Humanist Schools are Charities
Every school that receives substantial support from Uganda Humanist Schools Trust is registered as a not-for-profit charity. We feel that this protects the interests of students, staff and our supporters who make donations to the schools.
Schools we support share these not-for-profit characteristics:
- They are managed by a School Director with Board of co-directors.
- UHST nurtures a partnership arrangement with the schools, and most have invited a UHST trustee to join their Board of Management.
- Each school is a charitable company in its own rights.
- Money in the school bank account is ring-fenced for use solely by the school.
- School accounts are supervised and externally audited by a Ugandan public service accountant, paid by UHST.
- Local directors may receive a salary as a payment for work they do for the school e.g. Director involved in the day-to-day running of the school or working as Headteacher.
- Apart from receiving a salary for work done, nobody can withdraw funds from the school account for personal use.
The above procedures ensure that all money given to our Humanist schools, as local fee income or grants funded by UHST supporters, can only be used to cover school running costs or for improvements in educational standards and student welfare. Should a surplus arise at any time (a rare occurrence) it must be ploughed back into the school and is not used to line personal pockets.
Our aim is for schools to become self-sustaining and independent, but this is a long process. The first essential is to develop the capacity to cover essential school running costs from local funds. Most of our schools have reached this stage. They have sufficient local fee income to pay salaries, buy school food and firewood for cooking. So, funds donated by UHST supporters are used to support school improvement: books, learning resources, essential new infrastructure such as classrooms, science and computer labs, clinics and maintenance of sanitation, water supply and power.
Schools are faced with stark choices on fee income:
- Set fees too low and the school fails due to lack of funds.
- Set fees too high and children from poorer families are excluded.
- What to do when parents fall into arrears? Appeal to their better nature to pay or exclude their children? Letting off one family, without good reason, may provoke an epidemic of non-payment.
- Each school exercises discretion and gives local bursaries to help the neediest pay at least part fees – UHST supporters provide grants to help the schools with this.
- UHST supporters provide over 140 scholarships to enable bright but needy children to attend the Humanist schools – such scholarships provide a level of basic income to the schools and underwrite their running costs.
Although UHST has maintained a long-term partnership with the schools we support, we encourage them to regard outside funding as temporary windfall so that they are always ready to cope on their own.
Paying teachers is a major challenge for schools.
Due to the high unemployment rates some schools can find poorly qualified teachers who will work for very low pay. They cannot do this in shortage subjects such as Mathematics and Science, where government schools have set high benchmark levels of salaries. We encourage our schools to pay teachers fairly. We feel that if teachers are adequately paid, then they are more likely to have a positive attitude toward working for the school. This is good for students and promotes the following salary virtuous circle:
- Well paid staff are happier and willing to work hard for the school.
- Happy staff mean happy students and more learning.
- Happy students produce good results.
- Good results make the school more popular.
- As popularity rises parents are more willing to pay fees.
- Higher fee income enables the school to pay decent salaries and attract and retain good teachers.
Schools are beginning to appreciate that “low pay is a false economy!”
Donors who give money to help schools, do so altruistically.
They want little in return. However, we try to impress on our schools that if they want to maintain the goodwill and long-term commitment of supporters, they should try to put themselves in the donors shoes. What would they want if they were school donors? We suggest to them that the following are important:
- To be able to get information about your school. They need to know that you can be trusted. Being a member of the new organisation, Coalition of Humanist Schools in Uganda (CHSU), shows that your school aim to uphold a Humanist Ethos and maintain certain standards.
- Good & regular communication – news, stories, pictures.
- A full account of how donor money has been used and the difference it has made.
- Long-term supporters want to see evidence of rising education and welfare standards.
- A simple thank you for the support they have provided.