Innocent’s son Norman was four recently and his dad bought the birthday boy a tiny cake and bought everyone a soda to celebrate. No toys, no books, nothing but a song from mum and these simple gifts from dad. Cont
It’s been four months since I sent you an update. I’m sorry about this, I normally don’t have a problem putting my thoughts down but I’m finding it very difficult, it’s all in my mind and heart but putting it into words has been a big challenge. Bad news is always hard to share and nearly all of it is bad news this time I’m afraid. I will finish with something to make you smile though, I promise, so please persevere through the bad. (I’ve even split it into chapters!)
1-Life for most people in Uganda 🇺🇬
As we all know, life here in the UK and around the world has become very difficult for many people over the past few years and the situation has become even more desperate for the vast majority in Uganda too, that remains an extremely impoverished country in ‘normal’ times. In addition to the problems created by Covid and the war in Ukraine, the start of the year saw an extended drought so there was a long delay in planting their new crops. Then they got a period of extremely heavy rains where newly planted crops were washed away and it caused some flooding and landslides where lives were lost. Thankfully none of the people I know lost their lives though all are struggling even more than they usually do. Many have had to use their stored grain to feed their families so have none left to sell or exchange for items such as cooking oil or of course, medicals or school fees. The cost of living has doubled and even trebled for many items so even if you do have a little money it doesn’t stretch very far. On top of this small businesses have closed because the government decided to increase taxes!
Innocent, my good friend and trusted project managers’ situation is another example of how peoples lives have changed drastically. As you might remember Innocent has small piggery and poultry businesses which brings in just enough money to look after his families’ needs. Now no one can afford to buy the piglets he has for sale and the same applies to the chicks and eggs. He can’t afford to continue to feed his animals so, just like many other owners of small holdings, he’s having to virtually give them away. He can’t store the pork as doesn’t have a freezer and can’t afford electricity anyway. It’s such a shame as Innocent was only just recovering from having all his pigs slaughtered last year because of swine fever!Can’t resist a photo or two to remind you if those smiles!!
2-Good Luck Junior School
An important decision to make!
Schools in Uganda have been badly affected with parents not even having enough money to give their children a meal each day especially in poor areas such as the community where Good Luck Junior School is situated. The parents were just getting back on their feet after suffering with Covid and its restrictions and were beginning to find the little money to pay the school fees that pay the teachers and give everyone a meal, but now fee paying has dropped almost completely as parents need the money to feed their families. Thank goodness, for to your kind donations we were able to step in here and help them with paying the teachers salaries. I still have enough donations to pay the teachers for the next two months, which takes us up to the end of the Ugandan school year and almost a year since we started subbing the school during Covid.
But for how long we should or can go on doing this is a decision we have to make.
Thank you to those who have donated over the past year, one off’s or regular donations. Most recently a donation was made which has enabled me to pay the salaries for a whole month!
The school is really doing well and getting a good reputation for the education and care the children are being. There are now 127 children at the school.
Unfortunately, with the affects of the war pushing the cost of living up, very few parents are now able to pay full fees and the majority none at all. Some manage to bring a little surplus food from home to go towards the cost of the daily meal.
Thoughts I’ve had, to make any money we raise last longer, is to suggest the children go to school part time, either morning or afternoon with the change over at midday when they all get a meal, which is very important. Then reducing the number of days the teachers are employed. BUT this is something I’m not keen on doing as they earn very little, have been very reliable and wouldn’t get another job in the present climate and all have families to support.
But to keep the school open full time the costs are as follows:
Monthly teachers salary – 120,000 Ugx £30 x 7 teachers.
Then we would need to find money for the schools essentials such as chalk, pens, exercise books, report cards, exam papers, and most important of all during the present climate, would be money to buy food for the 127 children and 7 staff plus pay the cook to cook the meals!
I now appreciate just how much the children’s fees, though small, have to cover. Basically we need to raise 127 children’s fees to keep all the children at school and not sack any teachers! The monthly fees are as follows with the number of pupils in each class noted.
Nursery ‘Baby’-36 – 30,000 &
‘Top’ class – 34 – 30,000(£8.50)
Primary 1 – 16 – 45,000 (£11)
Primary 2 – 17 – 45,000 (£11)
Primary 3 – 8 – 48,000(£11.50)
Primary 4 – 8 – 48,000 (£11.50)
Primary 6 – 8 – 48,000 (£13.50)
I understand it is a very difficult time to be finding money to spare, but would you possibly be able to help me with this plan? If we achieve it we would keep the school open, keep the teachers employed (often their own families will be dependent on them, and some have young families of their own too!), and most of all help the children continue their education and keep safe and fed during this difficult time. As is usual the staff would keep an eye on the health of the children and act on any problems they find too.
It would be wonderful if you’d like to consider sponsoring a child for a month or better still a year. Perhaps you have a child or grandchild in the equivalent class here at home? This would be a wonderful experience for them to learn about children in Uganda and to show how we can all share a little, especially with Christmas approaching.
I would really love to be able to help as many children as we can to have even a basic education, but more importantly have a meal every day, have care and attention from the staff and hopefully, prevent the children being used in other ways such as being put on the streets to earn a few shillings breaking stones, to beg or worse, there was an increase in children ‘selling their bodies’ in exchange for something to eat during Covid! A terrible terrible thought but unfortunately true in times of great need.
Whatever you can offer will be very much appreciated.
Thank you so much for even reading this.
Love to you all x
Another of the desks you sponsored. Now we need to sponsor the children sitting this difficult time.
Let’s hope we can keep it that way.
Can’t help smiling back at the children in these photos, they are generally happy even with the little they have.
It’s over two months now since the schools in Uganda opened after the long two-year lockdown. At first Good Luck Junior School struggled to get the children to return as their parents had got used to having them working in the fields and doing other jobs such as breaking stone to sell to builders to earn a few much needed coins. But with your help to pay the wages, Ibra the head teacher, was able to employ five teachers and together they searched out the parents at home or busy digging and persuaded them to send their children back to school. Numbers have been gradually rising. As you can imagine the children were so happy to be back at school learning and meeting up with their friends again. Ibra said they were so excited with their new classrooms and being able to sit at proper desks. I’m picturing this with a smile on my face!😊
On our behalf Innocent has been to the school regularly and today sent a message. So instead of rewriting them I’m just going to copy and paste them, for you to get a true and direct picture of the situation. I do add a little good news at the end!
Innocent- ‘Today I got to the teachers evaluation meeting at GLJS and one of the challenges ibra talked about was fees payment.
As per today’s attendance ,there are 94 children. Out of the whole number of children at GLJS , only 17 have paid to zero balance , some few children have also made a small deposit. From what is expected from parents as fees only 33.3% has been paid .the challenge here is that when ibra sends the children home for fees , the parents just keep the children home and some take them to the garden to prepare for the rainy season soon coming. In the meeting they also talked of one parent who used to respond very well on fees and has three children at GLJS, this father died of Covid 19 but the widow keeps pleading she pays half so the children can get education but she has also failed to pay a coin of the half .
‘The other challenge they talked was water , teachers were telling Ibra that the pupils especially the lower classes keep asking ; ” teacher water ,water ” but there is no water left in the jerrican, then later on the same issue the cook asked ibra to try get her a water container where they can keep the water .
‘Finally they said thank you to you on behalf of the teachers for the help esp their salary. Ibra then gave me a chance to say a word to the meeting where I just said hello, thanked them for their work and encouraged them to work harder despite the challenges. I also passed your greetings to them.’
He continues – ‘The situation in Uganda is very bad, people here are very broke , Covid disorganized everything . Other than sending the fees defaulters home , he is planning to meet the parents individually in their homes to try and advise them to prioritize for the education of their children even in this crisis just after Covid 19 Lock down.
‘There are no state schools around until you get to the main road to kamuli from GLJS but even in state schools they ask for some fees and the fees at GLJS is not high , 30,000.’
(30,000 is only £6 a term but if you don’t have a job or excess grain to sell, getting even that is impossible for many!)
‘In Uganda we are in a state of learning to live with the situation, the situation that Covid 19 brought. I will give you an example, I invested in poultry with a target that a 3 months I would sell off the birds and get my profits . The birds have now made three months but no market . The more you keep them the more you spend on feeds , and this reduces what I would take as profit . It’s now even being hard for me feed the birds.
Another example is as I type , I am sited in my bar alone with the music playing lights on drinks available but no customers, yet I have to meet my costs . Along all these responsibilities like Norman and Geraldine getting sick come as well . Even as it’s a time of learning to live with the situation, at times there are no shillings to take the learning on .so it is ibra with the parents clearing fees .’
That’s all from Innocent.
I know Ibra and the teachers will be doing their very best to give the village children an education, far superior to that of the government schools, but as you see the parents are struggling to raise the fees, as although 30,000 is only £6 a term, if you don’t have a job or excess grain to sell, getting even that is impossible for many! Uganda has had a very long dry season and the rains are late again so any surplus grain will be being used to feed their families. Hopefully the next harvest will be a good one and things could be better. Life in Uganda 🇺🇬 just as many places around the world is so tough and very unpredictable. I really don’t know how they manage!
Thank you once again for donating to pay the salaries for the first six months. Hopefully things will get better as life improves for the parents.
Obviously we cannot continue to pay the teachers salaries so only time will tell if they can balance their books. It’s never an easy job providing education to the outlying villages but now it seems especially difficult. I do admire the hard work and dedication of Ibra and his teachers.
The good news –
Earlier in February the sow at
GLJS gave birth to five piglets! These are the first offspring of the two piglets we bought for the school to start a pig project to help with running the school.
Also Innocent delivered a table and four chairs to the school that Nico, the young deaf man we sponsored through a basic carpentry apprenticeship, made. These are to be used by the teachers in the ‘staff room’, under the mango tree!
Thank you once again for your interest and support.
The children were sent home to bring their parent’s, usually the mothers, to the meeting. Few know the time, (except by the sun!), so this is necessary. Many would have been busy doing the daily chores of digging, collecting water, washing clothes or preparing the posho (ground maize) and beans for the evening meal. They were informed about the meeting a week ago but only by their children’s spoken word, as letters from the school are unheard of in village schools as few can read, and paper is a rare resource. When if they did have paper the teachers would have to write every message by hand!
Some of the children are very young but they all know their way home, even walking quite a distance! It used to scare me when 4-5 year olds just arrived at school unaccompanied but that’s how it is in Uganda and I expect many other countries.
You hear Ibrahim shouting at them to go home and fetch their mothers. Teachers in Uganda do tend to shout a lot and demand rather than ask. Again just the way it is! You’ll notice also the speak in a mixture of English and Basoga their local language. This is because English has to become the first language once the children have been at school beyond the nursery class, as all teaching is done in English, exams are in English and if they had books they would be in English.
I’m the video Innocent points out the staff room under the mango tree and scans round to show us the classrooms and latrine block that you helped to build during the two years of Covid!
My voice message to the parents and other members of the community apparently went down well! Innocent saying ‘it was just wonderful Madam’ and that the parents kept cheering and shouting Asante sana as it was played to them!! Ibrahim translated my words, and I had sent a written copy just in case it was needed as sometimes they don’t understand my form of English though I try to be careful!
I love the sound of the excited voices of the parents after the meeting.
Innocent passed on the thanks that the parents sent to me and I pass this most definitely on to you as without your donations there would be no school!
The man in the yellow cap is the village leader and Innocent tells me:
The chairperson of the village ,who you met last time told the parents how kind you are , he told them about the shirt you gave him the last time you came to deliver mosquito nets.
This was one of my husbands shirts! I can remember how happy he and other men were with their gifts!
Children continued their lessons after the meeting and while Innocent was still there he took this video of them having a PE lesson! Teaching English comes into every lesson and here the teacher is getting them to repeat what she says while jumping! We were still very much on their minds as I can just about make out that they are saying ‘thank you Madam Gerry’ and that ‘we love you we love you we love you Madam!’ Please take it that this message is for you all, I’m just the one they know!
That’s all the news for now from Good Luck Junior School in Uganda 🇺🇬. Thank you once again for making all this possible! X