For me, the most powerful part of our journey to Uganda was seeing the variety of schools we partner with. We visited the whole spectrum, from a brand-new partner school near a slum, to a long-term partner that has advanced to become one of the best schools in their district... and everything in between!
Mukono Boarding School
When Sister Schools first started working with Mukono Boarding School in 2006, it was struggling. They didn’t have adequate classrooms, and the space they did have was overcrowded. Many of their buildings were falling apart, and they didn’t have basic classroom materials for all the children they were serving.
But when we visited last month, it was an entirely different school. Clean classrooms with desks for every child, a vibrant school library, and even running water. Best of all, the students’ academics are thriving. Mukono is proud to hold some of the highest test scores in their district.
Much of their success is due to the hard-working teachers and the head mistress Susan Wamala, but Sister Schools has played a big role as well. Over the years we’ve provided hundreds of pounds of school supplies and funded various facility improvement projects. Their success is a testament to the impact of removing obstacles to education. Providing school supplies frees teachers and parents to focus on other needs, creating a ripple of change that can grow a school from dirt floors to the pinnacle of academic success.
Mukono Boarding School doesn’t need much from us anymore, and that is exactly the goal we’re striving for with each of our other partner schools.
Ray of Hope
On the opposite end of the spectrum, Ray of Hope is a small school located on the edge of the largest slum in Kampala. Ray of Hope is at the very beginning of their journey with us, and there is much work to be done.
When we first arrived at Ray of Hope, my initial reaction was shock. The students were jumping up and down with joy and excitement to see us. They were engaged in their studies, and hanging on their teachers’ words. But the conditions of their school were distressing. The students were crowded in shoulder to shoulder. Many of them didn’t even have desks, and younger students were sitting on the floor. The rooms were dark, the walls were crumbling. They were so desperate for space, they’d converted a narrow balcony into a classroom.
How could students be so eager to learn in these circumstances?
After visiting the school, we had the opportunity to walk to one of the student’s homes. We walked through the slum, seeing people do the best they could with so very little. With no septic or trash system, it was dirty, and around every corner was another child poorly clothed and not in school, snotty nose, plagued by a perpetual cold. The student’s home was just a very small room with a platform bed and roof of corrugated metal. She shares this shack with six people.
It was heartbreaking. But only having seen the reality of the slums could we understand what a school like Ray of Hope means to them. Conditions at school, while seemingly difficult to me, are wonderful compared to their situations at home. And education and literacy are their way out – for them it truly is a Ray of Hope.
Ray of Hope provides students an education at a very low cost. Almost all of their income goes to simply paying their teachers. The school supplies we provide these children might be the only supplies they receive all year. The leaders at Ray of Hope are scrimping and saving every day to give these kids the opportunity of a safe place to study during the day and hope of a brighter future. It's an honor to join them by giving them the tools they need to teach their students.
Growing Every Day
Ray of Hope and Mukono Boarding School are two extremes, encapsulating the whole journey we strive to achieve with each partner. But most of the schools we work with are somewhere in the middle. On our recent visit, we met with students and teachers at Kibiribiri, Sittankya, Kyunga and more. All these schools are focused on doing what they can for students who have few opportunities in life.
Despite the long gap since our previous distributions, everywhere we turned we saw Sister School supplies very well loved but still being used. It’s clear our staff and the teachers we partner with are doing an excellent job of wisely distributing and managing the donated items. We saw library records with donated books being checked out daily. We saw backpacks, we saw pencils, we saw notebooks. If you’ve ever wondered whether our school supply drives are really making a difference in Uganda, everything we saw at these schools confirmed it.
By providing school supplies, we’re lifting one of many burdens parents in Uganda face, freeing both them and the schools to focus on other needs.