Humanist Schools Review 2021

A year of progress in the face of adversity

For many, 2021 has been a year to forget. Ugandan schools have been closed more than they have been open. Many have been forced into bankruptcy but, thanks to the ongoing commitment of UHST supporters, the Humanist Schools are still here. Unlike many charities, UHST donations grew in 2021. Our supporters raised their standing orders and responded generously to two appeals for help. Bequests from two donors who had sadly passed away and large donations from an individual supporter have made it possible to maintain forward momentum. When the pandemic started, UHST was providing substantial support to Isaac Newton and Mustard Seed high schools and starting to build new primary schools for the distressed communities of Katumba and Kanungu. Two years later the high schools and one primary school are finished and looking great, the new Katumba School is close to completion, and we have bought and refurbished primary feeder schools for the two high schools.

Children at the new Kanungu Humanist Primary School
Uses of generous donations from UHST supporters
  • Covid-emergency payments have enabled the schools to keep their heads above water financially.
  • Schools have retained most of their teaching teams thanks to furlough payments of up to 50% to permanent staff and food parcels to casual staff.
  • We have made schools safe with hand-washing stations, infra-red thermometers, hand-gel and disinfectant, anti-mosquito paint and improved toilet facilities.
  • Despite the closures, the schools have had additional money for books, science and other learning materials, to support a humanist-education philosophy which promotes self-directed learning and learning by doing. They have also had specific help to buy home-study materials to enable students to continue their studies from home while schools have been closed.
Peter Kisirinya and a colleague taking home-study kits to Isaac Newton children during a Covid closure
  • We have continued to provide sanitary pads for girls when they have been in school.
  • Small sums of money have enabled all the schools to press on with the Humanist Schools Tree Planting Project to make the schools pleasanter and greener places and to heighten awareness of the climate crisis. 
  • We have provided funds to maintain and develop their infrastructure so that the schools are in a good state for reopening:
    • Isaac Newton Humanist High School: classroom and dining hall furniture, site drainage, walkways and retaining walls, repairs and painting.
    • Mustard Seed Humanist Secondary School: repairs to ceilings, walls, windows, doors and repainting, emptying of latrines and improvements to pathways and gardens.
    • Katumba Parents Humanist Primary School: approaching completion of this entirely new school. Current work is being undertaken on a cook house, food store and sleeping quarters for a school cook. All that remains is to fence the site and to carry out finishing and painting works.
    • Kanungu Humanist Primary School: this new school is finished and in a fine state for receiving a new intake of children in January. The site is looking wonderful.
Parents of Kateera lobbying Isaac Newton Humanist School to take over the failed Evangelical Christian School
New Humanist Schools

We have bought and refurbished two former religious primary schools which could not survive the loss of income during the Covid closures.

  • Isaac Newton Humanist Primary School has been created from a failed Evangelical Christian School, which might have become a madrasa. In 2021 we bought the entire school for £25,000, paid for new toilets, cook house, the addition of a kindergarten and the complete refurbishment of the site.
  • A failed Muslim primary school has been purchased and turned into Mustard Seed Humanist Primary School. A fine new kitchen has been added, new toilets and refurbishing work is close to completion.

An encouraging development in 2021 has been the establishment of new Humanist Schools by former students and teachers from our two high schools:

  • A former student of Mustard Seed Humanist Secondary School, Rogers Muwanguzi, has set up Eagle’s View Humanist Primary School at Buwenge, between Kamuli and Jinja. After attending Mustard Seed School as a student, Rogers returned there as a part-time teacher. He is so committed to the Humanist philosophy that he has now set up his own school based on those principles.
  • A former student taught by Peter Kisirinya, Joseph Kamulegeya, was appointed as a part-time teacher at Isaac Newton School after gaining a degree in Physics and Chemistry and training as a teacher. He was so inspired by the Humanist ethos of the school that he has established Classical Senior Humanist School in his home village of Nzizi, Lwengo, between Masaka and Mbarara.

We hope to visit these schools on our next visit to Uganda and, if they meet the requirements, bring them into the fold with the other Humanist schools.

BBC Interest in the Humanist Schools

Two days ago, I had a lengthy interview with a Journalist from the Panorama team who is taking a film crew to Uganda in January to make a film about the Humanist School Movement for BBC World Service TVs “Africa Eye” Series. They intend to film at Isaac Newton School, as the first Humanist School in the world; at Kanungu School, as a school rising from the ashes of the horrendous 2000 massacre and at Mustard Seed School, where Christian pastors are choosing to educate their children in preference to a readily available Christian alternative. The BBC’s interest is an indication how the Humanist schools are beginning to make a mark and will help to widen awareness of the work of the schools and the impact of their work which we are all supporting.

Your Donations are Making a Difference

Isaac Newton and Mustard Seed Humanist High Schools are gaining growing recognition for their high standards of educational achievement and for being happy places where conditions of welfare for students and teachers are good. They are gradually becoming the schools of choice in their areas. Our aim is to expand support for other Humanist Schools, but at a rate which ensures that each of the schools has a sufficient level of support to stand out as a beacon for humanism in its community.

The job of creating a fine school is never finished. We see no reason why the Humanist Schools should not be able to survive without ongoing support from UHST. However, our commitment to the schools is a long-term one. So long as we have your support, we will do our best to raise funds to enable the humanist schools to achieve even higher standards of education and welfare and, in so doing, to contribute to rising living standards for the communities living around them and to promote the Humanist values of reason, compassion and tolerance.

UHST and the Humanist Schools are very grateful to you for your support, which is transforming the life-chances of many individual children, their families and the challenged communities in which they live.

Steve Hurd

Inclusive education based on reason, compassion, tolerance

+44 (0) 1782 750338

All administration costs, including trips to Uganda to visit the schools, are paid for on a personal basis by our trustees, so every £1 donated by our supporters goes to help the schools in Uganda.

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