Uganda Humanist Schools Trust: Charity No 1128762

Rita’s Story

The touching and heart-warming story of a remarkable young lady.

“My name is Rita Kyolaba, born in 1996 in Uganda to a migrant family. My father was a refugee from Rwanda. He escaped from the persecution of Tutsi by the then Hutu led government. He was accused wrongly of being part of the group that was fighting the government from camps in the D.R. of Congo. 

He fled to Uganda in 1991 before the genocide of 1994. A family near Masaka gave him a small piece of land where he put up a temporary home. It is in this house that I was born. I started schooling in the nearby Kinyerere Church of Uganda Primary School in 2001. The school is funded by the government, so it was free. 

My father died in 2005 when I was in primary five. He was earlier diagnosed with HIV/Aids. He left me, my mother and my two young brothers in a small mud house, and my mother was also sick with Aids. We took whatever causal work we could find to get food to eat, as we lacked land to grow food. 

In 2007 my mother died leaving me, at the age of 10, to head my family. I had decided to drop out of school so that I could work to feed my brothers. However, my primary school headteacher offered me and my brothers free food so that I could stay in school. I was the top student in class so the headteacher felt I should not drop out of school. Luckily our home was only a few metres from the school so we could stay at school until late in the evening. I managed to complete my Primary Leaving Examinations in 2007 and passed in division 2.

The Headteacher arranged for me to transfer to Isaac Newton Humanist High School, which is only 2km from my home. I was offered a full boarding scholarship but I could not leave my brothers alone in the house, so I decided to be a day scholar.  It was 2008 when I joined Senior 1 at Isaac Newton School. During my Senior 2, Mr Kisirinya, the school Director, brought Steve and Hilary Hurd to my home and I was informed that I would be given a scholarship for the rest of my schooling. I loved the school and completed my O and A-levels, passing with good grades. 

After completing my schooling, I fell in love with a boda-boda (motor-bike taxi) rider, and I got pregnant. Unfortunately, my lover did not have a reliable income and was unable to look after me. We could not afford any medical care, so my first child died during birth. When the father went away I resorted to teaching in the primary school to try and save some money for further studies but, after paying for essentials, there was little left. 

I then heard that there were jobs in the Middle East working as housemaids. I used my savings to buy an air ticket to Saudi Arabia. I was with a good family. My accommodation and food was provided and they gave me net monthly pay of shs 850,000 (£200); a fortune by Ugandan standards. This enabled me to send money home for the care of my brothers and at the same time to set aside some money for my ambitious scheme of going to University. After 9 years working in Saudi, I managed to save 17.8 million shillings (over £4,000). 

I returned to Uganda to apply for University. When I learnt that the new Isaac Newton Humanist Primary School needed a teachers’ house, I was happy to give 6.5 million shillings (£1,500) towards it. I am now seeking admission to study for a bachelor’s degree in vocational agriculture with Education. My wish is to return to Isaac Newton School to teach Agriculture at the high school and possibly Science in the primary school. 

I am so glad to be back home in Uganda. I have two children and am living as a single mother, but life is looking up. I have already managed to replace my parents original mud house with a brick one and I now see light at the end of what looked to be a totally dark tunnel.”

Rita Kyolaba

Postscript: Peter Kisirinya has offered Rita a post at the Isaac Newton School teaching agriculture. She will be able to study for her degree at Kyambogo University through part-time study. The school gains a locally grown teacher who is totally committed to the Humanist ethos of the school and Rita gains a regular salary and some stability in her life while she continues to care for her two children and younger siblings. 

Delight at Girls’ Washrooms

Members of the Ethical Society of St Louis have extended their funding of Afripads (re-useable sanitary pads) to cover all girls that need them at 4 Humanist Schools, including Katumba. Across the schools they have transformed girls’ confidence and attendance at school and in class. However, the girls at Katumba School have found it difficult to find a private place to wash themselves and some girls still stay at home during their periods. Their request for a private place to wash and change has now been answered by North London Humanists, who have raised funds to construct a girls’ changing room and washing facilities with external drainage. The picture on the left shows the external view with water outlets. 

Waster outlet from washrooms
Viola Atuhame, Primary 6

The picture on the right shows a grateful user, Viola Atuhame in Primary 6. Viola explains that:

When we have periods, we really need the washrooms. Before we had them we had to go home to change. By the time we returned to school, classes would have started and we missed out on our studies.” 

The School’s Director, Juma Siriwayo, is delighted that North London Humanists have provided this assistance. He says: “We are happy that girls will not face these problems anymore. They will be able to focus on their studies without feeling anxiety. The provision of sanitary pads and washrooms are essential if we are to improve girls’ performance in school. Success in education is a fundamental human right for all.”

Help from our friends

Many of us are worried about the world’s problems but feel that, as individuals, we cannot make much difference. However, Humanists tend to believe that small acts of kindness, repeated many times across the globe, have the potential to make the whole world a better place. This philosophy underpins the work of the Humanist Schools in Uganda. The schools are in rural communities where families struggle to survive. Parents work hard to find money to educate their children, but often need additional help from extended family, friends and well-wishers in other countries. The Humanist schools do their best to keep bright, hard-working children in school. UHST supporters in Britain, the USA and elsewhere in the world help by providing scholarships for some of the neediest children, such as orphans and those with a struggling single parent.

Hellen Namaganda
Saidat Mukasa

The difference that education makes was demonstrated at Mustard Seed Humanist School this week. The school held a small party to celebrate the graduation from Kampala University of two former students who are now teaching at the school. Hellen Namaganda gained a B.Sc. in Agriculture and Saidat Mukasa a B.A. Education (Hons) in Economics and History. We are grateful to them both for allowing us to tell their stories.

UHST supporters provided a full scholarship for Hellen from 2010 to 2016. She enjoyed her time at school and her A-levels made her eligible to attend university, but her grades were not sufficient to gain one of the few government scholarships. After leaving school and failing to raise funds to pay university fees, she had a tough time. Hellen was forced into a traditional marriage and she conceived two baby boys. The marriage broke down and she returned to live with her mother who continues to help her to bring up the children. Seeing that she needed help, Moses Kamya offered her a teaching post, which provided a salary and covered her part-time university fees. This was a win-win. The school gained an extra teacher. Her inexperience was more than compensated by her knowledge and commitment to the ethos of the Humanist School. Hellen herself gained a lifeline and a means to support her two growing boys. 

Saidat Mukasa came to the school as an orphan. Since losing both parents his grandmother struggled to keep him in school. He did well in his O-level exams but during A-levels, his grandmother’s health deteriorated, and she could no longer find the money to keep Saidat in school. Recognising his potential, the school stepped in to help. Saidat taught, as an unqualified teacher, while the school paid for him to study part time for a Teaching Certificate. He upgraded the Certificate to a Diploma and finally to a B.Ed(Hons) degree in Economics and History.

Both Hellen and Saidat are now very happy to be established members of the teaching staff at Mustard Seed School. Hellen is enjoying teaching Agriculture and Saidat is making his mark as a teacher of Economics and Entrepreneurship. The kindness they have received has helped them both to get a good start in life and they are enjoying being able to make a valuable contribution to their school and wider community.