Transformation on a Hill

Looking back on our involvement with a hill community in Western Uganda we are amazed at the transformation that has taken place. In early 2015 representatives of Classrooms for Africa were introduced to St. Jude High School in the Kasese District. After a very warm welcome from the students and administration, we learned about the facilities needed for the over 330 students enrolled. St. Jude started in 1999 and lies in the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains not far from the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo. Many of the students were from disadvantaged homes and many live too far away from the school to commute daily. They lived in the classrooms at night and during spare time made bricks for the building of future facilities.


After visiting the school the Classrooms for Africa visitors became aware of the existence of a St. Francis, a primary school on the same land, which was attempting to educate over 250 children from the youngest Nursery Grades through Grade 7. Classes were held in tin and wood shacks with mud floors. No permanent buildings were on site.

A donor from Alberta was found for the schools and starting in June 2015 Classrooms for Africa was able to provide grants for several projects at both St. Jude High School and St Francis Nursery and Primary School. When the donor visited the projects in June 2017, he saw first hand how the hill community has been transformed by his partnership. At the high school three incomplete classrooms were finished, science laboratories build, as well as a girls’ and a boys’ dormitory. St. Francis received three buildings in all including a block of 4 classrooms, a block of 3 classrooms and a block of classrooms and offices - 10 classrooms in all!

Apart from the visiual transformation on the hill seen by the buildings and landscaping, unseen transformation has also occurred in the students and also the local community.

In a followup survey of the schools in 2018 the school director revealed that:

“ The quality of education has improved because of: lockable storage space for teaching supplies; individual learning promoted because of learning aids like charts being secured; having enough space to allow learner-centred activities; conducive learning environment which improved concentration . . . . . . Students performance in state examinations has improved. Their grades are good as follows: In 2017 86 students sat for the exams: 12 received second class level, 17 received third class, 54 received fourth class and only 3 were ungraded.”

“Community members have worked as builders which has boosted their income and livelihoods; the construction process has provided markets for local materials such as bricks, sand, aggregate stones, timber and other items; young people are in school which improves overall atmosphere in the area. The rate of dropouts has been minimized and overall school enrolment has risen by over 50%. The Illiteracy rate in the community has been reduced.”










Tirrim Schools Survey Report

In this blog post we continue reporting on our 10 year anniversary survey of projects Classrooms for Africa has been involved in funding. Here we feature the Tirrim Schools - (Nomadic Nursery, Primary and High School) in the remote town of Korr, North Eastern Kenya.  

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BACKGROUND:

The Tirrim Schools are an outreach of the Africa Inland Church, seeking to provide education based on a Christian worldview for children of the Rendille tribe, a semi-nomadic group who migrated south from Ethiopia many years ago. The area they live in is remote, semi-desert and subject to heat and wind storms. In 2008 Tirrim school leaders applied to Classrooms for Africa for help to fund a permanent cement structure in which to house the many nursery school students. These young students had no building in which to attend classes in a protected environment. They gathered for school under the thorn trees.  

Although building in this remote area has many challenges because all building supplies have to be trucked in from Nairobi and structures need to be of steel and cement because of the climate, Classrooms for Africa donors provided funds for the construction of a large multipurpose hall for the Tirrim Nomadic Nursery Schoool. The large structure serves as classrooms, gathering place and weekly health clinic. In 2011 a wing of three classrooms was added to the building together with office, storage space and toilets. In 2013 a four-classroom block was built to help house students at the related Tirrim Primary School. 

Today the Tirrim Schools offers education from Nursery through the high school grades and enrols 648 students. Currently the high school is in desperate need of classrooms for their students (see here for more information about this project).

FROM THE SURVEY:

The Tirrim School Director, David Gargule, reports that:

“ … enrolment and performance at the school has improved tremendously … the community has built more confidence by sending their children to school … the school has been rated the best in the entire Marsabit County. Graduates are accepted into the best schools in the country … former Tirrim Primary School students have returned to the school to serve as teachers and volunteers in the community…”

Tirrim Primary school has many stories of specific students who have benefitted from Classrooms of Africa support. Here is “Sylvia’s” story:

 “…”Sylvia” is a class 3 pupil currently in Tirrim. She was married to an old man four times her age. Her mother who is a bread winner of the family decided to report the matter to the area chief and the girl was rescued after delivering a baby girl. Despite her age she agreed to join grade one in 2015. The school provided an opportunity for her to get her education as well as feeding her baby. She was sharing the food she got from school (her portion) with her young daughter who was under care of her grandmother. “Sylvia” is hardworking and an active pupil in school. Her vision is to become a nurse in future so as to care the poor Rendille women. She accepted her situation and coped up with the school environment. She is among the best students in her co-curriculum activities, especially athletics. It is through her education at school that made her become an active member of the church. She sings at the church with other pupils in our teens group in the church. Notably her young daughter who is currently at Tirrim Nursery School will be joining her in Tirrim Primary school next year. The suffering she went through has given her experience and therefore applied for her young daughter to be admitted at our school so she can be in a Christian school where education is Bible based which she personally testifies has transformed her life greatly…”

NOTE: Tirrim schools have given several girls a second chance to come back after early pregnancy and going against some cultural practices like FGM.






Albert Valley High School Survey

In 2018 Classrooms for Africa undertook a survey of schools who have received grants over the last ten years. We wanted to know what impact Classrooms for Africa's contribution has had on the schools and their communities. In this blog post we feature the Albert Valley High School in the Ntoroko District of Uganda and share the information provided by the school in response to the survey.

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BACKGROUND:

Albert Valley High School was struggling to offer secondary education to the many vulnerable students in the area which borders the Democratic Republic of Congo. Many of the students came from villages too far away to travel each day, so were housed in the wood and mud temporary classrooms. In January 2013, the NGO operating the school applied to Classrooms for Africa for help with funding permanent classrooms and accommodations for the school. 

 Original "Classrooms" - 2014

Original "Classrooms" - 2014

Donors from Western Canada provided funds to build a permanent campus of ten classrooms an administration block and a girls' dormitory. A boys' dormitory is scheduled for construction towards the end of 2018. 

Today Albert Valley High School serves over 250 students.

FROM THE SURVEY:

The school director, Eryeza Kasiringi, reports:
"... after the construction of the permanent classrooms, Albert Valley High School acquired status as a state Examination Centre where national examinations are held annually. Most Albert Valley students perform well in the exams and the school is first in academic performance in the Ntoroko district...".

“ … the school has helped a good number of orphans who would not have been able to study if Albert Valley was never established. Some of these vulnerable orphans and those from very poor background have managed to finish their O-levels and have joined different training courses such as nursing, teaching and vocational and technical training”.

“ … one such student is Carolyne. She is an orphan whose parents passed away when she was 2 years, She was cared for by her grandmother who could not afford to send her to high school. Albert Valley High School decided to fully look after her. She successfully completed her O-levels and went for nursing which she passed very well and is now working as a trained nurse, supporting her struggling grandmother and other relatives. If Classrooms for Africa had not supported Albert Valley, Carlolyne’s skills would have been wasted”....Eryeza Kasiringi, Director   

Well done, students at Albert Valley High School!

The Journey at NISSI

In a small rural village in south-western Uganda is the community school of NISSI Christian Junior School. Elisha is the young pioneer who has blazed the way during the school's journey over the past 3 years. After a long patient wait to be accepted as a possible recipient of financial support through Classrooms for Africa, in June 2016 representatives of the NGO visited the school and found a very large welcome awaiting them. 

They toured the existing school "facilities", listened to eager students singing songs of welcome and met the leaders and teachers at the school.  The school at that time had over 300 students enrolled and offered Nursery through Grade 5.

By the end of that year, a donor was found who provided funds to build the first block of three classrooms, which were completed by June of 2017. Classrooms for Africa representatives attended the opening celebrations of that building. To help furnish the classrooms, Christian school communities in Western Canada collected funds to purchase desks for older students and seats and tables for the youngest students. 

In June 2018, NISSI celebrated the opening of a second block of 5 classrooms with much fan-fare and marching students to escort the visitors who were very impressed to see the growth of the school in terms of enrolment, quality of education and performance of students in state exams. 

The local community is very supportive of the school. Local government officials have donated a water collection tank which is of great benefit during the dry months. In addition, members of the community make the uniforms for students to wear. Thank  you, donors, for making a huge and long-term difference in the lives of the NISSI community.

A Heart-warming Story

In June a team of representatives from Classrooms for Africa and donors made a whirlwind trip to Uganda - visiting 16 school projects in 6 days! They travelled in the east and the west of the country, visiting some completed projects, some projects in progress and some new project waiting to be approved. Opening celebrations at nine of the school were highlights, but Okweta Primary School near the town of Soroti is the focus here. The school was started by a group of parents in a rural community which was struggling to come to life after many years of wars and social unrest in northern Uganda. The local community was given land to start a primary school. The parents and supporters "built" a grass and stick structure which served as classrooms for Grade 1 through 3 students. The school board meetings were held under trees. In 2015 Classrooms for Africa became aware of this needy school and being impressed by the commitment of the community to provide an education for the children, agreed to sponsor the building of permanent classrooms. When donors were found, construction began. Since that time three classroom blocks have been built and this year along with the third block, a kitchen and water harvesting system were officially "opened" with our team in attendance. The pictures below help to tell the story . . . .

                                                                               OKWETA PRIMARY SCHOOL - JANUARY 2015

                                                                             OKWETA PRIMARY SCHOOL - JANUARY 2015

                                                                               OKWETA PRIMARY SCHOOL - JUNE 2018

                                                                             OKWETA PRIMARY SCHOOL - JUNE 2018

Good Things Happening!

In May representatives from Classrooms for Africa had the privilege of visiting 16 of their projects in Uganda, some complete and celebrating, some in progress and some still being assessed for funding.

The team, which included some Canadian Not-For-Profit students, were totally exhausted by their travels and heavy schedule, but also inspired and in awe of what is being accomplished in so many needy communities by the provision of permanent, safe classroom space for the hundreds of students. It is rewarding to see how the local leaders, workers and volunteers have banded together to construct their buildings and take on their projects with dedication and pride. Well done!

Below we share some of the scenes:

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Schools from Uganda and Classrooms for Africa from Western Canada joining together . . .

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Joining together to share the happiness!

Celebration Day!

In our March 2018 blog we mentioned that the construction of the first permanent classrooms at Migamba Hillside Primary School in Uganda was on a fast track for construction, having started in late January this year. Today, April 9, there is much excitement as the doors of the completed building were opened to the students. Classrooms for Africa celebrates with them and the community. Our Executive Director and others will be in Uganda and will attend a formal opening with parents, the local community and officials in May. Thank you to the generous donors who made this facility a reality, bringing much happiness today and a safe permanent learning environment to the students for many years. Well done, local project director, builders and helpers. A true community effort!

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Migamba Hillside School, Uganda

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Excitement on the hill

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Open at last!

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Welcome to our class!

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Teacher welcomes the little ones too

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Saturday was clean-up day

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Ladies from the community help too

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Students work on landscaping

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Well done, Project Director, Davis!

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Part of the building team

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Even Davis gets in on the hard work

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Thank you donors from Western Canada!

Some Classroom Building Projects in Progress

Now that the new school year in Uganda is underway, some schools also have construction of much needed new permanent classrooms underway. Below are a few of the projects, funded through Classrooms for Africa, which are under construction. There are expected to complete by mid-year!

Migamba Hillside Primary - first permanent classrooms at the school, which serves over 500 students. Project started: January 30, 2018 : Completing by: April 2018


Okweta Nursery and Primary - third permanent classroom block, this time including some administration space. Project started: February, 2018 : Completing by: June 2018


NISSI Christian Junior School - two more classrooms to complete the second permanent classroom block at the school. Project started: July, 2017 : Estimated completion by: June 2018


Mother Kevin Nursery School - second floor, to contain 5 more permanent classrooms for the young students, many orphaned and others from the surrounding slum area of the city. Project started: August 2017 : Completing by: June 2018
 

The Graduates!

Many schools in Africa begin their 2018 school year in late January or early February. By then the students who wrote examinations at the end of the previous year have received their long-awaited results and can proceed to the next grade.

One of the serendipities of building permanent classrooms, which Classrooms for Africa and its donors have witnessed, is the improved level of performance by students who have improved classrooms to study in.  

Many of the schools have reported an improvement in their students' performance on the state exams. One school wrote:  "The term one of 2018 is about to start on 5th Feb 2018. it is a busy time and we are excited with what god has for Vineyard in 2018.  We are expecting enrollment to increase to over 400 this year. This is also coupled with the fact that Vineyard ranked amongst the best five schools in Teso region in the last national exams."

Another reported that "The results of Primary Leaving Examinations came out and our pupils managed to perform well we managed to obtain first and Second Grades only".

A third writes "In S.3, who are the S.4 candidates in 2018, had 4 students in 1st Grade with aggregate of 20 points, the second with 22 points, the third had 26 points and the Fourth has 30 points. The majority of the S.3 students passed in Grade Two and Three respectively. Few are in Division Four and only 2 students have failed and cannot make it to S.4 next year. The results for S.2 and S.1 are all showing improvement in teaching and performance."

Below are some photos of graduates from just a few of the schools Classrooms for Africa has been privileged to assist by providing permanent classrooms and learning spaces.

 

 

The Journey at Matere Model!

Classrooms for Africa was first introduced to Matere Model Nursery and Primary School, Uganda, in November 2016 when a team of our representatives and donors visited the remote mountain-top community. After a harrowing journey in a truck on a road especially fashioned for the occasion, the team plus local school leaders arrived "at the top of the world" in the Ruwenzori foothills. A very warm and melodious welcome awaited them all! A further trek by foot up the hillside brought them to some partially built rooms which, together with shady trees, comprised the classrooms of the 4 year old school, run by the Church of Uganda Diocese. Most of the over 220 students were on hand in their bright orange shirts. Touched by the enterprising spirit of the administration and the lack of resources to provide an adequate learning environment for these children, some of the visitors determined to help answer the desperate need for safe and secure classroom accommodation. By mid-2017 they were ready to donate to the project and the ball was set in motion to start the building process. A team of volunteers from the local community had been busy making bricks by hand for the project. By January 2018 a new classroom block was ready for students to start their new school year. Classrooms for Africa hopes to be on hand when the building is opened soon. The dream is to see a second classroom block built later this year. Thank you donors for making an amazing difference in the lives of these beautiful children! The pictures below help to tell the story, including the happy and exited students on their first day of the 2018 school year!