Fostering a Humanist Ethos in Uganda Schools
The final day of the 3rd Humanist Schools’ Conference was devoted to developing a common understanding of Humanism and how to apply it in schools. Peter Kisirinya and I were joint facilitators for the session which included consideration of:
- principles of Positive Humanism most relevant to schools in Uganda.
- compatibility of humanism with religion, theism, deism, atheism and agnosticism.
- The Golden Rule, Universal Declaration on Human Rights.
- fostering mutual respect and fellowship in Humanist schools, which welcome children and teachers from differeent Christian and Muslim traditions.
- appropriate attitudes towards wearing religious symbols, clothing and prayer in school.
There were reflective and amusing stories and anecdotes from Humanist school directors about how about how they personally came to adopt a humanist philosophy and how they apply it in running their schools. Peter Kisirinya of Isaac Newton Humanist Schools (shown left) explained how his Uganda Biology teacher in a catholic school encouraged the class to consider whether evolution was compatible with religious teaching and how belief might at times lead to a suspension of reason. Robert Bwambale (Kasese Humanist Schools) spoke of his trials as an orphan being moved between Christian and Muslim carers and how he wanted to set up school that respected the rights of the child to become a free thinker. Rogers Muwanguzi (Eagle’s View Humanist Primary) explained how he learned of Humanism as a student of Mustard Seed Humanist Secondary School. It inspired him to start his own school based upon the principles of reason, compassion and self-reliance.
There was a healthy disagreement on attitudes towards God. However, there was a broad consensus that schools should regard religious belief as a matter of personal choice and conscience. What mattered was our behaviour towards each other. It was important to foster an inclusive, mutually caring and happy school community with Humanist values. It was agreed that it is possible to be Christian and Humanist or Muslim and Humanist. Humanist values are relevant to all of humanity.
All present received copies of “Humfry Hippo Moves Home”, which exemplifies the Golden Rule in an accessible way for young children. They also received the booklet, “Developing a Humanist Ethos in Uganda Schools”, containing activities for students that illustrate the Ten Commitments propounded by the American Humanist Association.
The workshop ended with a genuine buzz of excitement among the teachers, many of whom were hearing about Humanism for their first time.