Isaac Newton High School in Uganda has been working on projecting the Humanist Ethos of the school to the local community and to visitors. It has a new school sign, which proclaims its Secular Humanist stance.
Peter Kisirinya, the Director of Isaac Newton School, explains that, “The active executive committee of our Humanist Students Association is planning voluntary activities around the school community this coming term that will involve improving sanitary conditions, teaching local people about disease prevention especially Malaria and HIV/AIDS and educating them about family planning methods“.
The students decided to use part of the money from a small grant from UHST to create signs to proclaim their Humanist Association. As you walk or drive up to the school gate, visitors are greeted by a welcome sign saying “We believe in rationalism“, and there is a similar sign wishing them a safe journey as they leave the school. On the school campus visitors will see a sign which proclaims in Luganda the Humanist commitment to self help. Invoking the spirit of an old Baganda saying:
“Baganda Nkoba Za Mbogo- literally saying that “people from Buganda must strive on their own to get out of problems” – much as ropes cut from the skin of a dead buffalo are used to pull out a live buffalo found trapped in a pit.”
Following the very successful Humanist Ethos Project in 2015, all three Humanist Schools have been working to make the schools distinctive from the religious schools around them.
They now work to a common set of school rules in which the disciplinary code rejects violence in favour of guidance. Individual responsibility is encouraged and school conduct is based upon the promotion of an empathetic approach towards others. Guidelines have been agreed for the conduct of lessons to encourage students to become independent and autonomous learners, foster mutual respect among teachers and students and to encouraged a child-centred approach to learning. All three schools now expect new teachers to sign a pledge that they subscribe to this common understanding. Each school has appointed a Humanist Counsellor, whose job is to monitor and develop each school’s Humanist Ethos.
Humanist Student Associations, which have been set up in each school, encourage students to take part in activities that foster care for individuals and the wider community. Led by Robert Bwambale, the Director of Kasese Humanist Primary School, the schools have designated a set of special days where they celebrate important landmarks contributing to a better world, such as: World Environment Day, World Humanist Day, World Food Day, Darwin Day, World AIDS day, United National Day. At Kasese and Mustard Seed School the initial focus of the students association has been to work together to improve nutrition within the school by embarking on projects to rear chickens in order to increase the amount of protein in the diet of students – they see this as an example of self-help directed towards making things better for the wider student community as well as promoting the knowledge and skills of animal husbandry.
UHST very much welcomes these initiatives and we hope to be able to continue to provide some funds each year to help the student Humanist associations to develop into vibrant and attractive elements of school life, which help to draw each school closer to its local community.
We are encouraged by the steady progress the Humanist Schools in Uganda are making.
UHST and the schools would like to thank all our supporters for their ongoing support, which has sustained the growth of these pioneering Humanist Schools in Uganda. They are really beginning to make a huge contribution to life in the communities of which they are part.
Educational standards have been steadily rising and the schools performance in national examinations has been better than many other schools in their Districts. The schools are attracting students from a wider area and, while this moves the schools towards sustainability, it is also pushing up class sizes to unsustainable levels.
In 2017 UHST is helping the schools to move to their next phase of development which will shift them from single to double stream entry. Having two classes in each year will make it necessary to double to the number of classrooms and to expand all other facilities, including the provision of books and other learning materials.
Our current appeal is for funds to construct at Isaac Newton School a multi-media block (with 3 news classrooms, a science lab, teachers’ development room and storerooms all wired for dataprojectors, computers, microphones and speakers to improve learning in large classes). Many supporters have already helped us to build the fund to £16,000.We are applying to another charity for matching funding but we would welcome any help you might be able to give us to attract further funds. If you would like to know more please contact Steve Hurd firstname.lastname@example.org.
Workmen are setting up camp at Isaac Newton High School in preparation for the installation of new high-tension power cables. This is part of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development’s rural electrification programme. The scheme will bring much needed renewable hydro-electric power to the school and to the villages of Kateera, Kinyerere, Mirembe and Kibisi, where most of the school’s children live. The total cost of the project is £53,000. The Uganda government will cover £42,000 of this, using funds from the World Bank. However, the need for the local community to find 30% of the costs was proving to be a bar to their participation in the scheme. Peter Kisirinya approached UHST for help and, following an appeal, we received generous donations to cover the outstanding £11,000 from UHST supporters in Leicester Secular Society and one working for Google in California.
The installation of a reliable power source at the school will provide lighting for over 200 boarding students at night and provide power during the day for computers and audio-visual equipment. The local community will have electricity for lighting at night and to operate radios, TVs, power tools and other appliances and equipment. Isaac Newton High School’s prominent role in sourcing the funds has greatly enhanced the school’s standing in the community.
Hosting meetings related to the power project has made the school the natural focus for community activities. For some years Peter Kisirinya’s vision has been to use the school to enhance the welfare of the wider community. A report we produced in 2013 (http://www.ugandahumanistschoolstrust.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/INHS-Economic-Impact-Report-Nov-13.pdf) highlighted the huge contribution the school was already making to the economic regeneration of this impoverished rural area.
Peter’s latest initiative is to follow up the Power Project with the establishment of a new Community Based Organisation (CBO) to promote the economic and social development of the area. They held their first meeting, attended by 27 members of the community, on Monday 2nd January and a constitution was agreed the following Sunday. They adopted the name “Isaac Newton Community Based Initiatives: Improving Lives Through Sustainable Agricultural Practices” and voted in members of a governing body.
The aims include:
- Improving the quality of life and poverty alleviation within the Community;
- Providing access to credit facilities, farm inputs and markets by the Community;
- Sensitizing the community about aspects of life improvements including Human rights and social freedom;
- Conservation of the environment through practices that promote sustainable agriculture;
- Establishing a cooperative society which will find suitable markets for produce and engage in value addition programs for the produce in order to raise incomes;
- To introduce within the community secular ways of living to avoid discrimination based on religion, gender, tribe, political and other divisive tendencies.
The CBO, while owing much to the school, will be wholly independent. Its management board will be responsible for accounting and finance and it will have a separate bank account and the power to borrow for projects. The sorts of projects, which the community may consider, include: maize milling, coffee grading and marketing and the purchase of shared storage facilities and agricultural equipment.
This whole community enterprise has been made possible by the creation of this Humanist School at the heart of the community and the huge esteem and trust which Peter Kisirinya has earned over the past ten years. It is a tremendous testimony to Peter’s dedication and it is wonderful to see his very ambitious early humanist visions coming to fruition.
The growth of student numbers at Isaac Newton High School has placed pressure on accommodation. This has been keenly felt in the Girls’ Hostel. Designed for 96 students, with 6 to a room, the hostel has been accommodating over 140 girls, with bunk beds side-by side from wall to wall. This is not only uncomfortable for the girls, it is dangerous. Overcrowding makes exit more difficult in the event of fire and diseases spread more quickly through the student community. Fungal infections of the skin have beome more common as have upper respiratory infections.
An obvious answer would be to turn students away from the school. However, Isaac Newton is the only secondary school for many miles and the local community has embraced the school as its own. Families, therefore, demand that the school takes their children and senior staff find it hard to say no to them. Furthermore, there is a strong need for boarding accommodation, particularly for girls. We are finding that boarding students perform better in exams than day students. They escape the chores they would be expected to do if they lived at home, digging, housework, fetching water, food preparation and cooking, so they have more time for school work as well as having access to books, computers, lighting at night and desk space to work. Orphan girls, in particular, are protected from the sexual harrassment which they can sometimes experience in the villages.
As a first phase of building work to expand the school, St Louis Ethical Society in the USA has valiantly raised the money to build a second girls’ hostel. The new hostel, whose construction is now well advanced, will relieve pressure on the existing hostel and eliminate overcrowding. Whereas the existing hostel has rooms that are open to the roof space, the new hostel will separate each room off by having a ceiling through the building. With each room being a sealed off space, the girls will suffer less noise disturbance from other rooms. It will also be harder for mosquitoes to carry malaria from an infected child to others throughout the hostel and the spread of other air-borne diseases will also be more difficult.
Large buildings are costly. The new hostel will cost around £32,000. This covers land clearance and levelling, foundations, construction of walls and roofing, windows and doors, electrical wiring and fittings for lights, plastering and painting plus the construction of an associated toilet block, wash rooms and pipework, drainage and cess pits and preparing pathways and a garden with trees around the building.
UHST and the staff and girls of the school are very grateful to members of St Louis Ethical Society who have raised the entire costs of this project. Their efforts have been led by Ed Schmidt, who has visited the school on a number of occasions, and Kate Lovelady, the leader of the Ethical Society. At a recent meeting of the group Kate showed pictures of the Humanist Schools in Uganda and gave an inspiring address about the history of the Ethical Sociaety’s involvement with UHST and the schools. Below are links to the pictures of the schools, an MP3 file of Kate’s speech and a link to the website of the St Louis Ethical Society.
TITLE: Why us? Why not us?, Kate Lovelady, Leader, 4-Dec-2016
An update on exciting new developments in our Uganda Humanist Schools Project, and some of the cosmic questions raised when we contemplate the different circumstances of people around the world.
Photos (pdf) to accompany the presentation.
Get the .MP3 file
St Louis Ethical Society Website
UHST and the school are looking forwarding to welcoming a representative from St Louis Ethical Society to open and name the new girls’ hostel during the next International Friendship Visit to the Humanist Schools in Uganda in early July 2017.
Plans for a new Multimedia Block: Isaac Newton School is growing rapidly. School numbers are approaching 450 and the school has been struggling with a first year class of over 100 students. It is clear that to keep classes down to a reasonable (by Ugandan standards) class size of around 50, the school needs to add a second stream. In order to do this, the school must have additional classrooms and our intention is to help the school to improve the standard of teaching and learning through better building design.
Working with a local architect, the school has come up with a plan for a large new building that has 3 classrooms, an additional fully-equipped science lab with adjoining prep room, and a room where teachers can prepare material and undertake professional development, with a side room with a high-speed, low-cost RISO printer and secure storage for laptops and other equipment.
Uganda has an equatorial climate and is prone to heavy storms every 2 or 3 days. With existing classrooms, which have corrugated iron roofs, the noise of the rain is so loud that teaching has to stop during heavy rain. Also with larger classes students often find it difficult to hear what the teacher is saying or to see what is written on the chalk board.
In order to overcome these problems the new building has been designed with a sound-insulated ceiling, microphones and speakers to improve audibility and ceiling-hung data projectors so that high quality images can be projected onto a screen and teachers can take advantage of materials (including pictures, animations and videos) drawn from the internet. This mean that the teachers will be given access to the internet in the teacher development room and the whole building will have security doors and windows.
Once it is built, UHST will organise with the school a professional development programme to train all teachers in the use of the new technology and to show them how to embed audio-visual resources from the web into their lesson presentations. It will make possible a major shift in teaching away from the use of dictated notes. The training programme will be extended to teachers in the other Humanist Schools in Uganda who are members of Uganda Humanist Schools Association.
It will also complement other programmes in the schools to improve private study facilities for students. As Humanist schools, we feel that it is important to foster independent learning, where students are less reliant on being told things by teachers, and are empowered to learn using independent, authoritative sources of information. We have been flooding the Humanist schools with text books; we have also introduced a wide range of literature and a Reading for Pleasure Programme, the schools have a computer network with a wealth of off-line resources taken from the internet including: the huge RACHEL repository of non-fiction information taken from Wikipedia, the Khan Academy videos for mathematics and science, a large set of e-books, including classic literature, drawn from the Guttenberg collection and large numbers of videos, including Zefirelli’s “Romeo and Juliet”.
The total cost of the Multimedia Block and Large-Group Teaching Project at Isaac Newton School will be £42,268. We are applying to other charities for £25,000 of matching funding, but this will leave £17,268 to be raised from this appeal.
If you would be willing to help we would be most grateful to receive donations:
By bank transfer to: Uganda Humanist Schools Truspt, Lloyds Bank, Sort Code 30-95-91, Account 00455909 (please email to let us know so we can track the payment and send you a confirmation of receipt).
By internet transfer via PayPal using the link: http://www.ugandahumanistschoolstrust.org/donate/make-a-donation/.
Or by cheque sent to: UHST, 31 Greenmeadows Road, Madeley, Crewe, CW3 9EY. If you are a UK taxpayer and would like us to clain Gift Aid, which boosts your donation by 25%, then please make sure you include your postal address and say that you are happy for us to claim Gift Aid.
If the appeal is successful it will enable a huge leap forward in the standard of education at Isaac Newton High School.
Friday 28th November was the last day of the school year at Mustard Seed School. Cooks were preparing the end of year staff party, and teachers and other workers were waiting to receive their end of year bonuses. This is one months pay provided by UHST to reward teachers for their loyalty to the school and to help them through the school vacation. Ugandan workers do not receive holiday pay. The introduction of the bonus, 3 years ago, has had a dramatic effect. Between 2015 and 2016 only two teachers left the school, both going back to university for further training; whereas, in earlier years, up to a quarter of staff failed to return after the long vacation. Sadly, on this occasion, the bonus was not to be.
UHST transferred the money, roughly £1,500, to Barclays branch in Jinja, Uganda. During the afternoon of November 28th Moses Kamya, the School’s Director, with a colleague Tedeo, collected the bonus money from the bank – 7 million Uganda shillings. Unfortunately, robbers, who must have seen them at the bank, lay in wait along the road. They placed a car across the road and stopped Moses’s vehicle. Moses was told to hand over the money and, to demonstrate their seriousness, they shot Tedeo in the arm with a Kalashnikov rifle. Naturally, at this point, Moses handed over all the money and the robbers fled from the scene.
Moses did what he could to stem the bleeding from Tedeo’s wound and then rushed him to hospital (see picture above). Fortunately, the bullet went through the flesh without shattering the bone and, after 3 days in hospital, Tedeo is now recovering at home. Although treatment in hospital is subsidised, they have been presented with a substantial bill for medicines and for board and lodging. After leaving the hospital, Moses spent hours at the police station filing a report on the incident (see picture of report below). The police hold out little hope of apprehending the gang of robbers. So, a key worker has a serious injury, there are hospital bills to pay and the school has lost its annual staff bonus from UHST.
Every month the school has to collect cash from the bank for staff salaries. Uganda is largely a cash economy so this is normal. Now the robbers know this is a regular occurrence Moses needs to find an alternative. He is trying to persuade all his teachers to open bank accounts so that, from the start of 2017, the school can pay salaries by direct transfer into their bank accounts.
For UHST, like all charities, money is scarce and we do not feel we can justify sending the same money twice, particularly as the same thing could happen again. We are, however, opening a fund so that supporters who wish to help can make donations to replace the bonus money and help the school in more general ways. If you would like to help Mustard Seed School pleased send a cheque made out to “Uganda Humanist Schools Trust” to: UHST, 31 Greenmeadows Road, Madeley Crewe, CW3 9EY (or use the donation form on our website: http://www.ugandahumanistschoolstrust.org/donate/).
It is such a pity that this has happened, because it shakes everyone’s confidence. Moses had just sent us a very up-beat report on the considerable progress the school has made over the past year (see Mustard Seed Directors Report for 2016). In the report, he shows that recruitment is buoyant, staff retention is high, they are making great strides in developing the Humanist Ethos of the school, boys and girls sporting achievements have been high, piped water is coming to the school, the school clinic is making a major contribution to the school and the community and the school has benefited from new computers and a high speed printer. The school management and staff can be proud of their achievements in 2016.
It was good to have time to have a good look around each school and to see that they are both progressing well.
We saw lessons in progress, spoke with scholarship and other students and with members of the teaching staff. In the picture, right, Peter Kisirinya, the Isaac Newton School Director, is leading a Physics practical class, where students are being shown how to construct electric circuits and measure resistance along them.
We also met the school nurses and were told about the work of the new health clinics in each school.
The picture left show the hustings in progress at Mustard Seed School for Head Girl and Head Boy and senior prefects. As the people selected have to represent students views to senior staff, they are selected in open democratic elections by the student body.
Full reports on the visit to each school can be downloaded from the links below:
Ssebulime Samuel, a student of Isaac Newton High School, has been awarded a highly competitive government scholarship to study Agriculture at Makerere University, the top university in Uganda. In the recently published A-level examinations he was one of only 4000 students in the whole of Uganda who were granted merit scholarships. Of the 124,000 students who took A-levels in Uganda in 2015, Samuel was ranked as 1304th best student on the basis of his overall aggregate.
Samuel is naturally delighted by this life changing achievement. He says: “scoring 15 points in my subject combination of Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics with subsidiary Information Technology has been the greatest achievement of my life. My scores were Biology C, Chemistry C, Maths B, General paper 4 and ICT 3. This has only been possible due to receiving a scholarship from UHST to study for free at Isaac Newton High School.
I have been admitted to Makerere University on a government scholarship to study Bachelor of Science in Agriculture. However, the scholarship only covers the basics. Fortunately, Isaac Newton High School will allow me to pay my way through university in exchange for doing part-time teaching in the school.
When I graduate I intend to return to my community and help them to improve their agricultural practices and incomes by promoting sustainable agriculture.
I am very grateful to Birmingham Humanists who provided my scholarship and made it possible for me to achieve this in my life.”
Samuel is just one example of how the work of the Humanist Schools in Uganda can completely transform the life chances of the individual students passing through them.
Recently UHST has been helping Isaac Newton School to smarten up the school site for the new intake of students.
A gate house is nearing completion. This is the place where visitors will be welcomed to the school. It has a room for the bursar and for the cashier, and parents and guardians will be able to pop in to pay school fee instalments, as well as to make general enquiries.
In 2015 the school had a problem during storms, when water rushed down the hillside and deposited water and mud in the classrooms. To prevent this from happening in future a wall has been built and drainage channels dug to lead the water away from the school buildings. This has been a major job, which has required a large amount of earth moving.
Following the excellent examination results, published in January, the school has had a healthy recruitment taking 74 new students into Senior 1 and 32 students into Senior 5 (the Lower 6th of A-level).
Already the new students are hard at work. The picture left shows the new Senior 5 Chemistry Students carrying out a Red-ox titration ( a titration between acidified Potassium Manganate (VII) and Oxalic acid). Of the 32 students in Senior 5, 11 students have opted for Chemistry and many more are taking sciences with combinations such as: Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry and Biology, Physics, Economics and Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics etc.
A Humanist Volunteers Association has been established at the school. This allows students to go out to do good works in the neighbourhood, such as clearing the compounds of elderly people living on their own and environmental improvements. The picture on the left shows the sign for the Humanist Volunteers.
Below is the school calendar, which displays proudly the school’s Humanist motto “To Reason not to Believe”.
The trophy is now proudly displayed in the school office.
The success was covered in the local newspapers and on local radio.
The team has now been invited to participate in the regional football competitions, which are being held in neighbouring Mayuge district for a week from the 9th April. Participating in such events is costly but they bring good publicity for the school and they are a great confidence and team-building experience for the students involved. UHST has decided to help them out with the costs of travel and subsistence to enable the boys to take part in the regional finals.
The Uganda O-level results came out on Friday and the performance of the Humanist schools was remarkable.
Although individual grades are given by subject. O-level is a group certificate in Uganda so the important grade is the aggregate over 7 subjects including Sciences, Maths and English. Getting a Division 1 or 2 are important for progression, yet fewer than 6% of students nationally gain a Division 1 aggregate.
The results at the schools were far better than the national average and the schools were among the best performing schools in their Districts.
MUSTARD SEED SCHOOL
7 students gained a Division 1 – over 12% of the students entered.
The school was 5th out of the 40 schools in the Kamuli District and 462 in the list of top 1800 schools in the New Vision national newspaper. Mustard Seed School did have a weak tail end of students and two failures – but these were two girls who joined the school in senior 4 having had a poor education in another school.
ISAAC NEWTON HIGH SCHOOL
The school did even better gaining 10 Division 1 (14% of the students entered).
Because Peter allowed another school with weak students to use his exam centre it depressed the schools place in the overall rankings. In the official rankings it came 559 out of the top 1800 schools and 10th out of 30 schools in the Kalunga District, but excluding the weaker students from the other school it would have been about 300th position nationally and 5th in the District. The Isaac Newton School gained better grades across the whole student entry with very few weak students. One girl missed the exams due to pregnancy and she will be rejoining the school this year to complete her studies – with Peter’s mother and sister looking after the baby for her.
Both Moses and Peter put the success down to having lots of books, which allow the students to study outside class and research additional information to supplement lessons. They have both also started using scholarships to attract students with a grade 1 in their primary leaving certificate – but they pick the most needy from among these.
UHST has been following a “Book flood” policy since we started. There is evidence from around the world that books make a huge difference to performance in rural schools in impoverished areas. The RACHEL repository of encyclopaedic and non-fiction materials on the school computer networks are also making a contribution.
Reporters from local newspapers and radio descended on the schools to find out why they had done so well. Three local radio stations interviewed Moses at Mustard Seed School. Very diplomatically he praised the parents of the area on producing such bright and hard-working students. He also praised his teachers for working hard on behalf of the students. He picked out the good facilities, which the school has to offer and, particularly, the large stock of textbooks and computers meant that students had access to up-to-date information to help with their studies.
Peter, at Isaac Newton, was interviewed for a national radio station. He had no hesitation in saying that having a large quantity of books and science materials had made the difference. The school was too small to provide full-time posts for specialist teachers and the pay they can offer is low. Therefore, in common with other rural start-up schools, he had been forced to rely heavily upon part-time and casual teachers. While necessary, such teachers only stay on site when they are giving lessons, so they are not available to help students outside lessons. The books make a huge difference in this setting. Ready access to books has created a learning culture, where students take responsibility for their own learning and study together in their free time, in the evenings and at weekends. Peter was asked about the Humanist Ethos of the school and the meaning of the school motto “To Reason not to Believe”. He explained that the school emphasises science and applying its principles to daily life – this involves encouraging students to question prior beliefs and subject what they are told to reason and evidence. This he felt was the way for students to succeed in a modern society.
The Society has become a very successful fundraiser supporting the education of girls in the schools, including boarding scholarships for bright but needy girl students.
UHST supporters are now providing scholarships for 66 students at Isaac Newton High and 63 at Mustard SeedSchool. On our most recent visit to the schools I was able to address all the sponsored students and to chat to many individually. I was delighted to see how happy they are with the opportunity their sponsors are providing them. To obtain more information we asked each student to complete a short form with their age, details of their home situation, their favourite subjects, extra-curricular activities, what they liked about their school and any improvements they would like to see. The information on these forms helped me to update sponsors and correct some incorrect information we had recorded previously.
We are most gratified by the number of students who liked their teachers and the improved infrastructure we have been able to provide and we have taken note of requests for more books, science equipment, computers and other resources.
As we expected, the students we sponsor come from difficult home backgrounds. Many of them have only one parent (single orphans) and some have no surviving parents (double orphans). In most cases they come from homes with no electricity or running water. Day students have many chores to cope with and walk long distances to fetch water in containers that I can hardly lift when full of water. At both schools we were able to visit the homes of students living nearby and were introduced to their parents or guardians.
The pictures show a typical house near the Mustard Seed School (note the water container) and one of our sponsored students with his grandmother.
At Isaac Newton High School we met Leticia and her grandmother (pictured) who lives about 20 minutes’ walk from the school. Leticia’s parents both died of HIV/AIDS and her grandmother, who is in her 90s, cares for her and her two primary school aged brothers, one of whom is deaf. The family are subsistence farmers who have a very small income from selling surplus food crops.
Students who are able to board have a distinct advantage as they have light to study by at night, water is on site and it is easier to take part in activities in the evenings or weekends such as sports, scouting, music and dancing. Orphan girls, in particular, benefit as their personal safety is greater when they can sleep in the school hostel and avoid the dangers they encounter during their lives in the local community and walking to and from school. They greatly appreciate the generosity of their sponsors in funding their boarding in the new school hostels, where they live in small supportive groups.
Professor Hilary Hurd
Scholarships Manager, UHST
The end of year report on the Humanist Ethos Project has just been written by Moses Kamya, the Director of Mustard Seed School and project coordinator. The project was initiated by UHST and has been a highly successful collaboration with the Uganda Humanist Schools Association and IHEU, which provided a substantial grant towards the running costs of the project.
Moses has proved to be a very effective and determined project coordinator. Peter Kisirinya and Robert Bwambale have also worked hard on the project and made huge contributions. It has provided an immensely valuable opportunity for the Directors and staff in the Humanist Schools in Uganda to work together and share good practice.
There are full reports on the Humanist Ethos Project Meetings on the new Uganda Humanist Schools Association website which we have created as part of the project
Not being able to get visas for Moses and Peter to visit the UK was a big setback, but we fitted in an extra workshop in Uganda to provide additional working time.
We are very grateful to the Raising Voices “Good Schools Project” team, based in Kampala, who led very valuable sessions in the final workshops on how to develop positive, violence free, discipline within the context of the Humanist Schools.
The whole team is hugely grateful to IHEU for choosing to support the project. The pay off to the Humanist Schools in Uganda has been and will continue to be considerable and we hope that the outcomes will inspire Humanist School and Education initiatives around the world. UHST is seeking the additional funds needed in 2016 to extend the project so the team can run Humanist Ethos workshops for the students and their parents and guardians in each of the Humanist schools in Uganda.
This summer I was lucky enough to visit and photograph the Isaac Newton and Mustard Seed Schools, as part of the International Friendship Visit. I first photographed the schools five years ago, and I was excited to see the differences. They weren’t subtle! Both schools had more buildings and pupils, and were buzzing with activity. It was lovely to see. The full album is here.
The Isaac Newton School has an amazing new medical centre, more equipment, and far more buildings:
The Mustard Seed School has far better cooking facilities, easily accessible running water, and a girls dormitory.
The children seemed more confident, too.
Some of the kids even asked me not to take their picture! This was a bit unexpected, but a good sign – they knew I was part of a visit from people who help fund the schools, but despite that they were still confident enough to assert themselves.
You can find the full gallery of photos here. We’ll be sending copies over to the schools for the kids to share.
Towards the end of our recent trip to Uganda Hilary and I made an overnight stay in Kasese, where we met up with the three Humanist School Directors, Moses Kamya (Mustard Seed), Peter Kisirinya (Isaac Newton) and Robert Bwanbale (Kasese Primary) and other senior teachers from Kasese.
In this first phase of the Humanist Ethos Project the Directors are introducing each other to their schools in a succession of project meetings. The aim is for everyone to get to know the staff of each school, to examine their facilities and compare how they present Humanism within them. At Kasese we held a formal meeting of the project, where the Directors and staff discussed the appropriate rules for a Humanist Schools and procedures based upon guidance rather than violence.
We began by meeting Robert’s fellow members of Kasese United Humanist Association. The body responsible for starting the school. And we were taken on a tour of the facilities and heard Robert express his vision for the development of the school complex. We saw the original school site, housed in the old East African Railways terminus buildings, which has 7 classes from P1 to P7, with two small nursery classes. As we went into each class the students welcomed us in English, which is used as the medium of instruction from the nursery stage as the school believes that excellence in English is the key to success in life. The school choir sang the school anthem:
Kasese Humanist School!
You are the home for our future
Surely, we shall rest in you
The value of education shall for ever shine!
We students of Kasese Humanist realise the value of Humanism. The principles of a global rational world forces the sun to glitter and shine.
Thanks to the founders for your planning, teachers and parents for your devotion.
Our motto will ever be:
With science we can progress.
Followed by another song where the children proclaimed how they were “happy to be born again in Humanism”.
We moved on to the second school site at Rukoki, to the north of the town centre. This site has new, purpose built classrooms of a high standard. As with the other site it offers classes from P1 through to P7 and 3 reception classes, which took children as young as 3 and 4 years old. We introduced ourselves to every class before being shown around the extensive site which borders a fast flowing melt water river running down from the Ruwenzori Mountains (the fabled Mountains of the Moon) which form the border with Congo.
Our next move was south of the town to see the site of the new BiZoHa orphanage building. Built with support from U.S. Humanists and Atheists the building, when complete, will house 16 girls, in two rooms of 8, looked after by a house mother. Robert has also built a single classroom on the site and his hope is to expand to create a third primary school and ultimately a secondary school into which the three Humanist primary school can feed. There are plans for two guest houses to accommodate a regular flow of visitors from the U.S. and elsewhere and Robert has an ambitious plan to build a safari lodge to take advantage of a location close to Queen Elizabeth National Park. His hope is that income from this and other commercial ventures will help to subsidise the schools.
Details of the Humanist Ethos meeting we held during the visit to Kasese can be read on the new Uganda Humanist Schools Association website. We were impressed by what we saw of the school. The children were happy with their teachers and there was a good learning culture. It is clear that Robert has a policy of inducting the teachers into Humanism using the Principles from the 2002 Amsterdam Declaration on International Humanism. Several young teachers said they have been happy to embrace the principles and become humanists and to let Humanism and the search for truth to influence their teaching.
Uganda Humanist Schools Trust needs to understand more about the legal status of the school before providing significant support. However, for the time being, we are very happy with what we have seen and are willing to provide funds for much needed books and other learning resources. We look forward to a fruitful long-term relationship with the school, which is a full member of the Uganda Humanist Schools Association.