Phasing in Universal Primary Education in Uganda in 2000 created a huge follow-on demand for secondary schooling, which the government has only been partially able to meet. The residual need is being addressed by private bodies, including religious foundations.
The Uganda Humanist Schools Trust was established in November 2008 as a charity to raise funds to support the efforts of Ugandan Humanists, who have founded three secondary schools which offer students the alternative of liberal secular-humanist education:
- Isaac Newton High School, Katera, Masaka – founded by Peter Kisirinya in 2004
- Mustard Seed School, Busota, Kamule – founded by Moses Kamya in 2005
- Humanist Academy, Mpigi – founded by Deo Ssekitooleko in 2008
(relaunched by IHEU as Fair View Senior Secondary School in Feb 2011 and now being managed by Isaac Newton School as its Mbute Campus, providing education up to O-level.)
The three founders met as students at Makerere University, where they worked to create the Uganda Humanist Association (UHASSO). In 2004 Deo, as then Chairperson of UHASSO, took the bold step of inviting the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) to host a “Humanist Visions for Africa Conference” in Kampala. Discussions at this meeting provided the catalyst for the creation of these pioneering humanist schools, which embrace Humanist principles.
In November 2008, they took the further step of forming the Uganda Humanist Schools Association to foster collaboration between the schools. The Association, chaired by Peter Kisirinya, is dedicated to monitoring educational standards, sharing best practice, promoting professional development and pioneering the development of a secular-humanist approach schooling.
All schools teach the Uganda national curriculum and prepare students for public examinations. At the same time, they aim to develop self-confident students who care for each other and for their local communities. The schools encourage students to be open minded and questioning. They are taught to respect evidence and to appreciate the need for shared human values. In order to foster a spirit of understanding, students are introduced to both religious, as required by the national curriculum, and secular humanist philosophies.
The schools are beginning to offer an effective, caring and distinctive learning environment for children in deprived rural areas. They aim for an education that respects:
- freedom of thought and expression;
- rational enquiry, science and the need to support argument with evidence;
- human rights, gender and racial equality, and the rights of individuals to choose their personal life stance;
- high levels of achievement and social responsibility.
The Uganda Humanist Schools Trust seeks to raise funds to enable these hopes to be realised.
We have recently started to build a relationship with the first Humanist Primary School, in Kasese, Western Uganda. In 2013 we provided two scholarships to enable students from Kasese to transfer to Isaac Newton High School for their secondary education. We have also set up a bookshop account for the school with an initial donation.