Saturday, February 18, 2012

Royal Pride photo album

The new term has started at Royal Pride Community Academy. As in every Ugandan school, children have come along with the necessary supplies: jotters, toilet rolls and brooms for sweeping the classrooms and compound. Not all of them of course, but among the 200 hundred or so learners, there's a reasonable enough supply of learning materials to be shared around.  A few have the new blue uniforms (much more practical and durable than the old violet gingham). Most, however, are making do with the uniforms they more or less fit into, handed down and often rather torn and shabby. Some, of course, have no uniforms at all.

So here is a quick photo tour of the new term at Royal Pride.

Owning a pencil is something to be proud of!

School work has started in earnest. In the big brick building, two teachers team teach the three nursery classes (Baby Class, Middle Class and Top Class), together with Primary 1 and Primary 2, about 100 children in all.  In the early years, some of the work is in English.....

....but most is in Luganda, the local language.

Papyrus screens separate the classes. Inspectors have recommended that they should be replaced by brick walls, to reduce noise, but there's no money for that just now. Primary 3 and Primary 4, each with their own teacher, occupy the other two 'classrooms' in the brick building. Each class has about 25 or 30 pupils, all hard at work when we visited. Godfrey and another teacher teach Primary 5,6, and 7, each with 15 to 17 pupils. These are much smaller classes than in most schools. In Uganda, the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) has set the pupil-teacher ratio at 1:53. In fact, most urban schools have classes of 70-100. In the country, classes can be 200 or more.

Soon it's half past ten, time for play...

...but, even more important, time for porridge. The cook has brought it from her home further up the hill, in big blue plastic buckets. The queues start - little ones first.

This isn't just any old porridge, it's Energy Booster - a soya/maize/millet mixture with added vitamins.

And it goes down well.

Older learners wait patiently.

Little ones take their precious mugs of porridge into the classroom.

Royal Pride is now attracting some children from slightly better off families, who can afford to send their them with a snack of chapatti, bread or similar, (like the little girl above). For most children, however, the porridge they receive at Royal Pride will be their first meal of the day, and will last them until they have their main meal (usually posho [maize porridge] and beans) at home in the evening. Classroom teachers at Royal Pride say that since the feeding programme has started, children's concentration has improved and, stomachs full, they settle down much better to their tasks. Feeding helps learning!

Plastic bowls, beakers, mugs - any container will do, as long as it contains porridge!

The older children too, wander off to their classrooms.

Primary 5, 6 and 7 use the old wooden building. It's not really safe for the younger ones, especially when it rains.  However, you can't always keep them out at playtime!

Nevertheless, the school fabric is getting better, thanks to Godfrey's enthusiasm, the parents' commitment and help from supporters in the UK. Sandbags now provide a barrier between the school compound and the swamp.The latrines have been replaced, thanks to support from our VSO cluster. (The previous ones were destroyed by floods.) The new latrines have separate sections for boys and girls. (There are still no latrines for the teachers.) These are the girls' latrines.

Godfrey and the parents have plastered the outside of the main brick building, and are adding bars to the windows. They hope to add proper wooden doors. We think it might be a good idea to make one of these doors a metal one, so that at least one classroom could be used to store resources. Theft is a major problem in this desperately poor community. However, this may not be a major priority just now.

The School Management Committee (like a Board of Governors or Parent Council) has erected papyrus fences round the perimeter and a corrugated iron gate to improve safety and security.

So what next for Royal Pride? Well, the key aim is to improve accommodation, resources and management so that the school meets the Ministry's Basic Requirements and Minimum Standards. Learning and attainment are already strong aspects of the school's work, despite the minimal resources.

Our VSO cluster in Kampala and the surrounding area has taken the decision to continue to support the school. The priorities for improvement are to:
  • improve the area around the new latrines and next to the swamp to reduce risk from disease;
  • raise the old wooden building onto a platform so that it doesn't keep getting flooded. Over time and with help, the school should be able to build brick walls around the old wooden walls just like it did with the new brick building;
  • build a kitchen building with integral fuel-efficient stove;
  • pay for National Water and Sewerage to take piped water from further up the hill down to a standpipe at Royal Pride so that the children have access to a safe water supply for drinking;
  • build dividing walls in the existing brick building and continue to improve it by adding proper doors and bars on the windows, for security.
In the longer term, it would be good to set up a sponsorship programme with an NGO like Lessons for Life.  However, first things first!

So a positive story about the determination of a community to provide the best education it can for its children. Thank you to all the people in the UK who are helping the people of Mutungo to achieve this. Thanks also to all the VSO volunteers, past and present, who have done so much to make the school what it is today.

You may also be interested in the following pages:

RPCA feeding programme

Background information about Royal Pride

If you scroll down the right hand side of this blog, you will find a whole section of posts about Royal Pride Community Academy, together with a slide show.

PS As with all posts which contain close-up pictures of children in named locations, the photos have been taken with agreement of the headteacher and with the understanding that the SMC/parents would be content.

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