Uganda Humanist Schools Trust: Charity No 1128762

Kanungu gains community support

Robert Magara’s 2023 Report as Kanungu Humanist Primary School Director demonstrates the need for each new Humanist school to gain acceptance from its local community. Robert motivation for setting up his school was to help his community overcome the wounds created when a 10 Commandments Evangelical Preacher poisoned 800 Katumba families who had joined his congregation, locked them in his church and burned them to death. Despite this atrocity, the community remains strongly religious, and the school has faced opposition from local Evangelical Christian Churches. The main Katumba church urged its congregation to boycott the new Humanist school, which had no religious affiliation. Instead Kanungu welcomes children from all faith backgrounds and educates them in a secular environment with no discrimination and where children are valued equally as human beings.

Although recruitment to the school was slow in its first year, it is gradually winning support from local families. We have seen in other schools, that Humanist schools school win over their local communities through their actions. They work hard to achieve high standards of child welfare and demonstrate high standards of education through their performance in national examinations, in which the Humanist schools are beginning to excel.

Uganda Humanist Schools Trust has helped Robert by providing funds to build decent classrooms, provide access to power, water and toilets, and ensure there are adequate books and learning materials. We have helped him to pay his teachers and provide food and firewood for cooking by sending regular monthly support payments. Robert has also attracted support from other well-wishers though the school’s Facebook page, managed by Terri Julians.

Robert’s Report shows how recruitment has grown substantially. The school is become a vibrant learning community and already coming out top in local, regional and national football championships. It has a promising future.

Link to full 2023 Kanungu School Director’s Report..

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Teacher & Child Appeal (now ended)

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Paying teachers’ salaries and other staff costs is the main cost of running the Humanist schools in Uganda. And yet, the fees paid by local parents are generally insufficient to provide decent levels of remuneration for teachers, some of whom, in the more remote primary schools, earn little more than $2 a day. Scholarship payments made by UHST supporters make a substantial contribution towards staffing costs for the Humanist secondary schools. Families and local communities understand that we cannot help all children but are happy that they are awarded to talented students who gain a Grade 1 in their Primary Leaving Certificate and deserve financial help because they are double orphans, have a struggling single parent or other significant challenge.

However, scholarships do not work well in Humanist Primary Schools. These schools tend to be in areas of uniform poverty, where all families struggle as subsistence farmers. Furthermore, there are no criteria for grading young children on the basis of ability. Schools that give help with school fees have to find other ways to justify this. In the early days of Katumba Parents Humanist Primary School this was relatively easy. The children that were helped were those whose fathers had been killed in the 2016 insurrection. The whole community was happy for those children to be helped. However, where there is no such clear criterion for the allocation of a scholarship, other parents tend to feel a sense of unfairness when some children are, apparently arbitrarily, awarded scholarships, while a majority of children are denied them. In these circumstances scholarships can be counter-productive as they lead to a growth in fee arrears by the parents of non-scholarship children.

Our new Teacher & Child Appeal is designed to avoid these problems by funding the costs of teachers directly. If there is a good response to the appeal, we will be able to make a big contribution to the staffing bill. This will enable schools to keep down school fees, which will benefit all families and children, rather than a select few who might have received scholarships. Regular monthly donations from the Teacher-Child Appeal will be used partly to improve pay and conditions for hard-working teachers and partly to provide confidential and discretionary help to those striving children who are struggling to pay school fees.

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.