Over 20 years of conflict in the Northern region of Uganda caused around 1.8 million people (80 % of the population) to flee their homes and move to Internally Displaced People’s (IDP) Camps. This displacement has had huge implications for schools and education in the northern region. Many schools were left deserted and pupils crammed into ‘safe schools’ that were located near to IDP camps whilst others received no education at all. Although the region has remained peaceful for over 5 years now, some schools have still not moved back to their original communities despite community members returning to their villages to rebuild their livelihoods.
Since 2006, African Revival has moved 5 primary and 2 secondary schools back to their original sites. This month saw the move of Maro Awobi Primary School from Pabo, an IDP camp with a population of over 70,000, back to the school’s original site in the village of Maro Awobi, 14km away.
Maro Awobi Primary School was founded by parents in 1998 and became a government school 4 years later. In 2003, rebel soldiers attacked Maro Awobi, torching homes, abducting children and killing many people. Community members got their families together and fled to Pabo IDP Camp. After a short closure, the school was displaced in temporary classrooms at Agole P7 School and stayed there for 7 years.
In February 2010 African Revival travelled to Pabo and found teachers packing the last load of furniture and books into a large truck. As we travelled with the truck to the original site, excited community members lined the dirt road and many children chased the truck up a track to the school. Isaac, Chairman of the School Management Committee was also in this crowd, “We are so happy. Our children are back with us.” Primary schools in rural Uganda act as a hub for the community so Maro Awobi feels whole again. The head teacher also explained what impact the move will have on the pupils, “the pupils are now close to their homes. They can now eat at lunchtimes and have a short journey back to their parents in the evening. They are safe”. Many pupils were living far from their parents but now the school has moved back, families have been reunited and children are now living with their parents.
One year on and a lot has changed. Newly appointed headteacher David Komakech has been so impressed with the community’s cooperation with the school, “Since I arrived at Maro Awobi, parents have built housing for all of our 7 teachers, entirely at their own cost in addition to the 6 grass thatched classrooms that they constructed last year.” David explained that their hard work and enthusiasm comes as a result of the support of African Revival, “You know when a friend offers their hand to you, it really motivates you to work even harder than you normally would.”
When African Revival first reached the school’s site, it was just an overgrown field. The community transformed the site in just a few weeks by clearing the land and building 6 temporary classrooms. We noticed, however, that sanitation facilities were a major priority and built 8 latrines and drilled a borehole, as a clean safe water source. The school has received text books and office furniture and is shaping into what a good school should look like.
The school has made real use of their 70 acres of land; African Revival has constructed a sports pitch and, with the help of the community, is about to start working on demonstration gardens as part of our EU funded ‘Farmers of the Future’ Project.
Maro Awobi staff and pupils are extremely excited that our contractors are just one week away from finishing the construction of 3 classrooms, as well as an office and a large store room. Take a look at our photos of the builders putting the finishing touches to the well needed classrooms!Posted in News | Leave a comment
If you Google ‘Northern Uganda’, what do you find? You will most likely stumble upon words such as conflict, abduction, brutality, violence and extreme poverty.
When I read an article from the BBC (Bitter legacy of Uganda’s civil war) towards the end of last year I was very disappointed – not because I felt sadness towards the ‘devastation’ that was described in the place that I call home – but because the article was another piece of negative coverage of the current situation here in Northern Uganda.
Western and even National media often portray the Acholi region and its people as helpless and pathetic, unable to cope with the devastating effects of war. This will explain the numbers of organisations and individuals from the West ‘coming to the rescue’! An international journalist recently contacted me looking for a story on domestic violence in the North and asked me if I could connect her with people. After travelling around looking for a story she told me that her editor would not be happy as the stories ‘were just not disturbing enough’. It left me wondering when the conflict would cease being ‘sexy’ and if it would ever be possible to acknowledge people for their courage and strength.
As you can imagine, any conflict lasting over 20 years is going to have damaging effects on its people, particularly when it comes to education and livelihoods. And yes, from a fundraising perspective, devastation does sell but I am certain that instilling confidence in people makes projects actually work by empowering communities to take ownership of their own projects and futures. That’s what makes our work at African Revival so different. We don’t “rescue”, w work in genuine partnership with people who want to shape their own futures and the future of their children.
I have a lot of confidence in the people that I work with. It is exciting – YES you heard correctly – Gulu is an exciting place, and not just Gulu but rural villages and trading centres all around the 4 Districts that I have got to know over the two and a half years I have spent living here and working with African Revival. Many communities have moved back home to their villages which marks a new beginning for every generation. Teaching resources are scarce and buildings aren’t even there in some cases. But the foundations are all there because people are determined to get their lives back for their children’s sake.
So what am I really trying to say? Simply that it is important, in the field of charity and development, not to underestimate people, especially people that we do not really know. The amazing people that I work with would much rather receive our money out of confidence in their abilities to develop their own communities than out of pity for them as victims.
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DONORS VISIT KINNERTONE COMMUNITY SCHOOL
Earlier this month, the African Revival team in Zambia was proud to accompany two of our long-standing donors to visit Kinnertone Community School, where their money has been helping to transform life for the school’s 130 pupils.
We received a very warm welcome from the children and spent time talking to the teachers and parents about their hopes and aspirations for the future of Kinnertone school.
Before leaving, the children performed a number of poems and readings for us and were delighted when the visitors handed over a bag of assorted sports equipment to the head teacher, Patricia.
Kinnertone school consists of just 2 classrooms, which were constructed last year with assistance from African Revival. The pupils’ parents and local community struggles to support the school financially, but there is much commitment from them to the school’s development and they actively participate in any work that takes place there.
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