when our children graduate from nursery school they can join primary school and when they graduate from primary school they can move on to secondary school to ensure that they remain under our care as we continue to monitor, mentor, and support them through all our integrated programs. These schools also double to also provide after school tutoring (AST) centres, functional adult literacy (FAL) centres, and local hub for the community (children, teachers and parents). Through these schools, orphans get FREE education while other needy children get SUBSIDIZED education. As part of community involvement and sustainability, parents of non vulnerable children (those not on PARC program), pay a small amount towards their children’s education. This amount is affordable, and encourages ownership, yet demonstrating that education is valuable.
Why invest in our own schools?
The main problem with education in Uganda is that it is not free. Not even the Universal Education program (free as published by the Ugandan government) is truly free. While tuition may be free, parents/guardians still have to pay for uniforms, school supplies, school meals, PTA fees, building contribution, etc. If the family is unable to pay, the children are chased away from school– this means that the poorest of society simply cannot attend. The orphans and girls are the most affected children! In addition, there is poor quality of learning in most public schools due to several factors such as over-crowded classrooms, lack of teaching materials, lack of motivation and encouragements for both children and teachers, lack of monitoring for both students and teachers, to mention a few.
DAYCARE AND NURSERY SCHOOLS
In many African countries, including Uganda, men strive to show their worth by fathering as many children as possible. This is particularly true for the unemployed, low-income working class. Thus, the overwhelming majority of women in Uganda today are not only illiterate but poor, frustrated, and helpless. They carry the burden of childbearing and child-rearing, often with little or no financial support. High illiteracy and birthrates remain a problem that is stalling the productivity and potentials of many poor women.
Only 9% of the children aged 3 – 5 are currently being enrolled in nursery or preschool which translates into a gap of 91% yet there is a positive link between early childhood learning and the future holistic development of a child. While Early Childhood Development (ECD) is an important facet of an effective educational journey for any child, it is not provided for nationally which inevitably excludes children from vulnerable families from accessing it. And because there are no ECD facilities, the mothers work with their children strapped to their backs – and these children spend nearly all day without a meal. In contrast, the traditional childcare centers in Uganda are very expensive and usually provide services for children aged 3 and older.
Our daycare centers will use an integrated approach offering multi-service early learning, child-care, and family support. We will run daycare centers caring for children aged 1.5-3 years while educating the mothers/caregivers on the basics of early childhood development (ECD) – especially in the areas of childcare, play, and nutrition, as well as support them generate employment opportunities for them through savings and lending associations (VSLAs). This will be an important step toward increasing women’s independence and helping them reach a position in which they can negotiate greater control over their bodies (family planning), family budgeting, and support the health of their children such as immunization campaigns.
A play-based approach to children’s learning and development will the basis for our program planning and delivery of activities. To help families give their young children the best start in life, the center will also be a place for children aged 0-6, their parents, and caregivers to take part in programs and activities together – this will allow the parents/ caregiver to get information about services available to them in the community, learn about their children’s development and get answers to their questions. Our daycare will not only help prepare children for entry into primary schools but also will provide a foundation to well succeed when they join the primary school – improve their school grades and will be empowered to follow their dreams. PARC’s plan is to establish daycare centers in different villages/communities to make ECD services more accessible, which will also serve as Functional Adult Literacy (FAL) centers in those communities to help women to acquire basic literacy and numeracy skills – allow them to confidently make informed decisions and business deals on their own.
SHINE PREPARATORY SCHOOL
With help of international volunteers in 2016, we started paying school fees for 12 children attending different local schools. Besides challenges to monitor and supervise the attendances and progress of our children in different schools, we started getting several applications from families caring for orphans, yet having many other children to cater for – we had limited resources against a huge demand from the community. With grant support in 2017, we implemented an after-school tutoring program to improve children’s academic performance. This program brought together many children from different schools (in the same classes) but at different levels of learning. The need to overcome supervision and monitoring of our sponsored children at different schools, coupled with a desire to help more orphaned children and address low-quality teaching and enhancing quality learning in primary school gave birth to the Shine Preparatory school (SPS).
What is PARC’s school?
Started in 2018 on PARC’s own land, Shine Preparatory School (SPS) is a private mixed, day nursery and primary school. We adopt interactive child-friendly learning methodologies to provide education services using the Ugandan curriculum blended with globally proven Aflatoon curriculum (social & financial education to children) in addition to extracurricular activities. We emphasize learning through play, critical thinking, and creativity – preparing our students not only to succeed academically but also to become leaders and advocates for change in their homes and communities.
The school caters to all our sponsored children, who are joined by other children from the surrounding communities. Unlike many private schools in Uganda, at SPS the vulnerable children have fees waived off – orphans don’t pay any fees (FREE education) while other at-risk children pay half of the school fees (SUBSIDIZED education). All other children pay affordable school fees that cover only a small percentage of the instructional expense but produce a strong family commitment to education.
As of 2020 when schools were shut due to COVID-19, we had enrolled 210 children. We know how important it is for a child to be motivated and to be able to concentrate in class and to ensure the children perform at their best, PARC provides them with break porridge and non-meal every day. Children also get free all the necessary stationery (pens and pencils FREELY). Our teachers are committed to unlocking the potential of every child that comes through Shine doors so they can become the country’s next generation of leaders.
PARC SECONDARY SCHOOL
Upon graduation from SPS, each child would go to a secondary school of their choice but because we are uncertain of the funding (particularly for PARC’s supported children), we prefer that they continue and complete schooling through PARC schools. To achieve this, we plan to start a secondary school in 2023 (although the IMPACT OF COVID may slightly affect this!), with 1 class (senior one). Each year, we will have another class added to accommodate students promoted to the next class as well as create space for students entering secondary school – qualifying from SPS and other surrounding schools.
Why start a secondary school?
Using an innovative model of using fee-paying children to subsidize the school operation costs, PARC is providing over 50 orphans with completely FREE primary education – children without sponsors. In addition, we continue to oversee our children’s development, including counseling and medical care. Without a secondary or high school education, girls are more likely to marry while young, run away to the city to get a low-wage job, or become sex workers. Boys also end up working low-paying jobs and never escape the cycle of poverty.
An important part of our mission is to ensure that children reach their potential by going to secondary and high school. A strong education is our greatest hope for our children to begin envisioning a life beyond orphan-hood. As our children will be graduating from SPS in 2022, the need for a secondary school will become very clear if these orphans must continue with their education in 2023.
Because there is no secondary school in the community children have to travel far from home to attend secondary school. If our students are able to remain at home, they can help their parents with household chores and stay in their own community where they will be surrounded by the positive influences of their family and the PARC team. Children who have been orphaned face barriers that other children don’t. PARC is better equipped to help these students overcome those barriers than other secondary schools because we have years of experience working with orphans.