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 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 any 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 by 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, but also two dry seasons. 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 underground water tanks. We also want to install simple 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 come from far away and the unpaved roads 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 at school longer. We hope that more pupils will take part in the primary leaving examinations 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 pride in the school community. We shall also have a strict “no beating” policy.
Stichting Learning 4 Life has received donations from a Dutch Education Foundation and hopes to attract additional funding from orther sources in the future. These funds will be used for the above aims. In addition, we support the provision of nursery education in the schools.
Presently, eight 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.
Eight school are now part of the program. In March 2015 we started with Kyakasimbi Primary School and Kasaana Public Primary School. A year later Kabubu Primary School and Mugungulu Primary School joined, followed by Nabibungo Primary School and Christ the King Primary School in March 2017 and by Ntungamo Public Primary School and Mawujjo Primary School in March 2018.
The project is now in its fifth year. A lot has already been achieved. The number of pupils has increased, in some schools by one third. The pyramid profile of the school, i.e many children in P1 and only few is P7 is starting to change as fewer children are dropping out early. More pupils are sitting the PLE exams and the results have improved. Thanks to healthy school meals, absenteeism has decreased dramatically and lessons have become more interesting through new teaching methods and 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 as farmers.
Schools: The eight Learning 4 Life schools in Mubende District are: Kyakasimbi, Kasaana Public, Kabubu, Mugungulu, Nabibungo, Christ the King, Ntungamo Public and Mawujjo 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 parent in to help prepare and plant the land around the school, the “school garden”. Guided by one of the Key Farmer Trainers in organic agriculture food will be grown to supply healthy school meals for pupils and teachers. We also make a “baseline” evaluation of the existing situation. We look at buildings, facilities, pupil enrolment, Primary Leaving Exam results etc. Then we decide on the priorities for the improvement of infrastructure such as water 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. A daily school meal for all children is crucial for everything else. It motivates the children to come to school and gives them energy to study. Previously, there were children who did not get 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 just received a pair of goats.
Water and Kitchens: 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 making safe drinking water. 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 to education. The school kitchens are fitted with fuel saving stoves and chimneys. These clay ovens reduce the use of firewood by 66%, thus saving trees and the environment, whereas the chimneys create a smoke free workplace for the cooks.
Improvements of the school facilities per school:
- In Kasaana Public all classrooms have been renovated including new concrete floors. There are new latrines with washing facilities for the girls and a new kitchen.
- In Kabubu three temporary classrooms have been replaced by new permanent ones and here, too, the girls got their own latrines.
- In Mugungulu we built four accommodation units for teachers and two new classrooms for the nursery section. All other classrooms were thoroughly renovated.
- In 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 in this school.
- In 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. The latter prevents jiggers, who thrive in dusty maram floors, from penetrating into the bare feet of the children where they cause nasty infections.
- In Nabibungo Learning 4 Life also built four new classrooms to replace mud and wattle ones, as well as a new office, kitchen and store room for the school harvest. Next on the programme is a big underground water tank.
- In Ntungamo, which has just joined, we have started to install gutters and to build a big underground water reservoir.
- In Mawujjo, the other new member in the Learning 4 Life family of schools, the priority will also be on water harvesting and the restauration of gutters and an existing pvc 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 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 activities: At the end of each semester 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 the 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 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 recently held a workshop on early learning teaching methods for Nursery, P1 and P2 teachers. This is all 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 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 has waned and some of 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 have visited Mubende in November 2018 and again in March 2019 to organise and monitor the project. These busy work visits are very important as they give good insight into how the project is going and provide an opportunity to communicate with the authorities in Mubende. They also motivate the Learning 4 Life staff and schools.
All in all, a lot of progress has been made, but a lot remains to be done and Learning 4 Life wants to keep working to achieve further positive results.