stevehurd@uhst.org Uganda Humanist Schools Trust

International Friendship Visit 2012

Our International Friendship Visit to Uganda in June was very successful.

5 visitors spent 3 days at the Mustard Seed School, and 12 of us, including 6 lecturers and students from Newcastle College, stayed for a whole week at Isaac Newton High School. Everyone was impressed by the two schools. We all appreciated the warmth of welcome from both staff and students and everyone enjoyed taking part in teaching and other activities in the two schools. Details of the activities undertaken can be found in the Reports section of the website, where you will find the Isaac Newton June 2012 Visit Report and the Mustard Seed June 2012 Visit Report.

We were impressed by the new kitchens which UHST was able to fund in both schools. The picture here is of the Mustard Seed School where new efficient wood burning stoves protect the cook from smoke inhalation by venting through an external chimney. They have also reduced termly firewood consumption from 5 large lorry loads to 2 small loads, which represents a major financial and environmental saving.

We saw how Mustard Seed is benefiting from the purchase of additional land and buildings on a site 100 metres along the lane from the main school. They will need additional money to refurbish the buildings and pit latrines but the extra space was much needed and has allowed the school to qualify as an examination centre.

With a more stable staff, including 10 working full time, there has been a clear improvement in the quality of teaching, in exam results and in the growing range of extra curricular activities which now include: choir, drama, sports and scouts and guides.

At Isaac Newton School we were able to see the new girls’ dormitory in full operation. This is providing safe housing and a good learning environment for many vulnerable girl students. As boys too are boarding in classrooms vacated by the girl boarders it put pressure on water resources in the school. During an uncharacteristically long dry spell earlier in the year the students had to take time out of lessons to bring water up from the spring in the bottom of the valley. However, during our stay at the school this problem was solved by the installation of a pumped water storage scheme, which lifts water from a new well in the bottom of the valley to a header tank 400 metres up the valley sides above the school. This development will allow the school to gravity feed water to where it is needed. The necessary pipework can be added as funds become available.

The good results and growing local reputation of the two schools has brought a 50% increase in student numbers. This welcome development nevertheless puts the school infrastructure and learning resources under pressure.

Over the next year UHST will try to help by stepping up our fundraising efforts. We estimate that they will need an additional £80,000 of external funding to maintain the current rate of improvement.

During our stay in Uganda we made a short visit to the new Kasese Humanist Primary School, set up by Robert Bwambale and the Kasese Humanist Association in the west of Uganda. The school operates from rented buildings belonging to the old Uganda Railway Company and it will need a lot of infrastructure investment if it is to have an independent existence. We were very impressed by the commitment of Robert and his team of teachers and we shall discuss the possibility of providing some support at our next Trustees meeting.

We also visited Fair View Senior Secondary School (formerly the Humanist Academy). IHEU renewed its commitment to the school at the start of the year by giving money for new buildings. The school has a fine new library building which requires only windows to get it finished. Substantial progress has also been made on a new science lab. The main fabric of the building is almost finished but further work is required on walls, floors, windows, furniture and equipment. It is a race against time to get the site up to standard before the temporary license runs out in September. UHST continues its support for students receiving  scholarships. In 2013 we intend to support the remaining group of 8 final year students. Future support will depend upon the success of IHEU in getting the resources and teaching up to the standard required for the school to be officially registered.