Visit to the Humanist Schools

Arrival in Uganda

The picture was taken on 26 June when UHST Trustees arrived in Entebbe at the start of our tour of the Humanist Schools in Uganda. Our party comprised, from the left: Glenda Miller, Krystal White, Steve Hurd, Hilary Hurd, Chris Smith and Derek Miller. UK members had all visited Uganda before and 3 of us had lived in the country. We were pleased to be able to welcome along Krystal, from the Ethical Society of St Louis, who joined us for her first visit.

Our visit of 24 days took in the Humanist schools that our charity supports financially, Isaac Newton (Primary and High Schools), Mustard Seed (Primary and Secondary School), Kanungu Primary and Katumba Parents Primary. We spent 2 or 3 days at each of these schools observing, taking part in activities with the staff and students, and meeting members of the school Boards. Here are links to the full reports:

Isaac Newton Humanist Schools (Primary and High School)

Mustard Seed Humanist Schools (Primary and Secondary School)

Katumba Parents Humanist Primary School

Kanungu Humanist Primary School

All four schools are doing well but in the face of extraordinary challenges. The rural economy was devastated by a prolonged Covid lockdown. Low incomes and exhausted savings have caused large arrears in school fee payments. There are huge inflationary cost rises, especially of school food, due to the war in Ukraine. We are determined to do our best to help them get through this and are launching a new appeal for additional funds. UHST’s regular supporters have always done their best to help where they can but, given the scale of the current problems, we feel that we will need to cast our net more widely and encourage Humanists from around the world to help in our bid to support the schools through these extraordinary times.

We were heartened to find that our pioneer schools are becoming beacons for Humanism in Uganda and other young Ugandans, including former students of the first Humanist schools, are taking the initiative to start new schools founded on positive Humanist philosophy. We made short visits to the following new Humanist schools: Eagle’s View Primary (started by a former Mustard Seed student), Star Classic Primary and New Hope Primary (both inspired by Irumba Juma Siriwayo from Katumba Humanist School). The tightness of our schedule prevented us from visiting Classical Humanist High School (started by a former Isaac Newton student). What is clear is that Humanist education is stepping up and moving to a new phase in Uganda. UHST has its hands full ensuring that the existing schools that we support achieve really high standards of education and welfare, and we are anxious not to spread our resources too thinly. We will, however, help representatives of new schools to attend conferences organised by the Uganda Humanist Schools Association, so they can help to develop and share good practice.

For expansion to continue we need Humanist groups around the world to emulate many church groups and adopt and provide ongoing support to one of the new Humanist groups coming along. It should provide a new purpose to many groups, though a little due diligence is advised. It is worth checking that the school you choose to support is serious about Humanism and not just tapping into a willing funding source. Find out who owns the school (is it registered with the Ministry of Education, does it appear in the Uganda Registrar of Companies as a not-for-profit company and does it have a bank account that is ring-fenced for the school and produce annually audited accounts. Schools that are members of the Uganda Humanist Schools Association should meet these requirements.

At the end of our visit to the schools we have been supporting we were hugely heartened. They are doing their level best to promote education based on reason, compassion and tolerance and that does not discriminate on the basis of belief. We saw a genuine desire to achieve high standards of education and welfare, where the needs of every child is important. Our support for the schools has made a huge difference. The schools are bringing hope to some of the poorest communities in Uganda.