Education is the most powerful tool that can lift people out of poverty, transforming communities anywhere around the world. Reducing poverty is key to sustainable development! Education fosters economic development and reduces the gap between the rich and the poor, and it encourages social cohesion and arguably world peace. PARC tries to support the most vulnerable children through education, helping them to get the most from their time at school and providing a foundation for a productive and happy future.
In Uganda, early childhood development centres (ECD) such as pre-schools and day care are not state funded, and almost non-existent in rural areas. Pre-school is a great opportunity for school readiness. It enhances language skills, cognitive and social development, and promotes the well-being of the whole child. It helps children start primary school with a higher learning capacity and more confidence, which increases their ability to succeed.
There are few ECD services available in Uganda; the little existing quality pre-schools can only be found in the major urban centres (towns) and are prohibitively expensive. Neither rural poor orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) nor their caretakers can afford the fees for quality Nursery Education. Therefore, rural vulnerable children often miss this chance of early education in their life that gets them fully prepared for government schooling. Neither orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) nor their caretakers can afford the fees for quality Nursery Education.
With the HIV/AIDS crisis and other deterrents like war having claimed millions of lives and left over 2 million orphans, who have no immediate person to turn to due to large family size and high burden resulting from very limited resources (living in poverty). A free school to orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs), while providing an affordable, quality education to the other children would initiate a profound change to the impoverished community, and ultimately catalyze lasting benefit for generations to come.
PARC is keen to establish and manage model schools (nursery, primary, secondary, Vocational schools) in Uganda, not only to provide low-cost quality education to the students but also double to serve as after school tutoring (AST) centres, functional adult literacy (FAL) centres and a source of new ideas and a place for collaboration – serving as a hub for the entire community (teachers, parents, and other schools).
OWN SCHOOLS FOR ORPHANS
SHINE PREPARATORY SCHOOL
We are currently owning and managing Shine Preparatory School that started in 2018 – this is our flagship school project!. The school selection criteria includes;- orphans, children affected or infected by chronic illnesses such as HIV/AIDS & Cancers, and vulnerable children living in abject poverty. Our hope is to make it a high quality nursery and primary school that will accommodate many of the sponsored orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) and attract many children from the neighboring communities.
The standard method of teaching in Uganda is the “chalk and talk” technique, with students learning by rote or copying from a blackboard. We have been introducing our teachers to alternative, child-friendly methodologies of teaching and trying to promote a more interactive learning environment. Our strategy is focused on offering child centred methods of education with an emphasis on learning through play and creativity.
Using the curriculum and textbooks recommended by Uganda’s Ministry of Education, our teachers expand children’s holistic learning experience focused on leadership, creative thinking, and practical life skills in addition to covering extra-curricular activities such as drama and sports giving the students opportunity to work together. Through Shine Preparatory School, PARC;-
- Gives children first class education in a safe, stimulating environment (We make the children’s education fun and effective).
- Offers ‘No Pay’ (free) education to double orphans (children with all parents dead), while single orphans (children with one parent) and children living with or affected by HIV only pay ‘Half Fees‘ (subsidized fees).
- Offers ‘Low Cost’ quality education to all children from the community (children who are not in our sponsorship program pay just little school fees).
- Provides Student Support through after school/ weekend academic tutoring for the children and a study centre for functional adult literacy (FAL) to women.
- Gives an opportunity to sponsor orphans and vulnerable children (individuals and organizations from around the world can support the education of a vulnerable child).
- Hope to support teacher training (seeks experienced teachers from around the world to come and assist in teaching or holding workshops for nursery and primary school teachers).
School meal program
PARC is providing a daily break porridge and lunch to every pupil attending our school (Shine Preparatory school) to helps fuel bodies and minds for productive learning. This school feeding program provides a daily hot break porridge and lunch to more than 130 pupils who, would otherwise go through the day learning on an empty stomach.
This project is giving the children an incentive to come to school and to maintain regular attendance. The community members are project partners; our Catering Group (Caretakers Project) provides training to locals employed as cooks and provides a measured recipe for food production, and the parents contribute towards food and firewood during the school year.
By providing school meals to children in school, we remove hunger as a barrier to learning as it encourages pupils to attend school in the first place and then keeps them there throughout the day.
SAFE PUBLIC SCHOOLS
Creating safer learning environment
Most children in Uganda grow up with limited access to toys, books and other materials that prepare children for school learning. More often than not, they begin school with limited basic skills, including insufficient language development, problem-solving abilities and hand-eye coordination. These tools are critical for success in school. Without them, children are set up for failure even before their first day in the classroom
This project to create safer learning environment, aims at supporting the access to safer learning spaces contributing to quality Education by vulnerable Children. To achieve this, PARC works through but NOT limited to the following of intervention areas;-
- Provide sexual and reproductive health (SRH) education in schools and the community; which is supported by offering reusable menstrual kits and counseling to school-aged girls so that they do not skip schooling during their periods.
- Improving sanitation (build gender separate hygienic toilets, hand-washing stations), renovating and/or constructing classrooms / libraries and/or equipping them with furniture, and providing teaching-learning materials.
- Teaching parents the importance of sending their children to school and how they can ensure that their children stay in and complete school. This involving training parents, teachers and school administrators (management committees) on how to keep children engaged in learning using interactive methods, and also training parents about income-generating activities that can fund the education of children; as well as the importance of students’ savings bank accounts and its application as micro-insurance for child education.
- Provide refresher training on school safety guidelines and policies for teachers, school management committees (SMC) and parents-teachers associations (PTA). We then help establish and monitor school policies and practices that promote and protect the welfare of children
- Running mini (satellite) libraries in partner schools so children access age-appropriate engaging earning resources (inspiring books, educational games and toys) both in -and out of their school time.
- Run an academic enrichment program through after school/ weekend tutoring and mentoring through which we link primary school children with secondary student, setting up reading clubs and organizing competitions in reading/ spelling and debate to help young learners improve their skills.
- Working on the global school circles program that connects international schools with local schools, creating opportunities for global exchange (pen-pal project, teachers training and sharing learning resources through video conferencing and or mission trips as well as financial support to Ugandan schools.
Menstrual hygiene (MH) and WASH
One of the most critical gaps in ensuring that children and schools remain safe, and the leading a barrier to girls’ education, particularly during puberty is lack of access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities. PARC is addressing this by integrating menstrual hygiene management (MHM) with WASH through;-
- Conducting education on general health and menstrual hygiene in schools. We start our awareness efforts with the teachers, school management committee (SMC) and parent-teacher association (PTA) bringing both males and females on board and integrating them into the conversation.
- Engaging parents (mothers and grandmothers) and teachers with adolescents to promote girls’ development and success at school through a series of activities to contribute to creating a supportive environment for education sessions and inter-generational discussion forums to reduce risks of teenage pregnancy and early/forced marriage.
- Distributing low-cost reusable sanitary pads (washable menstrual kits) to girls so that they do not skip schooling during their periods, and offer counseling to ensure school-children stay focused aged girls.
- We also work to bring WASH infrastructure in schools and other public places. Here we build gender separate toilets, install hand-washing stations and improve access to clean water.
- We also encourage women through the village savings groups (VSLAs) to purchase the pads and then sell them to girls/women at a subsidized rate, allowing these vendors to sell pads for an affordable price and still make a profit.
Teacher training and support
In conjunction with child sponsorship, we are planning to regularly train teachers in child-centred teaching methods appropriate for each age group coupled with providing learning materials – making sure staff are motivated and well supported. The teachers will be trained to set up and manage high quality programs with rich and stimulating environments.
Through the global school circles and experienced volunteer teachers from around the world, PARC will each year develop or deliver hands-on training workshops for coach teachers, tailored to Uganda’s Ministry of Education, Sports and Technology curriculum. This training will cover everything from lesson content to teaching methodology and helping these teachers support education for girls and people living with disabilities, and address social issues such as peace-building and children’s rights through their lessons. The primary objective is to train a cohort of talented local teachers who will then work as coach teachers (mentor teachers).
The mentor teachers will be teachers within local schools who have shown outstanding leadership skills and a strong grasp of teaching methods. They will responsible for setting the training goals for each school year, running weekly teacher meetings, developing workshops and supporting their fellow teachers, day-to-day, through on-going classroom observations. They will regularly assess teacher performance against explicit criteria established by the teachers themselves.
Through the project, PARC will closely collaborate with the stakeholders to provide funds to pay and support the work of mentor / coach teachers.
There are over 2.4 million orphaned children in Uganda, the majority of whom were orphaned by HIV/AIDs. This rise in the proportion of child-headed households, with children assuming the role of carers for their siblings, and child labourers has meant a rise in illiteracy. According to UNICEF, 1 out of 4 Ugandan children live in extreme poverty, many of whom cannot afford to go to school. For many children living in poverty, a family’s inability to afford school requirements often stands in the way of them receiving an education. Unfortunately in most families, the girls’ education is often deprioritized as boys are sent first and girls assume more domestic responsibilities as they get older. While Uganda has a universal education policy, making public schools free for all children, the cost of education is still extremely high and few households can afford to send their children to schools. As we all know that for parents with monthly incomes of averagely $ 60, saving money for their children’s education is not an option. It is even worse for the orphans under the guardianship!.
Without education, the lives of children are constrained by a recurring cycle of poverty and unemployment with few, if any, opportunities to break this cycle. A quality education is not just about providing sufficient classrooms, teachers and books; it is also about providing opportunities and experiences. That is why, as well as upgrading buildings and providing resources, PARC is working on the following projects;-
Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) sponsorship project
In Uganda, it is well known that “universal access to education” does not mean free education, especially in a weak system lacking learning facilities, which is often overcrowded, and full of overworked teachers and administrators. In this situation, the poor families (parents) need help to send their children to/in school and children need support to keep them engaged with school and be able to complete their education.
The Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVCs) are in urgent need of support particularly with tuition fees, uniform including shoes, school supplies (books, pens, pencils, school bags, etc) and school meals, which their parents and or caretakers cannot afford. To realize this, PARC connects Ugandan vulnerable children with international sponsors to particularly support their education, as a way to help them get out of poverty.
Depending on the needs, the sponsorship program pays either part of – or all school expenses, including school supplies and school lunch ensuring that child’s caretakers are not dissuaded from supporting the child’s education by the many costs involved in sending her/him to school. Some of our sponsored children attend Shine Preparatory School and other select schools (private and /or public).
At PARC, we are therefore committed to:-
- Supporting the orphans and vulnerable children (OVCs) through providing uniforms, books, pens, exam fees, and meals at the schools they attend, or through free or subsidized educational costs as well as provide scholastic materials at Shine Preparatory School.
- Find and connect children to interested sponsors! We find and profile children in need of support so anyone interested can select a child she/he wants to sponsor! The sponsorship costs are as follows;-
For nursery (pre-school/kindergarten ) level, the cost is $44 per term (3 months) which is just $132 annually — translating into $11 monthly.
For primary (elementary) level, the cost is $72 per term (3 months) which is just $216 annually — translating into $18 monthly.
For secondary level, the cost is $120 per term (3 months) which is just $360 annually — translating into $30 monthly.
- Directly uses the sponsorship money each term to pay for school fees, school supplies (books, pens and pencils), school uniform (including shoes), School bag, Lunch and holiday packages for the sponsored children as well as administrative charges (letters, photocopies, printing, bank charges).
- The sponsored children (and or child’s caretakers) do not receive the money as cash – giving cash directly is not desired as it would be used in meeting other family needs other than children education.
- Provide sponsors with a thank-you letter and a full profile of the children they are sponsoring, which includes name, basic information of his/her family, the school and his or her picture and the academic progress of the children (a progress report from the school and a letter from child’s teacher) each term (3 times a year).
- Our staff monitors the children both in their school and family situations through visitation at least on monthly basis (thrice a term), meets both teachers and parents to discuss the students’ academic performance, etc.
- Encouraging sponsored children to give-back by voluntarily participating in ‘community service’. For example, a student can help teach younger pupils in after school/ weekend tutoring, providing labour during construction project, joining the catering group, etc.
- To reduce children’s family dependence on aid, we are providing Aflateen social and financial education to these children, teaching them about savings, budgeting/ spending, child enterprise and social responsibility. We support income-generating activities in their families.
Academic enrichment project
In Uganda, while qualified teachers may exist, many still deliver using traditional methods (rote learning) and lack skills on more effective student-centred learning that instead help students learn how to apply knowledge. Their students struggle to learn and achieve even basic literacy and numeracy. Consequently, many students drop out of school and others finish without being able to read or write properly. It is believed that, more than 10% of Ugandan young people aged 15-24 are unable to read and write! In more remote communities, teaching materials and libraries are non-existent, and travelling to a library can be impossibly expensive.
PARC believes that, it is not just books that communities need, but also safe places where people can access the books and other reading materials. Because there is no single solution, we are using a mix of ingredients to promote literacy and numeracy levels among Ugandan children. We are therefore working on the following;-
After school / weekend tutoring
This offers all children in the community opportunities throughout the year to receive additional academic tutoring either individually or in small groups, focusing on building competency in the core subjects of English (reading and writing), Math and Science.
In addition, linking primary pupils with secondary students by pairing primary school children with secondary school students (as individual tutors) with priority focus those children who are seriously behind in English (reading and writing), as well as those who are struggling with a learning disability.
We are also integrating this after school/ weekend tutoring and early childhood development (ECD) into functional adult literacy (FAL) programs. This also entails organizing parent/teacher meetings and conducting home visits to ensure joint responsibility of children’s education.
Community Library and Computer Centre
We are developing community library to be stock with books and computers hooked on the internet so school children and other people from the community can access a wealth of appropriate educational resources and quality information.
The initial idea has been to get reading materials out to encourage pupils to take advantage of them, rather than just waiting for the pupils to ask — through a mobile library approach where a small book-box carried on a motorcycle is moved across schools through scheduled visits. This strategy seems to be unsustainable, and we are redesigning to set-up a core/ static library, that will be mother to and feed mini (satellite) libraries in different villages or partner schools so children can access engaging-learning resources (inspiring books, educational games and toys) both in -and out of their school time.
Once satellite or mini-libraries are set-up, children will subscribe so they can take out a new book every week on condition that they have returned the previous one. In addition to accessing books, these mini-libraries will also be used as village ‘reading centres’, which will then be used after-school/ weekend tutoring to the village children and functional adult literacy (FAL) classes to the women.
In addition to basic literacy, we plan to pilot ways to use technology (internet) to improve educational outcomes and livelihoods, using tablets and educational games to engage school children.
Social and financial education for children
Generally, education of Uganda is of a substandard level, with emphasis based on academic achievement and preparation for white collar positions. Many children often lack, despite years of schooling, the opportunity to develop essential and basic skills they need in life to attain independence, e.g. social skills, financial skills, etc.
It is for this reason that PARC, is integrating Aflatoun (a balance social and financial education Curriculum) in its academic enrichment program for children in- and out of school. Aflatoun is a professional program that enables children to develop and even expand themselves on social, financial and personal level. Through this program, the children learn about themselves, rights and responsibilities, saving and spending, planning, budgeting and undertaking new initiatives. The program is applied with wide success in various diverse countries and is also recognized by UNICEF and other international organizations.
Through Aflateen /Aflatoun education, we help vulnerable children overcome the inequalities that can hold them back or support them to go to school, learn important health rights and life skills so they have the power to make better decisions and become successful after leaving school. Under this project, PARC implements the following;-
- Bringing together the children with various guest speakers (from Agriculture, business and bankers, etc) to celebrate annual days: With the help of teachers, children organize various activities to share things they have learnt in this program. It also creates awareness and disseminates information to the local authorities including media.
- Training trainees (including school teachers and social workers) on the concept and the methodologies used in Aflateen education curriculum covering “Five Core Elements”; – Self-Understanding and Personal Exploration, Rights and Responsibilities, Saving and Spending, Planning and Budgeting, and Social and Financial Enterprise. The trained trainees are then supported by our staff to conduct training sessions for in and out of school children.
- Facilitate formation of the Aflateen Club, providing children a platform to express their feelings, discuss the issues they face, and learn from peers. The children in club then be facilitated and supported to discuss and organize run a social or financial project (enterprise) – such as income generating activity or a savings (Aflateen Bank), giving them firsthand experience to think critically, experiment planning and budgeting, and learn things on their own. Money earned in the enterprise activity is not important rather than the learning of how to start a business and the pre-requisite of it. This exercise develops ambitions of children of becoming an entrepreneur. It is supplemented by facilitating children’s visit to any social or financial enterprise (markets, community projects or banks) to give exposure and demonstration on enterprise set up and functioning, as well as reinforce the learning and sharing of ideas.
- Promoting vocational preparedness through formation of the Entrepreneurship Lab, which is conceived to be a place where the young child feels at home to gain knowledge, garner and practice some of the skills to nurture the entrepreneurial streak. The concept behind the Entrepreneurship Lab is to provide opportunities for these young learners think critically and acting in an enterprising ways to overcome challenges. It also has a clear focus on core and soft skills, and the ability to transfer them to different contexts in the different work surrounding.
SCHOOL GLOBAL CIRCLES
The decades of Uganda’s political conflicts kept many people from going to school, and reinforced the cycle of poverty. The introduction of ‘Universal Education policy’ in 2007 lead to tripled growth in school enrollment that lead to over-crowded classrooms, high student-to-teacher ratios, lack of classroom furniture (desks and chalkboards), lack of adequate sanitary facilities – very high student to toilet stance ratio and no provision for water supply and hand-washing, without any feeding program for children during the day, etc. Also, the government‘s allocation of text-books to public schools phased-out in way back in 2004 – meaning that the old-out-dated books need to be replaced with new ones. In addition, the teachers still use the traditional classroom teaching techniques, giving children little chance to learn on their own.
The concept behind this global school circles is to get education ‘Outside Classrooms’ such that each school in the program will contribute to the understanding and benefit of the other, generating a 4-way traffic in terms of cultural exchange, international development, educational enhancement, and technology access. Beyond this, international schools/ school children will collaborate to design and implement solutions to the identified challenges that involve financing a pressing need at a partner school in Uganda.
The high cost of education in Africa presents a major challenge for most students who are financially poor and even without parents in some cases. Therefore, the twined international schools (the children) will subsidize some of the cost at the Ugandan match school; where Ugandan schools use donations from the international partners for purchase of supplies (books and class materials), maintenance and expansion of school facilities, paying teachers’ salaries, providing noon-meal, and other essential school expenses. On the other hand, pen-pals (or their families) could decide to directly sponsor their Uganda pals.
We believe the partnership benefit pupils, teachers, and parents from both schools in the different countries and continents – culturally, morally, spiritually and socially – creating global peace and harmony. Through this project, the children will develop their ability to engage their parents (wider community) in discussions about international development. This will not only promote global understanding, but help them to build character, respect and develop responsibility as global citizens.
How are we doing it?
- PARC links local Ugandan schools with an international school (in developed countries). This partnership is based on educational and cultural exchange opportunities for creating global learning environment between the partners.
- Upon the international school confirming their participation (confirm number of students to be involved at the start, confirm financial goal per term, etc), we find a match school from Uganda – making introductions on the project and moderating communication between matched schools.
- Once we get a Ugandan school confirming the participation, we send details of the Ugandan match to the international school. We then closely engage the matched schools, seeking their inputs to create and agree on the timeline of activities.
- Once a timeline is agreed, then the international school writes an introductory letter to their Ugandan match (partner school). The Ugandan partner responds as soon as possible!
- A pen-pal program in partner schools is created, where interested international children are matched with Ugandan children – they begin sharing letters, photos/drawings and videos (Day in Life Video documentary).
- In addition, we promote the use of technology (e-mails and video calls) in this partnership. We organize video call-meetings between partners to keep teachers and children engaged. The rural Ugandan students do not have their own e-mail accounts, so we will have them write in their letters, scan and send attach files (saved in their names and those of their pen-pals) through our e-mail.
- The international works on fundraising for its Ugandan match (the donation is send via PARC bank account), and delivered to the Ugandan partner school.
- We send regular updates including letters, photos and videos (via e-mails, social media) to keep partners informed on news/ events and progress so students can see the direct impact their support has made
The project concept
International schools in the developed countries are partnered with schools in Uganda in a minimum of three (3) year relationship that runs through core 6 elements that empower the children for global citizenship.
Any interested school (be it kindergarten, elementary or high school) and even college or university can participate. Participation in this project is FREE, but international partner schools are expected to raise funds to support PARC’s work in their twin (Ugandan match) schools. The schools will receive fundraising certificates, reports with details and photo on the use of funds.
By participating in the project therefore, both organizations (institutions) will:-
- Cross-promote and market programs and/or materials to appropriate constituents. This can involve featuring student generated /supported projects in any press such as newsletter or magazine and reports.
- Grant permission to promote the project on each other’s website and social media (if available) and to be identified as partners.
- Develop joint initiatives that can help further our organizations collective impact.