TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — In Uganda, lack of resources and inequitable access to adequate institutions hinder access to quality education for children and adolescents. The majority of young people in Uganda only attend primary school from age 6 to 13 and less than 25% of students go to secondary school. UNICEF said that wealthy students mainly attend secondary school in Uganda, noting that “the secondary level enrollment of the richest 20% of the population (43.1%) is five times higher than that of the poorest 20% (8.2%) “. Additionally, the alarming rates of teenage pregnancies and forced marriages in Uganda have a life-altering effect on girls’ education in Uganda. Amazing Love Development (ALDO) is working to bring more attention to these educational challenges in Uganda, using its own Amazing Love School in Namutumba District to help children lead more successful lives.
The founders of ALDO
Canadian residents Phoebe and James Gonahasa founded ALDO after the couple visited Nakyere village in Namutumba district in 2001. During her youth, two teachers in Uganda raised Phoebe and despite having little modern equipment at the time, she considers her access to education as a privilege. Realizing the poor state of education after returning so many years later, Phoebe and James felt inspired to strengthen the community with a new school.
In an interview with The Borgen Project, ALDO President Sheilagh Clifton explained that “the Gonahasas began to save money and every summer returned to Uganda to visit family and oversee the construction of a multipurpose building, to serve as a community center and for children to go to school.” In 2006, the organization completed the construction of a multipurpose room, serving as a community center and an early childhood education establishment. Two years later, ALDO began construction of a nearby elementary school that provides elementary education and literacy programs to the community.
Pre-school education and primary school
ALDO’s educational programs serve to enhance children’s education and promote good character. Clifton says, “Namutumba district has high levels of dropouts and primary learning outcomes are quite low. The organization’s early intervention programs teach children the basics of literacy and numeracy, providing the educational resources to do so. Researchers from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development attest that children who receive an early childhood education are more likely to excel in higher education.
Children registered through ALDO can also receive education from the primary section to the second school. It is located about two kilometers from the original building. ALDO hiring and training qualified teachers teaching the Ugandan Primary Curriculum including English, Mathematics, Social Studies, Science and Religious Education. To circumvent the lack of electricity due to the school’s rural location, the organization provides solar power to parts of the school for basic services like printing, sending e -mails and photocopying.
Motivate students to continue their studies in Uganda
To assess student success, ALDO administers the Primary Learning Examination (PLE) that the Uganda National Examinations Council has designed. This compulsory exam tests seventh-grade students on English language, math, science and social studies in order to re-enter them into the next appropriate year of high school. Based on the results of the exam, the board divides students into four divisions, with division one being the highest passing and division four being the minimum requirement to pass.
Clifton is proud to share that, of the 11 students who took the exam in 2019, three passed in Division One, seven in Division Two, and one in Division Three. She added that “many of these children come to us two or three years ago, unable to read or write.” ALDO strives to improve the conditions in its school in order to achieve these scores consistently. Its goal is to motivate more students to progress to secondary school, giving young people “skills, abilities and social values for a a productive and healthy adult life.
Education breaks cycles of poverty
ALDO quotes on its website: “Education is a powerful vaccine against pandemics of poverty, disease and ignorance. For developing countries, public investment in education can break cycles of poverty. Residents of Nakyere village commonly practice subsistence agriculture to support their families and communities, earning little or no surplus. Clifton explained that “the community is trapped in crushing poverty even though there is a desire to break free”.
A 2014 study by the International Journal of Education and Research showed that one of the main causes of school absenteeism is domestic work. Children often have no choice but to farm or trade to make ends meet, disrupting the levels of education they receive.
ALDO’s kindergarten is currently the only one operating in Nakyere, making it a crucial element in improving accessibility to preschool education. According to the World Bank, kindergarten enrollment in Uganda was only 14% in 2017. To improve on these figures, ALDO works with parents to communicate the value of early education. The organization organizes sessions for parents each term, encouraging them to enroll their children in school.
Beyond basic education, ALDO also offers skills and leadership development. Each week, students participate in activities such as baking, basketry, pottery, music, and other skills with work-related applications.
Conditions in rural Nakyere leave much to be desired at ALDO. The biggest challenge facing the organization is the lack of resources for basic services and school needs. Clifton said the main campus runs classes “with an open room layout, where it’s very difficult to have separate areas for different subjects and activities.” The lack of electricity in the area limits the amount of light entering the school and the lack of tables and chairs affects students’ ability to engage in schoolwork.
The organization is currently working on expanding its kindergarten with building improvements and additional equipment with the aim of increasing the capacity of the kindergarten to 120 students.
The Amazing Love School student body has grown from 46 children to more than 300 children since its opening in 2006. ALDO continues to improve its primary section by hiring qualified teachers and providing training in professional development, communication and computer skills.
To promote gender balance, six of the school’s 15 teachers are women. ALDO also provides students with medical supplies and counseling sessions. James Gonahasa said that “there has been a sharp reduction in the number of girls married off early and fewer children working as servants or farm laborers during school hours”.
The Amazing Love School owes much of its success to the dedication of its co-founders, Phoebe and James Gonahasa. In 2019, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) recognized the couple with its International Humanitarian Award. ETFO President Sam Hammond praised the organization for “inspiring the hope and love of learning that will forever change the future of students.”
ALDO’s work in Nakyere village has had an immense impact on the pulse of the community. The establishment of two schools in Namutumba District sets a precedent for children’s vision of education in Uganda that will help break generational cycles of poverty perpetuated by child labor and general misunderstanding of the value of education. ‘school. ALDO offers students and teacher sponsorships on the Amazing love development website.