AASU believes that the key to sustainable community development is through education. By building schools with affordable fees and quality teaching, encouraging the attendance of both boys and girls at school, running adult education classes and community education sessions, AASU aims to enable the development of communities throughout the region.
Due to that, Arise and shine Uganda has set up a school in Kibuye with three (three) classrooms accommodating over 40 children per class. We have hired very highly qualified teachers to teach at the school and since we started there has been a visible positive change in the quality of education in the Kibuye community. The community has witnessed increased literacy (literacy being ability to read and write ). The community has also witnessed increased English speaking ability among children who attend Arise and Shine nursery and primary school.
Before this project, the village only had one school, consisting of two classrooms accommodating roughly 600 children. The children that can’t walk the distance to the school simply don’t attend. The majority of children do not attend school, either due to distance or family circumstance financially. Other children studied under trees which made school very hard especially during the rainy season. This led to the increase of school drop outs during such seasons of the year.
Education in Uganda
Within Kibuye, the nearest school to AASU is approx. an hour’s walk. It currently has around 600 students and only two classrooms, meaning the majority of lessons take place under mango trees outside. In Ugandan this is an quit normal situation. Given the villages economic dependence on bartering and subsistence farming, incomes are low. The average family, many of which are single parent, has at least 8 children to, theoretically, provide school fees for. Those that cannot travel the distance to the school, or afford its fees, currently do not receive any education.
The education system in Uganda is slightly different to many of those in other countries. In order to attend school, students must pass entry exams and provide school fees each term. Classes are based on an assessment of the student’s ability as opposed to their age and are therefore often a mix of ages working at the same ability. If students cannot provide school fees they cannot attend school, even if they have already made it halfway through the school year – they must repeat again the next year or whenever they return to school. If students do not pass the end of year exams they must also repeat the year (and pay school fees again). Instead of repeating school years and paying more school fees many children turn to finding work in unskilled labour in order to generate an income. Those that cannot afford school fees simply do not attend school.
A better chance at education
The current situation in Kibuye is that the majority of children out of education are girls. It is often the case that girls are viewed as being of a lower status than boys and more useful either being either sold into marriage or used in order to provide an income for the family – often to send their siblings to school. AASU is addressing the issue of girls education, immediately by having affordable school fees but also more gradually through community education sessions regarding the rights and women and girls.
As Sharon (AASU’s director) is a village girl herself, she is a great example of the opportunities an education can bring to both boys and girls. AASU has been holding meetings throughout Kibuye and will continue to do so, addressing the importance of education for both boys and girls. We currently anticipate a 2:1 ratio of boys to girls enrolling in February 2011. Whilst this is an encouraging start, it is hoped the numbers of girls enrolled will continue to rise and this imbalance will be addressed as the school becomes more established and the community awareness is raised through the educational sessions.