stevehurd@uhst.org Uganda Humanist Schools Trust

A life transformed by effort, education and kindness

Letter of thanks from David Banige

I started school in 2003. Ms. Monic, my nursery teacher, moved me up 3 classes in one year and, as my academic performance was excellent, she arranged for me to transfer to a better school for my primary education, which I completed in 2009 with very good Primary Leaving Exam grades. 

In 2010, I joined Kyabazinga college to study for O-levels. For a time four children from my family were in the same school but eventually my father found it impossible to pay fees for us all. As I was performing well, I was allowed to complete my O-levels, but my 3 brothers had no option but to leave. 

Despite getting decent O-levels, due to the bad financial state at home, I could not join the Senior 5 A-level class until almost the end of term two. One day, I met Mr. Peter Kilimani, an Agriculture teacher at Mustard Seed Humanist School. After telling him about my family circumstances and ambitions he arranged for me to apply for a place at his school. From that point on, my life and fortunes were transformed. My father was delighted by the idea of me joining the mighty Mustard Seed Humanist School in Busota.

I joined the school at the beginning of the third term of my senior five in 2014. Joining a new environment could be difficult, but as a new student of Mustard Seed I was made to feel at home by teachers and fellow students. Mustard Seed is a happy school with very good relations among staff and students.

In 2015 when I entered senior six, my father fell sick. He was admitted to hospital and was on sick bed for some good months. Everything our family owned, such as land and livestock were sold to pay hospital bills. When my father died, I lost hope, but the school was marvelous. They stepped in immediately and waived my fees so that I could complete my A-level studies in Agriculture, Entrepreneurship, Geography with subsidiary Computing. I am so grateful to the school Director, Mr. Moses Kamya, and the entire school for giving me the opportunity to complete my secondary education. 

The favorable learning environment, good teaching staff and the well-equipped library at Mustard Seed School enabled me to gain three A-levels with grades C, D and E, which were very high at the time for a rural school in Uganda. Although I was one of the top students in 2015, I was unable to join University immediately and had to spend a full year looking for money to pay university fees. 

I met great teachers, mentors and advisors at Mustard Seed, who have tremendously changed my life.  After completing my A-levels, the staff were still there for me. My agriculture teacher, Mr. Samuel Ikendi, found me a three-month contract with an NGO where he was working. While working in the NGO, I made very many friends, both Ugandans and Americans. One day, an American guy asked me my highest level of education and after telling him, he decided to sponsor my university education. I am now completing a four-year B.Sc. degree course in Agriculture at Busoga University.  Due to the strong academic foundation I gained at Mustard Seed School, I have coped well with university-level studies. My current Collective Grade Point Average (CGPA) is 4.45 out of 5 and I am currently finalising my final research project with an NGO in Kamuli and Mr. Ikendi is my field supervisor. I have been told to expect to graduate with a first-class honours degree.

I attribute my success to the solid academic grounding I gained at Mustard Seed School and would like to extend my sincere and heart-felt appreciation to the entire Mustard Seed Humanist School, Busota for having shaped me to what I am now. 

Long live Mustard Seed Humanist School and its motto: “Commit to Excel”      

David Banige

Katumba orphans succeed against the odds

Parents Celebrating their children’s Grade 1 achievements

Despite poverty, Covid school closures and the deaths of fathers in an uprising in 2016, boys and girls from Katumba Parents Humanist Primary School gained outstanding results in their Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE)*. Of the 16 who sat their exams,

  • 38% (6) gained Grade 1
  • 62% (10) gained Grade 2

As one of the most remote schools in Uganda, just a few kilometres from the Congo border, this is a huge achievement for the children, teachers, ancillary staff and supportive parents in the Katumba community, who can all feel justly proud of their achievement.

Two of the children. Maureen Nyangoma and Masereka Ayubu, whose fathers were killed in the 2016 insurrection owe a huge debt of gratitude to the determination and resilience of their mothers. After her husband died, Maureen’s mother, Margret, was left to bring up 10 children in a semi-permanent mud and wattle house, making a little money from selling any surplus food she grew. Masereka’s mother, Sarah, was left in similar circumstances caring for 8 children. They are both delighted with what their children have achieved through hard work and see their success building a legacy of hope for their entire families’ futures.

Maureen Nyangoma with her mother Margret
Masereka Ayubu with his mother Sarah

Juma Irumba Siriwayo, the school Director, says support from Uganda Humanist Schools Trust, working in partnership with Humanist Aid (Sweden), has transformed their situation. “Since 2018 we have had funds to pay our teachers regularly and to support them during the Covid closures. Staff morale has improved. We have provided partial scholarships to keep bright children from struggling families in school. We have also been able to give our children text and reading books, which have improved the quality and opportunities for learning.

As a result of funds provided by a generous UHST supporter, Katumba is close to completing the construction of a fine new school on a safe site. Nursery, infant and junior classrooms are finished, as are toilets, cook house, mains water supply and electricity. The admin block with staff rooms, a library and computer room will be finished in a few weeks. The school director and his colleagues have worked tirelessly to keep the building work going through numerous covid lockdowns and adverse weather conditions linked to climate change.

Although it is tragic that many fathers will never know of their children’s’ achievements, the surviving mothers of Katumba can certainly be proud of their children and of their own efforts to create a better life in a more caring and rational world.

When the school reopens after the latest Covid lockdown UHST will provide some funds for a party to celebrate the opening of the new school and the outstanding 2020 exam results. 

* The PLE has 4 pass grades and one fail grade, but all Katumba children gained passes in the highest two grades. The size of the achievement can be seen by comparison with the averages of all other primary schools in Uganda, where:

  • Only 11% gained Grade 1
  • 46% gained Grade 2

And the rest gained lower pass grades or failed:

  • 20% gained Grade 3
  • 13% gained Grade 4
  • And 10% of all children entered for the exam Failed

Kanungu wants its children back

Kanungu Humanist Primary School was completed earlier in the year and opened to children in May. Due to Covid restrictions it could only recruit children to primary years 4 and 5. 27 boys and girls transferred immediately from other schools and the school was set to expand rapidly.

Unfortunately, a spike in cases of the Delta variant of Covid caused the Uganda government to close schools and send all children and teachers to their homes for a further 42-day closure. This further closure ends in August and schools are waiting to find out what government plans are for the future.

Robert Magara, the school’s Director has written a short report on the threat that Covid is posing for the school and how they are preparing for reopening, whenever that may happen.

The report can be accessed here: Kanungu Humanist Primary School: Progress in the face of Covid.