvements are necessary. All three schools need staff housing, more classrooms, work on paths and access roads, more learning resources and help to develop field trips and extra-curricular activities. Mustard Seed is required to have a medical centre now it has a substantial boarding section. Kateera needs access to mains electricity. Mbute needs hostels for students and improved water provision.

You will see from the attached list of grants awarded that, in the first 9 months of 2014, we allocated £80,000 to the Uganda Schools, distributed as follows:

  • Isaac Newton High School (Kateera)              £ 30,880
  • Isaac Newton High School (Mbute)                £ 17,958
  • Mustard Seed School, Busota                          £ 30,410
    Kasese Humanist Primary School                    £      400

Our aim is to raise similar amounts over each of the next two years.

A certain amount of our income comes from regular standing orders. This allows us to plan essential spending on learning resources. In 2014, the flow donations from new supporters fell due to the negative press coverage given to the Uganda government’s proposed introduction of anti-homosexuality legislation. Fortunately the legislation was successfully challenged in the Uganda courts and it has, at least for the time being, been shelved. UHST income held up, in the end, thanks to the generosity of a few individual supporters who made substantial donations. We are grateful to these and to all other regular supporters for helping us through this difficult year.

The exciting new development involving all three secondary schools and Kasese Humanist Primary School is that they have agreed to work together, through the Uganda Humanist Schools Association, to develop the Humanist ethos of the schools. Inevitably, in the schools’ early years it has been a constant battle to pay teachers, meet other essential costs to ensure the minimum acceptable level of education to students in the schools. Thanks to the combined effort of the schools and our supporters many of the basic essentials are now in place and attention is beginning to be paid to improving the quality of teaching and learning and to developing the Humanist ethos of the schools. UHST and UHSA have submitted to IHEU a proposal for funds to enable teachers in the schools to come together to develop materials which embody a distinctive Humanist approach to teaching, learning and management in the schools. We hope to be able to announce the launch of this project before the end of the year.

In the meantime, we would like to thank all supporters for making this unique experiment in Humanist education possible and we hope you will feel you can continue to help the schools in coming years so that we can together create institutions of which students, teachers and the Humanist community can be proud.

Sincerely

Steve Hurd

Chairperson

www.ugandahumanistschoolstrust.org
https://www.facebook.com/ugandahumanistschoolstrust
+44 (0) 1782 750338

PS I enclose a copy of our leaflet about UHST. We would be very grateful if you could circulate it to members of groups to which you belong and help us to recruit new supporters. Should you have any questions or suggestions please feel free to contact me: Steve Hurd +44 (0) 1782 750338stevehurd@uhst.org.