Our current Education beneficiary, Uganda Humanist Schools Trust, is raising funds to purchase a new school building for students in drought-stricken Kamuli, Uganda. This is a perfect opportunity for humanist organizations to come together in support of secular education.
The Mustard Seed School is of one of three rural secondary schools in Uganda that are supported by the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust. The school exists as a result of the remarkable commitment of Moses Kamya, a local Humanist and trained teacher who began by tutoring a small group of students in a temporary building. In 2005 he wrote to Caspar Melville, editor of the New Humanist and CEO of the Rationalist Association, to ask for help to establish a Humanist school. Caspar mounted a successful appeal, and the money raised enabled Moses to construct the first classroom on a small plot of land at the edge of the village of Busota, near the regional market town of Kamuli.
This year the area around Kamuli has been hit by the East African drought. The cost of water in the area has risen eight-fold over the past year, and there are long lines as people wait to fill their water carriers. Yields of corn, the staple foodstuff, are at an all-time low, and income from cash crops is down. The consequence for the school is that families are struggling to pay even the very low fees charged by the school. Our ongoing assistance is thus vital.
Uganda Humanist Schools Trust is a small charity, but we have accepted the challenge of refurbishing the very basic classrooms and providing new facilities so the Mustard Seed School can achieve the essential improvements demanded by local education inspectors.
As a result of help from readers of the New Humanist and, in the past two years, from the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust, the school’s facilities have been extended, and educational standards have been improved by the provision of books, computers, science materials, and money to improve staffing (see the Mustard Seed Reports on our website). Notable improvements include a link to the local electricity supply and the sinking of a bore hole for fresh water on-site. However, despite these efforts, the school still falls short of the required standards. A major constraint, apart from money, is that the original school site has little free space for additional buildings.
Plans were drawn up earlier in the year for a four-classroom block but, as a new build, the cost estimate was $40,000 – more money than we could raise. However, an adjoining Moslem school has closed down and been put up for sale. There is competition for the site, but our bid of $35,000 has been accepted. Gaining this will give the Mustard Seed a large extra plot of land, with an existing brick-built four-classroom block, office, kitchen, and additional latrines.
We have paid a deposit to secure the deal and have two months to raise the rest of the money required. To date we have raised just over half, $18,000. If supporters of Foundation Beyond Belief could join with us and other Humanist organizations, then we will be able to complete the purchase and secure the future development of the Mustard Seed School. This will allow the school to provide liberal secular education for generations of schoolchildren in this impoverished area of Uganda where, in the absence of the school, families have to rely on alternative schools that segregate children by religion.
CEO, Uganda Humanist Schools Trust