Celebrating Ten Years and Making a Difference

This month Classrooms for Africa winds up the celebration of ten years in operation. Thanks to our many faithful donors we have been able to construct the equivalent of over 380 permanent classrooms in 60 schools in 8 countries in Eastern and Southern Africa. The impact on local communities is immeasurable. All schools we have worked with are independent Christian schools run by communities, concerned about the quality of education available to children in their area. Building projects have ranged from single classrooms to complete schools. In addition to regular classrooms we have built science laboratories, multipurpose rooms, offices and storage area, dormitories, kitchens, pit latrines, wash “houses” and rainwater harvesting systems.

 One of the schools that has benefited from partnering with Classrooms for Africa is Rwentutu Christian School, located in the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains in Western Uganda. The school is part of a community project that also includes a medical clinic, adult education programs and a women’s micro-credit initiative.

The Kambere family, Ugandans now living Canada, founded the Umoja Operation Compassion Canada Society as a vehicle to provide assistance to the needy in their home area of Uganda. In 2005 Umoja, through the Kambere family, provided the land for the establishment of the Rwentutu Community Development Project and the school. Using an old house on the property and four classrooms built with the help of a Christian school and church in Canada the school was started.

Classrooms for Africa became involved, in our first year of operation in 2008, with Rwentutu Christian School. That year, with funds provided by the Glenmore Christian School Community in Calgary, Alberta, a four-classroom block was built. In 2010 a second four-classroom block was constructed, this time funded by individual donors in Western Canada. A three-classroom, Early Learning Centre, was built in 2015 funded by Christian Schools in Western Canada. Finally in 2018 a large multi-purpose complex with meeting hall and storage was funded by donors from Western Canada and the UK was added. 

 

The teachers at Rwentutu Christian School have received training and professional development through the programs operated by ACSI Western Canada and ACSI Uganda. 

Today Rwentutu Christian School enrolls over 210 students in Kindergarten through Grade 7. The Grade 7 students have consistently done very well in their State examinations with a pass rate of 100%. The school is rated very highly by the district education officials. 


The School and Community Project continues to grow, benefitting many families in this impoverished area through the provision of quality education for children, a clinic, adult education programs and other services. 

 

Classrooms for Africa CEO, Kory and his family members have visited the school many times. The new multi-purpose complex is dedicated to the memory of their mother, Meg Sorensen. As well, a MEG outreach program is going to be launched in January to benefit women in and around Rwentutu village.

 It is good to join hands and partner with various organizations to ensure the education and future of a community previously in great need. Thank you all donors and supporters! 

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HOPE FOR HIGH SCHOOL

In this, our tenth year of operation, we at Classrooms for Africa are reminded of one of our very first projects. The project was to come along side a Ugandan community to help them fulfill their dream of building a high school. The goal of the community was to provide a safe, nurturing environment for students graduating from the Hope Primary School in Masaka, a project they had started 10 years earlier. In addition the School wanted to help the many young people, especially girls, who had fled abuse in the north of the country caused by the war and the abduction of children. 

 

Although the founders, with the support of the school community, had purchased a large piece of land outside of the town of Masaka, they did not have the resources needed to construct the buildings to make the dream a reality. Representatives from Classrooms for Africa had met founders Vincent and Mary at a teacher’s conference where they had shared their dream. Although Classrooms for Africa was still in the stage of being registered we were able to provide some funds to help to start the ball rolling. By 2010 the first four-classroom block was completed and an administrative building was well underway. Hope Comprehensive High School opened that year and was given accreditation by the Uganda education authorities. Initial enrolment was around 60 students in S1 and S2 (Grades 8 and 9).

 

Since that time several other buildings have been constructed including large dormitories for girls and boys, ablution facilities, a second classroom block and a kitchen. Donors from Western Canada funded all of these buildings. Over the years the school leaders have worked, with the support of the community, to develop the grounds, create playing fields and provide resources such as a solar powered computer laboratory. 

 

Today the school offers S1 though S5, with S6 to be added in 2019, and enrolls over 465 students! The leadership and staff of Hope Comprehensive have played a significant role in providing teacher professional development in the area and in supporting founding and growth of ACSI Uganda. The students do well in national examinations, written at the end of S4, and the school is ranked in the top 10% in the district. Many of the School’s graduates go on to further studies at universities and colleges throughout the country. 

 

The story of Hope Comprehensive High School reminds how rewarding is it to take the hand of a struggling, committed community and come alongside with resources to make a dream come true. Thank you donors and leadership!

 

 

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