The story of a poor family
The Nalongo* family would have been destined to almost inevitable failure had it not been for our sponsorship programme.
The father’s life was disrupted by war which killed many of his relatives in the 1980s. He then succumbed to AIDS and as he weakened was unable to do even the work that George offered him to try to sustain his family. Mother, Nalongo*, tried to support her 6 children by selling vegetables on the morning market, often earning less than £1 a day.
The children were enrolled in primary school, but were sent home from class on numerous occasions because there was a shortfall in the school fees that were necessary to keep them there. Even after five of them had been sponsored, the problem did not go away because they live in town where costs are higher than in the villages where we normally work. That was another problem we had to surmount.
Even at that stage, we feared that the children were destined to failure; that the very best they could hope for would be to complete their primary school years. Pleasingly, with more regular attendance, their results began to improve. They were undoubtedly aided by the gifts that they often received from their sponsors.
So where are we up to? Four of the children (perhaps I should now call them students) are attending secondary school after their sponsors generously agreed to pay the additional fees necessary for that level.
There are the twins, Patience who will take her UCE (the Ugandan equivalent of GCSE) at the end of this year and Wasswa who is a year behind his sister. Two more sisters, Hellen and Sharon, have just been promoted into the second year, while Shinan, will take her Primary Leaving Exam at the end of 2018.
Despite their difficulties, they are always such a cheerful, welcoming family and it is always a pleasure to meet them on our regular visits.
*To have a family surname is unusual in Uganda, and you will have noticed that we call them the Nalongo family. The mother is called Nalongo; it means the mother of twins.
A serious but rarely mentioned problem for Ugandan girls
There are many reasons why girl children underachieve in Uganda. The country has a traditionally male dominated culture. Girls are needed at home to cook, clean and care for younger siblings. If the family can only afford education for one child, it is nearly always the girl who will lose out. Then there are the issues of pregnancy and early marriage.
Because of all these problems, we have always tried to give that extra helping hand to girl children in need. But there is an additional concern that is too often unspoken.
Many girls in rural Uganda lose several days’ education every month because they are on their periods and do not have access to sanitary protection. It is easy to see how humiliated and stigmatised they can feel when they have to use pieces of old t-shirts or even toilet paper (if the school has any available) and then fasten a sweater around their waist to hide their embarrassment.
It is hard for us to understand that this is a major cause of girl under-achievement and even school drop-out.
This year we have used the income from our membership scheme to start to try to address this problem. We have purchased sanitary protection to help 50 girls in both primary and secondary school to give them help throughout 2018.
This money has come directly from membership fees. At this stage, we have only got around 50 members. If you are not already among them, please join us. Your subscription will be ring-fenced to help the children directly
How much will it cost you? We ask a minimum of £5 per person per annum – less than the cost of a take-away pizza! Please don’t hesitate to ask for details.
Primary Leaving Exam (PLE)
As I am sure you are aware by now, a pupil at the end of her or his years in primary school does not have the right to go to secondary school without a pass in this exam. I am delighted to be able to report that 6 of our sponsored children succeeded this year and that we have managed to secure funding for 5 of them to continue their education. Well done boys and girls and thank you to the sponsors.
Children receiving gifts
Sponsors often go beyond what we ask of them to support their child through education. Here are two photos of youngsters receiving gifts that have been bought for them.
Kenisha’s situation is a little bit different. After being diagnosed with diabetes, she had to leave Bubebbere as no health care is available anywhere near the village. She now lives in Entebbe, but the monthly cost of her medicines is a real drain on family resources. So her gift from the sponsor? Payment for her treatment; a life-saving gift.
Re-roofing the classroom block at Bubebbere
For more than 2 years, we have been slowly accumulating the funds necessary to pay for this most important job. If it is not done soon, the work we did on the interiors is going to deteriorate. We still need just over £1,000. We are determined to raise the balance this year. Until it is done, other necessary projects have to be on hold.
Westwood Primary School
Our partner school at Clayton-le-Woods continues to give us superb support. On this occasion, our son Rogan has promised to try to make himself the most glamorous man in Lancashire! See the attached funding barometer. All support will be gratefully received.
We have hand-made Ugandan crafts for sale. We are looking for community events where we can set up our stall. Any ideas will be very welcome.