Kahara Primary School, in West Uganda, has seen vast improvements in their education program, thanks to a 2011 three year infrastructure plan by Build Africa.
“We have attracted parents and attendance has improved from 256 to 386 because the new classes have space for the students to work. And we have new desks. They can’t cheat now!” said Christopher, the Headmaster of Kahara Primary School.
Kahara Primary School was struggling, like many other schools in Uganda because of a lack of classrooms, which meant that children had to study under trees or in ‘dangerous temporary structures’. There were also too few toilets with many of the existing facilities being dilapidated, unsafe and unhygienic. ’The introduction of free primary education in both Kenya and Uganda some years ago resulted in massive increases in enrolment. However, as this was not matched by an increase in resources, the majority of poor children in Kenya and Uganda still cannot access a decent education. Children who are lucky enough not to be sent out to work attend overcrowded and poorly managed schools, and must grapple with teacher shortages, poor teaching, absenteeism and a lack of learning materials. This results in 3 out of 4 pupils dropping out before completing primary school and only 20% achieving recommended competency levels in literacy and numeracy’, said a statement from Build Africa
Through the Build a School programme, Build Africa carry out teacher training, build classrooms, develop infrastructure, provide books, desks and other supplies, and develop school governance capacity. ‘At Kahara, Christopher and his team have been running Kahara Primary School since 1996 and have faced many challenges. Build Africa’s three-year work plan to help the Kahara community has already seen the construction of a three-classroom block, an office and a store room, but the school still needs qualified teachers and instructional materials’, continued the Build Africa report.
Since Build Africa’s implementation there have been some real attainable results with over 98% of all students progressing to the next school year. In fact, those passing school leaving exams currently sits just above 95% for all students. However, it is the simple things that have made a real difference at Kahara. Christopher says, “it is easier to teach children in the new classrooms. In the old one, you would set tests and they could copy each other. Now it is easier to separate them. You find their handwriting was not coming up well because they would write on their thighs and now they can sit and write properly. It has made a big difference. When the rains came we would run to church and there would be no class for the rest of the day.”
Build Africa has been running projects for nine years. ‘Our aim is not just to support the schools, but to develop a model which can continue working without us’, said a Build Africa representative. They believe that quality education will only be achieved when parents are involved. Build Africa therefore works with parents, children, teachers and government education staff to identify the key problems each school faces and prepare a 3 year 'School Development Plan'. They then work with the school, the parents and government staff to implement the plan and transform the school by: improving infrastructure; continuing to increase parental involvement; improving standards of teaching and learning; strengthening school management; and increasing gender and HIV/AIDS awareness. ‘There are empty or dilapidated school buildings scattered across Africa because development organisations have failed to engage communities in their construction programmes and lack a comprehensive strategy. Money is ploughed into building beautiful schools but once this is completed, the organisation moves on. However, classrooms built using low quality materials in an effort to save money start to require repairs, and a funding gap emerges which neither the community nor the local government can afford’ said the Build Africa report.
By supporting a school for at least 7 years, and monitoring it until it is financially self-sufficient, Build Africa plan to ‘give the school the best possible chance that once the opportunity of education has been provided, it is not taken away’. Build Africa also run Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) for parents to help save money so that they can contribute to the schools finances. ‘The money collected from parents has therefore increased and will be used for curriculum needs and payments for the non-government teachers. There are three VSLA groups in the community. The teachers are paid by the parents so they need money. The fees are 25,000 UGX (Ugandan shillings) (£6.47) per term for a child in Primary Year 6 or Primary Year 7, 15,000 UGX (£3.88) for younger students,” says Christopher.
At Kahara there is still lots of work to do and Build Africa plan to continue to help Kahara by: constructing 4 classrooms; a 5 door latrine block; provision of 84 children's desks; provision of teachers chairs and tables; provision of 1 teachers storage cupboard(s); train the School Management Committee to better manage and govern the school; arrange exchange visits for schools to visit other schools in the region; support 250 community members to develop their income generating activities so they can contribute more to the school’s development; as well as working with the local community to increase their involvement with the school's development and to hold teachers accountable for the school's performance.
The school will be inspected by the local government in the hope that the government will be able to manage the school. ‘Our good results will help our application. The church has offered land to us. The government will pay for more teachers. They will also provide desks and instructional materials as we only have one textbook per class’, said Christopher.
The work being undertaken in Kenya and Uganda by Build Africa is an astounding success and is highlighted by Kahara’s head, Christopher, who concludes, that ‘by working together, the school has seen a dramatic rise in attendance and in the number of pupils able to go to secondary school, increasing their chances of a brighter future’.
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