stevehurd@uhst.org Uganda Humanist Schools Trust

New Katumba PTA embraces Humanist Commitments

Bringing together parents and teachers at Katumba Parents Humanist Primary School to form a Parent-Teachers Association (PTA) was an important landmark in the school’s development. The school has chosen to place the AHA’s “10 Commitments” at the forefront of its efforts to promote Positive Humanist values in the school and wider community. The 10 Commitments adorn the front wall of the school building. Humanist schools in Uganda are finding that local people embrace this inclusive statement of Humanist values, whatever their religious or personal beliefs. The 10 Commitments are an excellent template for a good school and for a good society.*

Happy parents at the founding meeting of Katumba Humanist School Parent-Teachers Association

Here is an account of the launch of Katumba Humanist School’s Parent-Teacher Association by Juma Irumba Siriwayo, the school’s Director:

Today for sure was a joyful and interesting day in the history of the new Katumba Humanist Nursery and Primary School.  

Amos Bandaliza a retired primary school head teacher was elected as our PTA committee Chair. In his acceptance speech to the parents and media team, Amos promised to ensure that academic performance and collaboration between teachers and parents were enhanced in the school. 

For my part, I presented the newly-elected chairperson with the school’s Humanist values and our Humanist code of conduct, which each teacher must sign when they join the school. I thoroughly explained the implications of Katumba’s Humanist Ethos for the day-to-day conduct of teachers and children. Parents showed a great willingness to support the school’s Humanist values. 

Katumba’s newly elected PTA Committee members

I outlined the tremendous support that Katumba had received from Uganda Humanist Schools Trust and read out a speech from Steve Hurd, Chair of UHST, who was unable to travel due to Covid restrictions. The speech explained to parents that UHST is strongly committed to building the school up to a high standard in terms of buildings, facilities, staff support, books and learning materials. Steve congratulated everyone involved with Katumba Humanist School on the progress that has been made over the past 2 years. He intends that Uganda Humanist Schools Trust will be a good friend and partner to the Katumba Community for years to come.”

*Activities for school students based on the 10 Commitments can be found on our Human Studies Resource Bank.

Joy as schools reopen

January 10th was a big day in Uganda. The government allowed schools to reopen fully, after the longest continuous period of Covid closure in the world. Investments in school infrastructure funded by Uganda Humanist School Trust during the pandemic are finally able to be used.

There was jubilation in the remote mountain village near the Congo border, when Katumba Parents Humanist Primary School re-opened in brand new buildings. 190 eager children enrolled on the first day and the school hopes for over 300 by the end of the month. A new purpose-built school is a major cause for celebration in this community where life is hard. Local dignitaries and radio journalists attended the opening and reports of the event were broadcast both on local vernacular radio (Development FM) and the main government English-language channel (Uganda Broadcasting Corporation).

First day in class for children at Katumba Parents Humanist Primary School

Kanungu, another hill village near the Congo border which suffered the world’s largest mass killing by a religious cult in the year 2000, also opened a new school. Kanungu Humanist Primary School had an abortive opening in 2021, but this was curtailed by the Covid pandemic. On Monday the school opened afresh with 90 eager children arriving on day 1, 135 by day 4 and new children are pouring in every day as word spreads about the quality of the school buildings, the attractiveness of the site and the high standards of welfare and educational resources. Later in the month, Peter Kisirinya, Chair of the Uganda Humanist Schools Association, will speak during a formal opening ceremony, which a crew from BBC World Service TV will be filming for a programme in the Africa Eye series on the growth of Humanism in Uganda.

Joyous children on their first day at the new Kanungu Humanist Primary School

Two former religious schools bought with funds raised by UHST have reopened as Humanist schools. A former Muslim school reopened as Mustard Seed Humanist Primary School in Busota, with an initial intake of 40 on day 1. They have indications that the number of children may be up to 300 by the end of the month. The evangelical Christian school in the village of Kateera, after a major physical transformation, has reopened as Isaac Newton Humanist Primary School with an initial enrolment of 200, which is growing by the day.

Already 400 students at Isaac Newton Humanist High School have returned to school. At Mustard Seed Humanist Secondary only 140 re-enrolled in week 1, though a further 200-300 have indicated that they intend to return as soon as they have funds to do so. Both schools had 600 students before the pandemic hit.

First day of kindergarten at the Isaac Newton Humanist Primary School

The situation in Uganda over the past two years has been tough and parents and children are anxious to get back to school. However, the lockdown has left scars

  • Household savings have been depleted so finding money for school fees, school stationery, calculators and other essentials such a footwear and clothing is delaying the return to school. 
  • Many children, especially the many orphans, have been traumatised by being used for forced labour in their villages, and by physical and sexual abuse. 

The Uganda government is sending teams around Uganda to sensitise teachers to the need to look out for signs of trauma and to strategies for helping the many children affected. The Humanist schools are doing their best to help by making the schools safe and happy places for the children when they return. Unlike many other schools in Uganda, Isaac Newton High School and the other Humanist schools have made it clear that they will welcome back to school girls who have suffered sexual abuse and become pregnant.

The scale of the problem of getting children back to school is enormous. UHST is working with the schools to find the most effective ways, within the bounds of the resources we have available, to help families meet some of these costs. We are trying to muster meaningful sized pots of money that can be used as hardship funds. The task can seem almost overwhelming as practically all children come from families suffering financial stress.

UHST and the schools are hugely grateful to our supporters for their help in getting the Humanist Schools through the trials of the last two years. I am sure we all wish the schools well in their desire to open minds and empower future generations of young people to create better lives for themselves and the communities from which they come. 

Katumba parents are delighted with their new school

Over the past two years, Uganda Humanist Schools Trust (UHST) has been funding the construction of a new school for the children and parents of the Katumba community. The project has helped to consign to history the troubles of 2016, in which 100 fathers were killed.

After much hard work in the face of many setbacks, the school opens a year early. What follows is an account of the opening ceremony, held on Saturday 8th January, written by Juma Irumba Siriwayo, Chair of the Parents’ Management Committee.

Katumba opening: Presentation of mattress to girl winning scholarship to attend Isaac Newton Humanist High School

Saturday was a special day for the parents, children and the wider community of Katumba in Bundibugyo District. They were delighted to see their school opening in new brick-built buildings on a safe, dry site.

Present at the opening ceremony was the District Councillor Hon Muganzi, a parent who has worked tirelessly to support the school. He has provided building materials on credit whenever we ran out of cash. As Managing Director, I welcomed the community to the school and read a speech from Steve Hurd, Chair of UHST, who was not able to be with us for the opening due to Covid travel difficulties. Mr Kagaruke the senior District inspector of schools replied as our chief guest. He hailed the entire UHST team for their commendable work in supporting such an important educational initiative in this previously neglected and remote rural area. Mr Kagaruke thanked UHST and its supporters for fulfilling the dream of our community for a decent school that will educate of our underprivileged children. He thanked UHST for the amazing provision of scholarships to enable the 6 best Primary Leaving Examination candidates from 2020 to move on to Isaac Newton Humanist High School, in Masaka District, for their secondary schooling. We presented the successful students with mattresses for beds in school dormitories and some scholastic materials. Their teachers were each given 100,000 Ush bonuses in recognition of the dedication in supporting the students with home study during the Covid lockdown.  We were delighted to have the presence of former students from 2018 and 2019 who spoke well of being scholarship students at Isaac Newton School. 

Mr Kagaruke said UHST supporters were the great heroes of Katumba Parents Humanist  School. Everyone felt that, with UHST support, standards had risen and would continue to rise in years to come. They appreciated the fact that children now had books and other learning resources, that had previously been absent. This is bound to improve educational outcomes. We look forward to the completion and equipping of the new library building and of the computer room, which will put Katumba ahead of other schools in the District.”

On Monday 10th January Katumba School opened along with other schools in Uganda. This is Juma’s account:

The first day was very fantastic with an enrolment of 190 pupils. There are so many in the nursery section that we shall need to buy more furniture. The opening of Katumba School was a very big event in Bundibugyo District. Media teams from national and local radio visited the school to witness the first day, including Uganda Broadcasting Corporation (UBC) Radio and Bundibugyo Development FM (DFM). Our children and teachers shared a lot of interesting stories and told the journalists how happy they were with the new school and the high academic standards it was already achieving. Our school opened with 18 teaching and 4 non-teaching staff, including the bursar, askari, nurse and 2 cooks. Most of our children lacked uniforms and many parents were asking to pay school fees in arrears, which presents the school with severe cash-flow problems from the start.” 

Children working in groups on first school day

Building the new Katumba School was envisaged as a 3-year project. We are delighted that is has become useable a year early. Though there is further work to be done as resources become available. Plastering and painting the primary 5, 6 and 7 classrooms is the next priority followed by purchasing an extra plot of land and fencing the school. These, other finishing work and the purchase of outside playground equipment and more books and educational toys and games will require us to raise a further £10,000. Once everything is finished, the new school will begin to make a huge contribution to the social and economic improvement of a very remote community for whom life is challenging in so many ways.

Nursery children’s first school day – needing furniture
Back to serious work for Primary Leaving Exam children