The legal paperwork to transfer the ownership of Fair View School to Isaac Newton School has been completed and a bank account opened in the name of Isaac Newton High School – Mbute Campus. Soon the Land Registry will complete the transfer of the land titles.
Peter Kisirinya has worked hard to mobilise staff. Annet Kysakye, the former Headteacher, has been reappointed along with some of the other former teachers. Several Isaac Newton teachers are teaching on both school sites and three of the best A-level students from Isaac Newton are teaching lower school classes there before they go to university. Efforts have been made to attract back former students and recruit new ones. Peter is working with local leaders to harness the support of the local community. The parent-teacher association has been reformed and parents and guardians have been helping to improve footpaths to the site. A large public meeting has been held to present the new school to the community. Teachers, as well as students, have been given a new uniform. Families were shown around the newly finished library and science lab and they heard of plans to develop the school.
The original cook has returned after suffering a stroke. She is delighted with the new kitchen which is nearing completion. It will have two efficient wood burning stoves which are externally vented and will allow her to cook in a smoke free atmosphere.
UHST has bought more books for the school and equipment and chemicals for the new science lab. We have also covered the shortfall in the staffing budget and ensured that all staff have been paid fully.
Toilets are the biggest current problem. The existing ones were built on the side of the hill and, due to land slippage, the boys toilets are breaking up. However, the good news is that International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) and the Norwegian Humanists (HAMU) are working together to fund new Blair-VIP toilet blocks for boys and girls. The work on these will begin within days.
Staff, students and parents are delighted that the school is showing such rapid improvement.
In the 2012 Uganda Certificate of Education (O-level) results one student gained a grade 1 aggregate (putting him in the top 8% of students in the country). 5 students failed through drop out before the exam but there were none with lower pass grades. Out of 44 students, 37 passed at grade 3 or better (grade 6 being the fail grade). The results are remarkable given the poor rural location, limited resources and relatively poorly qualified teachers. It is a testimony to high staff morale and hard work by staff and students alike.
For a second year the school has used scholarships from UHST to attract bright students from poor homes, all with grade 1 in the Primary Leaving Certificate. If this continues we should look forward to progressively improving standards in future. Moses Kamya also points to the beneficial effects of books, science materials and e-learning resources (see picture of A-level students in the computer lab).
- New VIP toilets and washrooms for boys are finished (see picture to the right).
- Refurbishment of the new site is well advanced.
- Uganda National Examination Board has approved the school as a centre for A-level exams. This means that all Mustard Seed students will be able to take their exams in the school.
MMoses Kamya’s next priority is the levelling of land purchase last year, with a grant from UHST, to create a playing field.
Humanist Schools Conference
UHST in collaboration with the Uganda Humanist SchoolsAssociation (UHSA) organised the first conference for teachers in the Humanist Schools in Uganda. There were 56 participants including teachers from Mustard Seed School, Isaac Newton High School, the Mute Campus of Isaac Newton (formerly Humanist Academy/Fair View School. The conference had three main themes: developing a distinctive ethos for the operation of Humanist schools, improving educational outcomes, and making effective use of books and computers to support learning.
Girls’ Hostel at Mustard Seed School
Thanks to a generous bequest from a family in Cambridge the Mustard Seed School has been able to build an 18 roomed hostel, housing 102 girl students, with a separate matron’s room and an internal washroom with showers. The latter was made possible by a new pumped water system completed at the same time.
UHST, with help from generous donors in Styal and Stoke-on-Trent, have provided funding for improved toilets at Mustard Seed and Isaac Newton Schools. The toilets, which each have 4 stances for students and a separate toilet for staff and visitors, use a Ventilated Improved Pit (VIP) construction developed first in Zimbabwe. Separate wash blocks were built at the same time using piped water which is now available throughout both school sites. Details are in the two school reports.
Rescue Plan for Fair View
UHST, with the agreement of IHEU and UHASSO, is helping Peter Kisirinya to bring the Humanist Academy/Fair View School under the management of the Isaac Newton School. The school will in future be known at the Mbute Campus of Isaac Newton. IHEU has resumed funding for the school’s building programme, which has seen the much needed library and science labs completed (pictured above). UHST is also providing immediate help with running costs and is providing additional scholarships to allow bright but needy children to attend the school. Meetings have been held with the local community who strongly support the new action plan and have been working to clear the access paths.
Our International Friendship Visit to Uganda in June was very successful.
5 visitors spent 3 days at the Mustard Seed School, and 12 of us, including 6 lecturers and students from Newcastle College, stayed for a whole week at Isaac Newton High School. Everyone was impressed by the two schools. We all appreciated the warmth of welcome from both staff and students and everyone enjoyed taking part in teaching and other activities in the two schools. Details of the activities undertaken can be found in the Reports section of the website, where you will find the Isaac Newton June 2012 Visit Report and the Mustard Seed June 2012 Visit Report.
We were impressed by the new kitchens which UHST was able to fund in both schools. The picture here is of the Mustard Seed School where new efficient wood burning stoves protect the cook from smoke inhalation by venting through an external chimney. They have also reduced termly firewood consumption from 5 large lorry loads to 2 small loads, which represents a major financial and environmental saving.
We saw how Mustard Seed is benefiting from the purchase of additional land and buildings on a site 100 metres along the lane from the main school. They will need additional money to refurbish the buildings and pit latrines but the extra space was much needed and has allowed the school to qualify as an examination centre.
With a more stable staff, including 10 working full time, there has been a clear improvement in the quality of teaching, in exam results and in the growing range of extra curricular activities which now include: choir, drama, sports and scouts and guides.
At Isaac Newton School we were able to see the new girls’ dormitory in full operation. This is providing safe housing and a good learning environment for many vulnerable girl students. As boys too are boarding in classrooms vacated by the girl boarders it put pressure on water resources in the school. During an uncharacteristically long dry spell earlier in the year the students had to take time out of lessons to bring water up from the spring in the bottom of the valley. However, during our stay at the school this problem was solved by the installation of a pumped water storage scheme, which lifts water from a new well in the bottom of the valley to a header tank 400 metres up the valley sides above the school. This development will allow the school to gravity feed water to where it is needed. The necessary pipework can be added as funds become available.
The good results and growing local reputation of the two schools has brought a 50% increase in student numbers. This welcome development nevertheless puts the school infrastructure and learning resources under pressure.
Over the next year UHST will try to help by stepping up our fundraising efforts. We estimate that they will need an additional £80,000 of external funding to maintain the current rate of improvement.
During our stay in Uganda we made a short visit to the new Kasese Humanist Primary School, set up by Robert Bwambale and the Kasese Humanist Association in the west of Uganda. The school operates from rented buildings belonging to the old Uganda Railway Company and it will need a lot of infrastructure investment if it is to have an independent existence. We were very impressed by the commitment of Robert and his team of teachers and we shall discuss the possibility of providing some support at our next Trustees meeting.
We also visited Fair View Senior Secondary School (formerly the Humanist Academy). IHEU renewed its commitment to the school at the start of the year by giving money for new buildings. The school has a fine new library building which requires only windows to get it finished. Substantial progress has also been made on a new science lab. The main fabric of the building is almost finished but further work is required on walls, floors, windows, furniture and equipment. It is a race against time to get the site up to standard before the temporary license runs out in September. UHST continues its support for students receiving scholarships. In 2013 we intend to support the remaining group of 8 final year students. Future support will depend upon the success of IHEU in getting the resources and teaching up to the standard required for the school to be officially registered.