Uganda Humanist Schools Trust: Charity No 1128762

Mustard Seed School edges towards sustainability

Successful girl scouts winning the District Scouting Competition

In his latest Report on Mustard Seed Schools, Moses Kamya describes an increasingly self-confident school that is getting back into its stride after the shock of Covid. Academic results are good at all levels, from the Primary Leaving Examination through Uganda Certificate in Education at both Ordinary and Advanced level. Student welfare has been improved by refurbishing the sub-standard boys’ dormitory and building an efficient wood-burning cook house, so meal times have become more predictable.

Moses reports a vibrant school life for the children. The boys’ and girls’ football teams at both primary and secondary level have done well in the District competitions. The secondary girls won the District football cup this year. To crown the achievement, girls from the school’s well-established scout troop won the cup for the best performance in the District scouting competitions.

Two former students, who graduated with honours degrees in Agriculture and Economics and History have returned to school as teachers. A third has moved on to a Masters programme in Digital Forensics after gaining an honours degree from Uganda’s top Law School at Makerere University.

This is a wonderful record of achievement, which has made Mustard Seed the school of choice for discerning parents in the area.

UHST to partner Kasese Humanist Schools

As a charity we have made regular visits to Kasese to meet Robert Bwambale and see the Kasese Humanist Schools. Robert is active on Facebook and has many supporters around the world, but maintaining the continuity of funding for his schools has always been a struggle.

Since 2011, Robert has raised funds to build 3 primary schools and a secondary school. They are all in poor villages around Kasese, where parents find it difficult to keep up with regular school fee payments. Despite this the schools manage to educate many needy children and give them opportunities of a better life than that experienced by their parents. Robert has created inclusive schools based on the Humanist principles of reason, compassion and tolerance. Welfare standards are good and children are happy to go to school.

However, he faces one major problem. With the limited capacity of families to pay the even low levels of school fees requested, the Kasese schools are struggling to maintain decent standards of education. Primary teachers are paid as little as £33 ($40) a month, which is scarcely sufficient to support a family. This means that teachers have to be constantly looking for supplementary sources of income. The Kasese teachers deserve better.

At UHST we have always tried not to spread our limited funds too thinly. Nevertheless, some years ago, we set up a bookshop account to enable Robert to buy books for his schools. We have also provided money for science materials and some funds for staff development, The latter were used to support Phiona Ngabirwe, the headteacher of Bizoha Primary School, while she studied to gain a full degree in education.

In the past two years, Kasese Humanist Schools have adopted UHST’s model constitution for a not-for-profit Humanist School, and registered as a charitable company under Ugandan law. They have also come within UHST audit processes. The schools now have a dedicated ring-fenced bank account, and UHSTs Ugandan accountant, Dan Kasanda, has been invited to conduct annual audits of the school accounts. Furthermore, we have bought laptops for the school bursars and Dan Kasanda is helping them to digitise their accounts using accounting software.

Becoming a not-for-profit, with a dedicated bank account and externally audited and openly published accounts is a huge step forward in governance and accountability. It means that charities around the world can support the Kasese schools in full confidence that money donated will be used for the purpose for which it was given. UHST is planning a fund raiser to help the Kasese Schools. We are looking to find ways to increase the regular monthly inflow of funds to the schools, so that children from poor homes can get help with their fees and to enable teachers pay to be gradually raised. We need help from individual Humanists and organisations around the world if we are to do this. In November we shall be appealing to fellow Humanists in Europe, North America, Australia and elsewhere fir help. If you or your group would like to help please email:

If you wish to find out more read: Robert Bwambale’s “Director’s Report on the Kasese Humanist Schools“.

Humanist Schools are Charities

Newly arrived bright scholarship students from needy rural communities

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.

Steve Hurd and Dan Kasanda the Humanist Schools’ auditor

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.