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, eleven 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 its trustees on 21 November 2016. On 25 February 2017 Charitable Status (ANBI) was conferred, backdated to the foundation date of the Stichting.
Eleven 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
2022 Kyampisi Primary School
The project is now in its ninth year. A lot has been achieved. The number of pupils has increased, in some schools by one third. The pyramid profile of the school, i.e a lot of children in P1 and only few in P7 has started to change as fewer children are dropping out early. More pupils are taking part in the Primary Leaving Exams (PLE) exams and the results have improved. Thanks to healthy school meals, absenteeism has decreased dramatically and lessons has become more interesting through new teaching methods, teaching materials and story books. The teachers are better motivated and the parents are more involved with the school. There is pride and enthusiasm in the schools and the children are better prepared for future challenges, be it as farmers or in other occupations.
From 17th March 2020 to 10th January 2022 schools were closed due to COVID in order to minimise the spread of the disease. For almost two years children stayed at home and received no formal education as distant teaching was not an option in rural Uganda. Despite the lockdown our Key Farmer Trainers kept them productive and our builders were able to carry out a number of infrastructure improvements.
When the school doors opened again, we were very pleased to see that most pupils had come back. Enrolment numbers were even larger than before due to the the permanent closure of other schools. Catching up is going to be a challenge, especially with so many children needing education at entry level. The Learning 4 Life programme was resumed in full and two trustees were once again able to visit.
Unfortunately, an ebola outbreak in Mubende District at the end of August again disrupted the children’s education, causing the third school term to be abbreviated. Learning 4 Life provided every school with disinfectant soap to help keep the children safe. The WHO has now declared the outbreak to be over, so that schools will start the new school year as normal on 6 February 2023.
Trustees will visit in March and Learning 4 Life’s will do all it can to achieve quality primary education for rural children in Mubende District.
Project report 2022-2023
Schools: The eleven Learning 4 Life schools in Mubende District are: Kyakasimbi, Kasaana Public, Kabubu, Mugungulu, Nabibungo, Christ the King, Ntungamo Public, Mawujjo, Ntunda Modern, Kitalemwa Primary Schools and Kyampisi Primary School.
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.
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. Hundreds of grevillea trees have also been planted around the school boundaries to provide shade and future firewood.
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 cook and her helpers.
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, watertanks and a new kitchen.
- At Kabubu three temporary classrooms have been replaced by new permanent ones, 2 water tanks were installed and here, too, the girls got their own latrines. A new Nursery School Block has been added this year.
- At Mugungulu we built four accommodation units for teachers and two new classrooms for the nursery section. All other classrooms were fully renovated and water tanks renewed.
- 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 has been completed this year.
- 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 pvc water tank and an 80,000 later underground water storage tank.
- At Kyampisi, we built 4 new classrooms, a water tank and a kitchen.
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 pupils have the chance of winning solar lights 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 has been very much appreciated. Since COVID letter exchanges have dropped off a little as teachers in the UK and Uganda are concentrating on core lessons.
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 April 2022 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 March 2023.
Covid: After a two year closure due to COVID, schools reopened on 10 January 2022. Catching-up on missed education is a big challenge. Distant learning via radio, television, tablets or computers was not possible in rural areas, as villages do not have electricity and families do not own the necessary equipment. We are very pleased that most of our former pupils returned to school. We also welcomed a lot of new pupils from other schools which remained permanently closed after the long lockdown. This meant that most entry level classes had to be divided into several groups to teach the basics skills of reading, writing and arithmetic. As our Key Farmer Trainers had kept the school gardens productive throughout the COVID period, organically grown food for school healthy meals was available from the word go.
Ebola: Just when life at school had returned to normal, Mubende became the epicentre of an ebola outbreak at the end of August. Although schools remained open for most of the time, the new lockdown meant that many teachers could not travel to school. Some pupils also stayed away for fear of infection. Learning 4 Life supplied the schools with disinfectant soap and the health monitoring equipment earlier supplied for COVID once again did good service. By January 2023 the outbreak was over, so that the new school year can start as usual on 6 February 2023.
Eco-stoves: The environmental programme of building fuel saving eco-stoves in non-Learning 4 Life schools in Mubende District made a lot of progress This effort is supported by Rotary Clubs in the UK & Ireland, US and Jersey Overseas Aid. Over 95 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.
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.