stevehurd@uhst.org Uganda Humanist Schools Trust

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.

Katumba Humanist Primary progresses in the face of Covid

Juma Siriwayo, Director of Katumba Parents Humanist Primary School, has just sent the following encouraging report of work being undertaken by the school amidst disruptions caused by Covid and torrential rain flooding access roads.

“It is with much pleasure and gratitude that I am happy to report that the funds that UHST and Humanist Aid (Sweden) have provided during this second wave of Covid school closures have provided a lifeline to our school and community.

  • They have enabled us to pay our staff 50% of their salaries and to provide emergency food parcels when needed. Our school is the only one in our District to do this and our staff are very grateful.

  • Our schoolchildren are happy to have received self-study materials, which enable them to learn at home during school closure. 
  • Construction workers, who have had to camp at the school site to reduce the chances of Covid transmission, have been supplied with food and other essentials
  • 3 additional hand washing-points have been set up at the construction site. We also distributed soap to our staff to emphasise the importance of good hand hygiene.
  • We finished the 4-classroom block for Junior classes and work on the admin block, library and computer room is well advanced.
  • We have started work on the process to acquiring a licence for the new school, this involves meetings with education officials, locally and in Kampala (which is 10 hours away by bus) and paying for inspection teams to visit the new school site.
  • The construction of a new school, and one built to such a good standard, is a major event in our District. To celebrate the start of the final phase of building we hosted a large media event, and reports appeared in local newspapers and on radio. Our teachers, parents, children, and the whole Katumba Community are proud of their new school and grateful for the huge investment that UHST supporters have made in our remote and previously neglected community. They see it as a demonstration of Humanist values in action.”