Stichting Learning 4 Life wants to improve the quality of primary school education in rural Uganda. Participation in existing schools will be stimulated by the introduction of organically grown school meals, new teaching methods and teaching aids and the improvement of school buildings and facilities. Every school will be supported by a Key Farmer Trainer and a Teacher Trainer and will be linked to a UK school in order to further the exchange of teaching experience and pen friendships.
Parents will be encouraged to help develop the land around the schools with a view to growing food for school meals and to learning organic agriculture methods. Pupils often walk long distances to school without having eaten breakfast. It is very important that they get healthy food and drink during the long school day. The organic agriculture skills which pupils, teachers and parents pick up in the school garden can also be applied at home farms.
The villages in which our schools are situated have no electricity nor running water. There are two wet seasons in Uganda, from March to June and from September to December, but also two dry seasons, from December to March and from July to September. During the latter two there is shortage of water and especially of safe drinking water. We plan to harvest rainwater from the roofs of the school buildings and store it in above – and below ground water tanks. We also want to install ceramic water filters to ensure that there is sufficient safe water throughout the year.
We aim to improve the school buildings through the renovation and construction of classrooms, kitchens, latrines and the installation of solar lighting. Accommodation for teachers is also important, as they often travel from far away over unpaved roads which can become unpassable during the wet seasons. We also want to supply cupboards, school desks, class libraries, books and toys.
Too many children in rural areas do not attend school at all or attend only for a few years. We want to achieve that as many children as possible receive education and stay longer at school. We hope that more pupils will take part in the primary leaving examinations (PLE) and that they will have better exam results. In order to stimulate learning and teaching we shall organise twice yearly fun competitions between the schools. Teams of pupils at each class level will compete in a quiz based on the curriculum and have the chance of winning solar lights. School teams and choirs will also compete in sports, singing, dancing and debate. These extra activities will make life at school more attractive and install a sense of pride in the school. We shall also have a strict “no beating” policy.
Stichting Learning 4 Life has received donations from a Dutch Education Foundation and additional funding from Rotary Clubs and private donors. These funds will be used for the above aims. In addition, we support the provision of nursery education in the schools.
Presently, ten rural schools take part in the programme. We have signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Administration of Mubende District and we have regular meetings with the District Education Department and School Inspection Service.
In order to organise and monitor the project, Trustees of the Stichting will visit Mubende each year. Locally, we have appointed a part time Co-ordinator as well as a team of six agricultural instructors and three teacher trainers.
The Learning 4 life project was started in 2015 by the Rotary Club of Abingdon Vesper and Devon Development Education with the help of a donation from a Dutch Education Fund. Stichting Learning 4 Life became a legal entity run by the present trustees on 21 November 2016. On 25 February 2017 Charitable Status (ANBI) was conferred, backdated to the foundation date of the Stichting.
Ten schools are members of the program:
2015 Kyakasimbi Primary School and Kasaana Public Primary School.
2016 Kabubu Primary School and Mugungulu Primary School
2017 Nabibungo Primary School and Christ the King Primary School
2018 Ntungamo Public Primary School and Mawujjo Primary School
2020 Ntunda Primary School and Kitalemwa Primary School
The project is now in its eighth year. Before COVID closed schools in Uganda in March 2020, a lot had been achieved. The number of pupils had increased, in some schools by one third. The pyramid profile of the school, i.e many children in P1 and only few in P7 had started to change as fewer children were dropping out early. More pupils were taking part in the Primary Leaving Exams (PLE) exams and the results had improved. Thanks to healthy school meals, absenteeism had decreased dramatically and lessons had become more interesting through new teaching methods, teaching materials and story books. The teachers were better motivated and the parents were more involved with the school. There was pride and enthusiasm in the schools and the children were better prepared for future challenges, be it as farmers or in other occupations.
On 17th March 2020 everything came to a halt due to COVID as schools were closed in order to minimise the spread of the disease. Apart from a short interval when exam classes returned to school to prepare for and sit the PLE exam, all other pupils stayed at home. For almost two years they received no formal education as distant teaching was not an option in rural Uganda. Despite the lockdown our Key Farmer Trainers looked after the school gardens and kept them productive. Also our builders were able to carry out a number of infrastructure improvements.
On 10th January 2022, school doors opened again, and judging from the reported figures, most pupils have returned in class. In some cases the numbers in our schools have increased due to other, mostly private schools in the neighbourhood not surviving the long lockdown.
A visit to Uganda by two trustees in planned in April of this year in order to take stock and revitalise Learning 4 Life’s engagement to achieve quality primary education for rural children in Mubende District.
Project report 2021-2022
Schools: The ten Learning 4 Life schools in Mubende District are: Kyakasimbi, Kasaana Public, Kabubu, Mugungulu, Nabibungo, Christ the King, Ntungamo Public, Mawujjo, Ntunda Modern and Kitalemwa Primary Schools.
Initial phase: When a new school joins the program, we start by sensitising all the stakeholders in the school community and by bringing the parents in to help prepare and plant the land around the school, the “school garden”. Guided by one of the Key Farmer Trainers (KFT) , food will be grown organically to supply healthy school meals to pupils and teachers. We also make a “baseline” evaluation of the existing situation. We look at buildings, facilities, pupil enrolment, Primary Leaving Exam (PLE) results etc. Then we decide on the priorities for the improvement of infrastructure such as rainwater storage, latrines, kitchen, classrooms, teacher accommodation. At the same time, one of the Teacher Trainers will start introducing more child centred teaching methods and materials.
School gardens: Learning 4 Life has given tools, seeds, fruit- and shade trees to all schools. Groups of parents work one day per week to grow maize and beans. The teachers and pupils also grow vegetables, tomatoes and fruit under the guidance of the Key Farmer Trainer, using sustainable organic methods, including organic fertilisers, pesticides and fungicides. This knowledge will also be useful at home, as almost all parents are farmers. The harvest will be used for porridge and solid meals including vegetables and fruit for all pupils and teachers. Providing a daily school meal for all children is crucial. It motivates the children to come to school and gives them energy to study. Previously, many children did not have anything to eat for the whole day. There is a clear correlation between school meals and school results. In Kasaana, Kabubu, Nabibungo and Kyakasimbi there are also beehives and the children learn how to handle them safely. Honey production can be a good source of income which requires little space. Mugungulu has received a pair of goats, Ntungamo and Kasaana Public each look after a sheep.
Water and Kitchens with fuel saving stoves: All Learning 4 Life schools have got gutters leading the rainwater from the roof into 10,000 litre pvc storage tanks and ceramic water filters make it 100% safe to drink. We are now building even bigger 80,000 litres underground water storage tanks with hand operated pumps. This means that pupils no longer need to walk to a source or a swamp to fetch water and that more time is available for education. The school kitchens are fitted with fuel saving stoves and chimneys. These clay ovens, built by Key Farmer trainers and pupils using local materials, reduce the use of firewood by 66%, thus saving trees, money and the environment, whereas the chimneys create a smoke free workplace for the cooks.
Improvements of the school facilities per school:
- At Kasaana Public all classrooms have been renovated including new concrete floors. These prevent the breeding of jiggers, who thrive in dusty maram floors and penetrate into the bare feet of the children, where they cause nasty infections. We also built new latrines with washing facilities for the girls and a new kitchen.
- At Kabubu three temporary classrooms have been replaced by new permanent ones and here, too, the girls got their own latrines.
- At Mugungulu we built four accommodation units for teachers and two new classrooms for the nursery section. All other classrooms were fully renovated.
- At Kyakasimbi all existing classrooms have been renovated and a temporary nursery block has been replaced by two new permanent classrooms. Learning 4 Life also built the first big underground water reservoir at this school.
- At Christ the King we replaced four mud and wattle classrooms by permanent structures and we added wall plastering, blackboards and concrete floors to four older classrooms. We also built a big underground rainwater storige tank and a kitchen with a fuel saving stove and chimney. A nursery section and office is planned.
- At Nabibungo Learning 4 Life built four new classrooms to replace mud and wattle ones, as well as a new office, kitchen and store room for the school harvest. This was followed by a big underground water tank containing 80,000 litres of rainwater and teachers’ accommodation with four units.
- At Ntungamo, we have installed gutters and built a big underground water reservoir. We built a fuel saving stove and a chimney in the kitchen. We also put new concrete floors in eight classrooms.
- At Mawujjo, we have repaired the water harvesting system and renovated eight classrooms and the hall where the nursery section is housed. We also added an 80,000 liter underground watertank.
- At Ntunda, we have installed gutters and two 10,000 litres pvc tanks, upgraded three existing classrooms with concrete floors and blackboards and constructed 4 new classrooms.
- At Kitalemwa, we have constructed seven classrooms, a 10,000 litres pvs water tank and an 80,000 later underground water storage tank.
Teaching methods and materials: Encouraged by our Teacher Trainers, many teachers are now using modern teaching techniques whereby pupils are more actively and creatively involved in the lessons. New classroom configurations enable the children to learn also from each other, although this is not always possible in classes with very many children. Teachers have also been given ideas for making attractive teaching aids. Cupboards have been placed in many classrooms and we are building up a reading library in every class. In addition, each school has at least one classroom with solar lights to enable extra study and tuition in the evening and early hours while preparing for examinations.
Extra curicular activities: Twice a year there is the chance of winning prizes in the Learning 4 Life inter-school competitions. These competitions are very popular with pupils as well as teachers. Teams at each class level compete in a fun quiz against teams from the other schools. The questions are based on the subjects covered in the previous months. This has a very stimulating effect on learning and exam preparation. In conjunction with the quiz there is either a competition in sports or one in dance, song and music. As a result, the sport teams and choirs of the Learning 4 Life schools are also being successful in district and even national competitions.
Nursery sections: All Learning 4 Life schools have a nursery section, for which the parents pay a small contribution. The children who have taken part in these classes, have a clear advantage when they start primary school. We support this development with classrooms, teaching materials and toys. We have held workshops on early learning teaching methods for Nursery, P1 and P2 teachers. This is very important as most nursery staff is untrained.
Link schools: Pupils of the Mubende schools have regularly exchanged beautifully decorated letters with the children of their link schools in the UK. This gives them a chance to get first hand information about each other’s lives in another part of the world and to make friends. As part of World Book Day some of the UK schools have collected money to buy reading books or classroom furniture for the schools in Mubende. This is very much appreciated.
Adult literacy: Those parents who have worked in the school garden have been offered to take part in a weekly adult literacy class. A number of illiterate parents have taken up this offer, but after a while, enthusiasm waned and these classes have now stopped. However, all of these parents are now able to write their names and no longer need to sign with a cross or a fingerprint, which gives them a lot of satisfaction.
Visits: Two trustees visited Mubende in February 2020 to organise and monitor the project. These busy work visits are very important for finding out at first hand how the project is going, to develop new plans and to meet with the District Education Department and other local authorities. They also motivate the staff and schools to keep improving. Another visit is planned in April 2022.
Covid: All schools on Uganda closed on 17 March 2020, followed by a very strict lockdown lasting many months. Distant learning via radio, television, tablets or computers does not exist in rural areas, as villages do not have electricity and families do not own the necessary equipment. A few worksheets have been distributed, but overall children went without any formal schooling. On 15 October only P7 pupils were invited back to school on condition that the school was able to check their temperature and have hand washing facilities. We provided each school with a temperature gun. The first thing pupils learned was how to make face masks and liquid soap. P6 classes were allowed back at school on 1 March 2021, but unfortunately complete lockdown for all classes returned in May and remained in force until 10 January 2022.
During this whole period we have managed to keep the school gardens productive to make sure that food would be available for the time of reopening. Now, pupils are enjoying daily healthy meals to help them catch up and prepare for the PLE examinations at the end of March. This new season we are planting bio-fortified seeds like iron beans and vitamin A enriched sweet potatoes developed by Harvest Plus, as many young children in Uganda lack these nutrients. Vitamin A deficiency impairs growth, leads to eye problems and increases the risk of infections including diarrhoea, while Iron is important for mental development and learning capacity.
This year, we have also started an environmental programme of building fuel saving eco-stoves in non-Learning 4 Life schools in Mubende District. This effort is supported by Rotary Clubs in the UK & Ireland, US and Jersey Overseas Aid. Over 75 schools have already been fitted with an eco-stove. At each school local people have been trained to build these mud-stoves in the surrounding communities, thus making an important contribution to the environment, gender equality and people’s health. The money saved on firewood is better spent on education. The District Environment Officer has given us free radio time to publicise the benefits to a wider audience.
We have not been able to visit Uganda in 2021, but frequent communication with our local coordinator and head teachers have made it possible to restart the building programme as soon as movement of people and materials became possible. A visit to Uganda is planned in April 2022.
All in all, a lot of progress has been made, but more remains to be done. Learning 4 Life will continue to work towards further positive results.