Growing up in Uganda, I didn’t have much in terms of modern amenities, but as a child, I never felt deprived or lacking for anything. We made our own toys, created our own games and exercised through the various activities carried out in rural settings.
Both my parents were teachers and they valued education. They taught everyone and anyone interested in learning and looked after so many children in addition to the nine of us. We used to walk six miles to get to school. We were considered privileged children because our parents did everything to get money to pay for our school fees. Many children dropped out of school for lack of school fees.
When my husband James and I visited Uganda in 2001, we saw the poor state of education after so many years of political instability and poor management. The classes were overcrowded and the teachers’ morale was very low. The impact was greatest in the rural areas where schools were already scarce and children had no access to books or school supplies. Many children go through the day without any meal making it very hard to study when hungry.
The elders in my childhood village asked us to help build a school within the village. The request was overwhelming but being a product of rural school education, we know that all children, irrespective of their condition in life, can reach their full potential if given an opportunity. It is said that “Education is a powerful vaccine against the pandemics of poverty, disease and ignorance”. Education helps children to get a decent start in life.
In 2002 we started saving money and every summer we returned to Uganda to visit family and supervise the construction of a multi-purpose building, to serve as a community centre and for children to attend school. This took four years to complete.
We started with two teachers and 46 children and the numbers kept growing. In 2008, our friends from Oasis Baptist Church in England provided us with money to lay the foundation for the primary school (grades 1-4). The school offers children quality education and is open to all children irrespective of religion, gender or race. We now have 400+ children who attend the school from kindergarten to grade six. The Ugandan school year starts in February and finishes in December. The terms run from February to April, May to August, and September to December. There are 7 classes in the primary (elementary) section, 4 classes for “O” Level and 2 classes for “A” Level. Classes in Uganda are not based on age because a lot of children drop out and re-enter school due to financial restrictions.
In 2013 we spent a year in Uganda to continue with the construction of the four classroom block and the development of the school. We received support from work colleagues, friends and churches and community organizations which enabled us to complete the four classroom block. Our stay in Uganda was very busy, but fulfilling. In spite of the fatigue due to the long flight, it was a joy to see the smiling faces of kids and the pride they show about the opportunity to be in school. We saw children start dreaming again, parents regaining their hope and the community rejuvenated. We witnessed significant student learning progress and now many children can read and write simple sentences.
The children of Nakyere village are a bunch of passionate, enthusiastic and smart kids with a lot of creativity. In spite of the constant challenges of droughts, lack of resources and basic infrastructures, children show up to school regularly. Sometimes the cup of porridge they get at school is the only meal they have for the day. We are talking about cornmeal flour added to water, no sugar, and no milk!
The two school boards are doing an exceptional job in educating parents, many of whom are illiterate, monitoring the progress of the academic performance and identifying challenges and solutions accordingly. The school administration prepares monthly reports for the boards. We visit the school once a year to monitor, evaluate and help with construction.
We are passionate about empowering communities through education, leadership and practical skills training. Your support is transforming the Nakyere community by providing employment for teachers and construction workers, while providing the much needed education for vulnerable children. Studies show that children who get access to early childhood education have a higher chance of succeeding in higher education, are socially better adjusted and are more confident to face challenges.
The village has become vibrant with hope and expectation. Amazing Love School is the heart and soul of the community and a vital piece of the local economy. We would like to complete the construction of the school building to provide the much needed classroom space. Currently we are short of three classrooms, a staff room, offices and a school library.
In 2016, our first students will take their National Primary Leaving Exams. This is countrywide. These exams must be completed successfully in order to progress to a secondary school. This is an exciting time for us but also very challenging as we still need to complete the classroom for the grade seven students.
We want to thank all our supporters for what you have done for the children of Amazing Love School. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.
Please continue your support for the Amazing Love School project that is making a huge difference in the Nakyere community.
Phoebe and James Gonahasa