This week Katumba Parents’ Humanist Primary School, close to the Congo border, reopened to its top Primary 7 class. The children begin two terms of intensive study to prepare them for their Primary Leaving Examination, which has been moved from the end of this school year in November to April, 2021. Passing PLE makes a huge difference to the children’s prospects. It shows that children have a decent basic competency in English, Mathematics and General Knowledge. Being able to read notices and newspapers will make them better farmers and citizens. It will also open up employment opportunities in service jobs and workshops and allow them to train as ancillary workers in such sectors as health care.
Children in the lower classes are due to restart school in January. Those above are currently out of school. They have some time for play but, for most of the time, they are usefully employed helping in the fields and at home.
Katumba families scrape a meagre living as subsistence farmers. They grow food crops such as matoke (savoury bananas), maize and sweet potatoes, and devote small pieces of land to growing cocoa, coffee and vanilla as cash crops. If you get the chance try chocolate made from Ugandan cocoa, grown in this area, you will find that it is very good! Unfortunately, yields, while normally good, have been hit by climate change which brought torrential rains and caused floods and landslides. Crops, and even soils, have been washed away. The result has been a substantial rise in malnutrition, hunger and poverty. 10 houses were buried with floodwaters in Bundibugyo and 200 in the neighbouring sub-county. As a result, families have been displaced to other areas.
Covid has added to the difficulties. There have been 19 confirmed cases of Covid, including the District Health Inspector and the District Speaker. Fortunately, there have been no deaths from the virus. However, as a precautionary measure, markets for both food and cash crops have been closed, making it difficult for farmers to sell any surpluses they may have produced. Households on low incomes have been forced to switch to less nutritious foods, such as cassava. Some households have savings to enable them to cope with the loss of income. However, in Katumba, most of the families are headed by mothers who are struggling to cope as single parents. The women face the additional workload of caring for sick members of their family, on top of their heavy domestic workloads. A good number of them have had no option but to withdraw their children from school. They cannot afford to pay fees and are desperate for their children’s assistance with the work falling on their shoulders. As schools restart after the Covid closure, it will be difficult for many parents to find the money for tuition, school meals, uniforms, scholastic materials and examination fees. This will, in turn, make it hard for the mainly private schools to pay teachers and to stay open.
Assistance from Uganda Humanist Schools Trust
UHST has been helping Katumba Parents’ Humanist Primary School in a number of ways:
- We are building the community a completely new school on a better site, above the flood waters. 3 nursery classrooms were completed in July. Work is almost finished on a new infants’ section with 4 classrooms. A 10-stance toilet block has been completed. At the same time, we have provided funds to bring mains water and electricity to the school and the village. These last two will transform prospects for the whole community by bringing the health benefits of clean water and lighting and power for local homes and enterprises.
- The school was closed, along with all other schools in Uganda, from April until this month. Teachers had to find a means of subsistence. Many were able to return to their farming roots, but others had to take whatever casual work they could find. UHST has provided money to alleviate some of the hardship, but we have only scratched the surface of the genuine financial stress faced by teachers and their families during this period.
- We have helped the school to prepare for re-opening in the face of the Covid-19 challenge by purchasing handwashing stations and for infra-red thermometers.
- Finally, we have helped those parents, mainly mothers, who are unable to pay school fees, by providing funds to cover reduced fees for those in the greatest need.
We are determined to lift the fortunes of Katumba School and of the whole community and its children. Over the next year or two we aim to complete the building of the new school. However, we do need additional funds to complete the work and to build up the school. New classrooms require tables and chairs and there is a desperate need to provide the children with play materials, books and other learning resources. A kitchen must be built to prepare school food and the staff need decent pay and working conditions. If you think you would like to help us, then please visit our donation page: https://ugandahumanistschoolstrust.org/donate/make-a-donation/. If you would like more information about Katumba please contact Steve Hurd: firstname.lastname@example.org 07773 972601.