School for Life's students from our primary 7 class travelled across the country to visit Queen Elizabeth National Park where they took their first ever boat boat trip and encountered wildlife.
At School for Life we believe it takes community to build a community and last Wednesday, 21st of June our Ugandan and Australian communities came together to celebrate the official opening of our Secondary school in Mbazzi.
Attended by nearly 1000 supporters, it was a day full of laughter, happiness, tears and lots of dancing with performances from our students, teachers and construction workers.
Our students have been practising their performances for months and had every one up and dancing too!
Proud mothers, dressed in their finest attire to support the opening and enjoyed the festivities.
The school was officially opened by the Honourable Amelia Kyambadde, Minister of Trade, Industry & Cooperatives,here with our Uganda Country Director, Angela, our CEO, Annabelle and Director of Studies, Janepher.
Our incredible team have completed the construction of our Secondary School in just 12 months. This amazing, 16 classroom school, alongside our primary schools will allow us to provide quality education to 1600 students and impact over 5000 lives within our communities through initiatives such as community outreach programs, vocational training, employment opportunities and access to clean water and health clinics.
In January 2018, our first Primary graduates will come to Secondary School for the first time. We will also enroll additional students from other Primary Schools in the local area. We are beyond excited to welcome the next chapter of education for these students!
Thank you to all of our loyal supporters for your generous donations. We couldn’t have done this without you. You are helping to change the lives of thousands of Ugandans through the gift of quality education - thank you.
To support the build of our next primary school and make a tax deductible donation before EOFY, please click here
Our group of 20 ventured into the wilderness excited at the prospect of climbing Kilimanjaro.
For the majority, this was to be their first experience climbing at altitude, and the toughest challenge we've all embarked on so far. Here's a brief take on the 7 days that followed.
Day 1, Saturday 10th of June
Climbing Kilimanjaro presents a number of routes to choose from with one being the Rongai route. Today saw us set off taking this northern approach to the summit.
This commenced at 2,000m among the wilderness of a pine forest and past farms growing produce before meeting rockier terrain. 4 hours later, our slow but sensible ascent brought us to our destination for the night - Simba Camp, altitude 2,600m.
Along with dinner, so began the first night of Kili awards with winners each receiving a small handicraft prize.
Day 2, Sunday 11th of June
This would be our first full day of climbing properly. We felt the cold overnight and awoke to a light covering of frost on the grass outside our tents. This was a small price to pay for the blue skies above and warm sun which followed a short time later! Plus, our first spectacular views of Kilimanjaro. The warmth of the day had each of us consuming 3-4 litres of water which we were able to replenish at lunch.
Altitude symptoms also started coming into play affecting most of our group with headaches, nausea and dizziness.
After a solid 8 hours of hiking, we arrived at camp taking in spectacular views of the surrounds of Moshi, Mawenzi peak and Kilimanjaro. As the moon rose over Moshi, our camp doctor, Dr Jon Messing treated a few of the team ensuring they'd be good to go the next morning.
Day 3, Monday 12th June
Our team started out in bright spirits on what would be the steepest ascent so far climbing from 3,600m to 4,330m. Old school tunes kept up these spirits as the effects of altitude returned. We made it to camp by 2 pm ravenous and devoured coleslaw, soggy chips and cucumber. Our campsite at the base of one of Kilimanjaro's volcanic cones and the accompanying lake was beautiful - above the clouds we could see the sun set and the moon rise. Tuesday would be a day of rest and allowed us to further acclimatise.
Day 4, Tuesday 13th June
Our day of rest allowed for a later than normal start. The only activity scheduled was an acclimatisation walk around a crater rim which presented spectacular views back to our camp. Back at camp, Dr Jon Messing demonstrated how to use a Gamow bag, a portable altitude chamber which can provide stabilisation in the event of proper altitude sickness.
Over dinner, Antipas, the head guide outlined what was ahead in the days to come: Summit night (a really long day) would have us arising in the early hours of the morning and subsequently minimal sleep over 24 hours, 12 hours hiking, steep climbs, unpredictable weather including subzero temperatures, and lots of darkness.
Day 5, Wednesday 14th June and Day 6, Thursday 15th June
We began our day walking to Kibo base camp. Kibo is the Kilimanjaro's highest peak and the summit. Walking from our camp of the past 36 hours to Kibo base camp we were told to expect rains and high wind but got lucky with mainly sunshine. After lunch, we had a pre-summit night briefing and set about resting ahead of a 10 pm wake-up call.
Awaking at 10 pm we layered up like marshmallows with headlamps and set off at 11.30 pm in the cold and wind.
The next 8 hours would be a slog uphill with many affected by altitude sickness, the cold and general fatigue. As the sun started rising, we arrived at the crater rim and then began the 2 hour trek across the crater to the Summit.
Yes, we had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro!
3 hours later we'd completed our descent back to base camp with a widespread agreement this physical challenge was the most difficult anyone in our group had ever completed. Some likened it to being harder than childbirth!
However, base camp was not to be our final stop for the day. We set off for 4 more hours, the weather eased off and walking became easier as we made our way back down the mountain. By the time we reached Horombo camp, we'd been awake for 24 hours and walked for 18 of these.
Day 7, Friday 15th of June
Our final day. Despite sore feet and fatigue, we rose at 5.30am for a relatively 18-20km long walk out of the gate. The freshness of the morning was overcome by the sun and the alpine dessert soon turned to low scrub, forest and jungle.
We made it to the gate for lunch by midday celebrating with lunch, beer, champagne and even cake.
An hours drive later we reached our hotel and rushed to the pool, bar and showers before sitting down to dinner and reflected on the sense of achievement we each felt, after what was generally agreed to be the most challenging experience that most people had ever felt.
What about joining us in 2018?
As you've just read, climbing Mount Kilimanjaro is a fun opportunity to challenge yourself in ways you never thought possible, all while raising funds helping School for Life.
Whether you've already made your mind up, or, are just curious pre-register now and we'll be in touch with more information once dates are confirmed.
No question, the past year has flown by.
We want to pause and thank you for your generosity advancing our goal to make sure as many children as possible have access to a high quality education. As well, we also want to reflect on some of the highlights achieved.
With your support, we can continue changing children's lives and transforming developing communities in emerging countries.
There's now less than 30 days until EOFY.
Reduce your tax bill, make a donation now and enable our communities to continue to thrive.
Check out some of the highlights achieved over the past twelve months:
Teopista's teachers say she is a sweet, affectionate child and a joy to be around.
She is almost 10, and hasn't yet been able to go to school for a reason that's hard to comprehend in Australia.
She is deaf.
Because of her profound deafness, Teopista hasn't been able to communicate with her family.
In Uganda it is estimated there are two million Ugandan children who have been excluded from Uganda’s education system simply because they have special needs.
Because the illiteracy rate amongst adults is at 78%, parents of special needs children simply don’t understand why their children are developmentally or physically delayed. Instead of fighting for their children’s rights, children with special needs are often hidden away out of sight - for fear of stigmatization, shame and rejection from the community.
Even though Teopista lives within 2kms of our school grounds, her parents haven't sent her to school because she isn't able to communicate with them.
At School for Life, we have trained teachers who cater for a variety of our special needs children.
Our special needs teacher Joseph is himself deaf, and is therefore perfectly suited to educate Teopista, and to teach her and her parents how to sign so that Teopista is able to communicate with her family, her friends and our teachers.
We have been able to find all the Lugandan (the local Ugandan language) sign language tools in Uganda so that we can provide signing charts to Teopista's parents to also help her learn at home. We are also teaching all students and teachers how to sign, so that the entire school community is able to communicate with Teopista.
The video below shows Teopista communicating good morning in Lugandan sign language.
Christine Alice is a teacher at School for Life's Mbazzi campus, where she teaches Primary 1.
Christine Alice first heard about School for Life when she was studying at Teacher's College, saying her first impression of the school was that the students were so happy.
Christine Alice is the fourth-born child from six siblings, and the only child who has received a tertiary education. Her father had another two children and tragically their mother died, leaving the family with eight mouths to feed.
“My brothers and my parents work together selling many things: cabbages, carrots, potatoes and whatever else they can find to sell. My brother Fred buys vegetables from those who grow them and brings them home to sell. My brothers and parents support our family. It meant I could go to school.”
Her two youngest brothers are still in primary school, and Christine Alice says she will fight for them to be educated as it is the only way to break the cycle of poverty.
“My older brothers will do anything for work,” she explained. "Because they worked I was able to receive my training as a teacher, and my full-time salary will also help my family and I will be able to repay them," she said.
Growing up in a big family is typical in Uganda.
“I was the only girl with lots of brothers who looked after me. They gave me lots of care, like the princess in the family.”
Luckily for Christine Alice, she had been able to maintain her studies without having any time off.
“I love being with young kids and I can’t wait to teach literacy. I love storytelling. Early Childhood Development and music are my areas of expertise. I just love teaching so much!”
We know Christine Alice will create many happy memories with her students throughout the year and look forward to seeing all that she achieves with School for Life.
Completing homework is a problem in developing countries like Uganda, where only 1% of the population has access to electricity. Children complete chores, fetch water or work for their families after school, leaving no time for study. After a student at School for Life was seriously burnt by a kerosene lamp when studying, we found a solution to this complex problem which is surprisingly simple.
School for Life Foundation has been lucky to have an American Peace Corps volunteer living at our Katuuso campus for the past two years. Greg has become a valued member of the School for Life community - he will be remembered for his passion for reading and for his dedication to the the school's library.
Greg's shares his School for Life experience in this blog.
Working with children is an art form anywhere in the world, even though I had a degree in International Studies and had taken a crash course in literacy and ESL language studies, I had an incredibly steep learning curve. I also had to learn the local language consider the local culture, curriculum, language, and school culture.
However the assistance, guidance, and patience of my fellow teachers was invaluable as I helped out in classes, especially with regards to teaching English Literacy. One of the initiatives I worked on while at School for Life was our monthly D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything and Read) Days. On the last Thursday of each month, all classes and staff members stop normal lessons and activities to find a shady or secluded spot to participate in group read-alouds, small group reading, or individual reading for up to an hour. Monthly D.E.A.R. Days became a fun, exciting opportunity to break out of the normal routine and celebrate reading as a community. In addition to focusing on literacy-related activities around the community during my first year, I also worked with other teachers to design and implement lessons around Permagarden construction in conjunction with nutrition education and healthy living education that included lessons on disease prevention, cleanliness, sexual health, and stress management.
As my first year at Katuuso Primary came to a close, I found myself more and more gravitating to the school library. Not only was it a well-equipped and colourful learning space, we were also fortunate enough to have a collection of quality reading materials sent from Australia in addition to an impressive collection of locally-published readers – some written in Luganda language.
In the library I saw great, untapped potential. I first implemented a more functional organisational system, separating books into fiction, non-fiction, genre and reading level sections, and locally-published sections. I next came up with a regime of library rules and community expectations that all classes were trained on over the course of months. Instead of conducting lessons in classrooms, I found that everyone’s time could be best spent in the library, teaching and learning how to use the space most effectively. Over the course of the year, I also gave several workshops to the teaching staff about how to use the space, the basics of literacy, and how to perform an effective class read-aloud using critical thinking comprehension questions.
When it comes to broadening the horizons of people of all ages and cultural backgrounds, maps are a great way to illustrate the diversity of the globe. Orienting someone in time and space with the aid of a quality map can be the start of deep new understanding of the wider world outside of one’s respective bubble. For this reason, I also took on the project of painting a wall-sized world map one on the walls in the library. As a space of learning and reading, a world map perfectly complements a children’s library. At 3 metres by 1.5 metres, our library’s world map displays the names of more than 200 countries and territories in 7 vibrant colours, indicates the equator, and has a compass.
When the map was complete (it took six weeks), I wrote “Our World” around the perimeter of the map in the 15 most widely-spoken world languages, as well as in Luganda. For the second half of 2016, one of my favourite things to do was give short geography and history lessons to students visiting the library. What amazed me most about the map was the curiosity of our children and their hunger for knowledge of the wider world. Along with the geography lessons and games, I played music from around the world and sang in other languages.
I also implemented a library monitor programme training 20 mini-librarians. These students were trained on how to teach the library's rules, guide readers on proper book selection, and how to use the book organisation system. As responsibility and accountability was handed over to these children, they relished in the opportunity to demonstrate their expertise to their peers. Over time, use of the library increased and more and more children started using learning materials.
In terms of its impact on the wider community, I believe that of all the initiatives, projects, and activities that I participated in at Katuuso Primary, working to develop the functionality and proper usage of the library was the most valuable and will have the most positive impacts for years to come.
Now, two years later, my work as a Peace Corps Volunteer at Katuuso Primary has now come to a close. I feel overjoyed at the opportunity I was afforded to grow personally and professionally while also helping a Ugandan community to develop.
The life lessons I learnt living in a rural African village about living simply, appreciating what I have, and above all, the power of literacy and education will stay with me for the rest of my days.
In Katuuso Village, I saw first-hand the power of education to change lives, broaden horizons, and empower people with knowledge to change the world.
The slogan of School for Life – “Education Changes Everything” – should never be taken as just a slogan or platitude. It is a fundamental truth of the human experience. I got to live this first-hand for two years and for that I will be forever grateful to the School for Life and Peace Corps Uganda staff, fellow teachers, and students who have left their mark on me forever.
As I now finish my two years of Peace Corps service at School for Life Foundation, it's worth reflecting about how much has changed in this time. The community, the school, the staff, and students have grown and developed and it has been the opportunity of a lifetime and such a privilege to witness this growth first-hand over two infinitely rewarding years.
Please give generously this Christmas and help us educate 160 new students in 2017.
Uganda is a predominately Christian country, however Santa won’t be dropping off presents to most children who live here. In contrast to Australian kids, Ugandan children don’t want presents – what they would prefer is the freedom and opportunity that comes with having an education, access to clean running water, nutritious meals and healthcare.
School for Life has 160 new students starting in 2017, bringing the total number of children in our care to 560, with 125 teachers and staff. We have set the ambitious target of raising $80,000 over the next 59 days to set up our new 160 students with everything they need to have the best start to the New Year.
You're invited to come along with our CEO and Co-Founder Annabelle to meet our School for Life students, teachers and staff in Uganda. This is your chance to see exactly where your fundraising dollars go and to celebrate the official opening of Mbazzi Riverside School. You’ll get a view of Ugandan life like no other when you come with us to our schools where you’ll be greeted with open arms by our students and staff. After your time at school you can head off on a wildlife safari to see Africa’s animals up close, including the rare mountain gorillas.