“The children’s motivation to study again in the newly renovated classrooms knows no bounds.”

Till Gröner, sponsor of the PATRIZIA School Buyamba

PATRIZIA School Buyamba, Uganda

The completely inadequate temporary school of the St. Francis primary school in poor Buyamba was in desperate need of renovation when the PATRIZIA Children Foundation and Gruenhelme e.V. tackled the project: over the course of several years old parts were renovated and new ones added.

St. Francis is a primary school for children between the ages of 5 and 14, in grades 1 through 7. Buyamba is located between Lake Kijanebalola and Lake Victoria. Uganda is one of the five countries around Lake Victoria and one of the poorest countries in the world.

As a first measure, the PATRIZIA Children Foundation financed the renovation of the roofs in 2009. It also built a teachers’ rooming house, sanitary facilities and a cantina with a school kitchen to lay the grounds for regular school operations. Today the educational standard is one of the best in the very poor region.

Continued commitment

After completing these measures, the Foundation Board also approved two further projects of the PATRIZIA School Buyamba: in 2014 the school received new toilet facilities and in 2015 new water tanks were purchased and installed.

Read also Vincent’s tale of happiness and the travel report by Jowita Fuchshofer.

The current pandemic has an impact on our facilities worldwide. As an immediate measure, we have established the CORONA FUND EDUCATION HEALTHCARE in the amount of €100,000 from our reserves. We use 100 per cent of this amount as immediate aid in our Children Centers. However, since there is a lack of help in all facilities worldwide and the need is constantly growing due to the Corona measures, we also offer you the opportunity to support us in continuing to provide access to education. Find out more!

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Vincent’s tale of happiness

 

Vincent’s greatest role model is his sister, the 19-year-old is studying medicine. Like her, he wants to become a doctor and heal the sick, or rather ensure that not so many people in his country are infected with preventable diseases. If one parent is very ill or even dies, explains the 13-year-old, this sometimes drives whole families to ruin. He knows what he is talking about, he himself lost his parents at an early age. “So if I help one person later as a doctor, I can save an entire family.”

Vincent was lucky in his misfortune, his grandparents took him in. Now he can attend the PATRIZIA School St. Francis in Buyamba again. But because his grandparents live too far away, Vincent lives in a boarding school. When he will have finished elementary school, he wants to change to a secondary school, then study. “I know I can do it, I’m doing it for my parents too. Sometimes I imagine how proud they’d be of me, that thought makes me happy.”

Jowita Fuchshofer visits the PATRIZIA School Buyamba in Uganda

So poor and yet so rich

The PATRIZIA Children Foundation has been working in Uganda since 2009 as part of an ongoing commitment to ensure children have access to education in one of the poorest countries in the world. In 2009, 2010 and 2014 we made it possible for major renovation work to be carried out at PATRIZIA School Buyamba. High time for a personal visit to the primary school in southern Uganda, where we met the management team, explored further collaboration options and spent time with the children. Senior manager of donor relations Jowita Fuchshofer reports back on her foundation trip.

The foundation had been talking and messaging with one of our local contacts, Father Charles Mbazzi, for months and it was Father Charles who picked me and my two travel companions up at Entebbe Airport. Father Charles is a board member of the school committee. PATRIZIA School Buyamba is located on church grounds not far from his parish home. It is state-funded and run by the church.

On the five-hour drive to Buyamba, Father Charles suggested we make a stop to meet his superior, the bishop of the diocese of Masaka. If we were honest, we were tired after the long flight, but naturally we agreed. During the meeting with the bishop we found Father Charles very friendly and open-minded. He is an extremely devoted man and was humble in his dealings with his superior. Eye contact and shaking hands were only allowed upon request. After the official meeting, we were invited to sign the bishop’s guest book.

Typically Ugandan: green fields and lots of young people

One thing we were struck by us is how green Uganda is! Buyamba itself is a small village with two main areas of activity. One is the market square with various stalls offering goods from the region. The other is the school in Buyamba. It is common in Uganda for families to have lots of children: 73 per cent of the population are under 30. You don’t see hotels or tourists in the area. We were put up in the parish hall.

We first visited PATRIZIA School Buyamba the next morning. We could already hear singing from the school choir from afar, chanting welcome, welcome, you are very welcome. When we arrived, the students all lined up for us and gave us an unbelievably warm welcome, dancing for us and clapping their hands. As a representative of the foundation, I was invited onto the stage to greet everyone and express our gratitude for the lovely reception.

The following exchange with the headteacher, Sylvia Nalusuuna, was informative for me and extremely fruitful. We find it very important to meet as partners of equals so we can have an open discussion about mutual needs and wishes – as was the case this time.

PATRIZIA School Buyamba: one school for the entire region

We were delighted to find the school in good condition and lessons taking place according to the timetable. Despite this, we discovered that with 882 pupils at the school, classes for children aged five to 14 are totally overfilled. Schools are scarce in the region and children are eager to learn, so they gladly walk up to six miles a day just to attend the school. There is no public transport. As a result, the school accommodates boarders in two dormitories. Pupils who board at the school receive additional lessons, sometimes until 9pm.

School fees are often an obstacle

The school fees are 20,000 Ugandan shillings per term, which is around $4.50. Each school year last three terms with short or long holidays in between. The annual GDP in Uganda is $747 per person, so for some parents paying the annual school fee of $13.50 is a real struggle. Hardly anyone has employment in Buyamba. Most of the local population live from working the land or manual labour.

The dormitories house around 100 boarders, although they were only intended for 80 children. The school has now also introduced improvised pre-school lessons for children aged four and upwards in a separate area of the dining hall. Because all primary school instruction is in English, this preparatory year is important so children can acquire the necessary language skills. A separate building for pre-schoolers would solve the acute space problem. The director also sees a need for a wall around the school buildings to protect the children (mainly from wild animals but also from theft).

Poor but still happy

We encountered poverty everywhere during our visit. Many children have no shoes to wear, their school uniforms are ripped or do not fit properly. As in many parts of Africa, drinking water is a problem and there are no wells. This makes the three rainwater collection tanks all the more important, two of which were donated by the foundation. The tanks provide the school with drinking water and water for personal hygiene and laundry, not just for all the students but also the parish home.

All pupils own one ballpoint pen, but apart from that they have no real personal possessions to speak of. But this is not something the children worry about. On the contrary: we noticed how much value they place in the community, always helping each other and sharing generously with others. They seemed happy and were always very open and interested in us.

‘Jowit’ visits the classroom

We were allowed to attend some lessons and even shared porridge with the students during first break. It is very nutritious and for children who don’t get breakfast at home, it’s the first meal of the day. The breaks seemed to be all about one thing: play, play, play – with the new balls we brought with us or toys we designed ourselves. I also told the children stories from Germany with the help of our mascot, Hope, and even taught them a couple of German words. Suddenly all I heard was “Jowit! Jowit!”. That was the little ones’ name for me, constantly seeking my company and time and again shyly coming up to me to hand me personal letters.

In conclusion: long-term help works well

My original thought was to take sweets with me for the children – instant gratification. But thinking about it, long-term help is so much more important. It was clear from the conversations we had with our local partners that we are doing the right things together.

PATRIZIA School Buyamba offers a whole host of opportunities to intensify our partnership. As a foundation, we will continue to focus on ensuring that the students lack nothing in terms of infrastructure so they can concentrate fully on their school education.