From Displacement to Development: Maro Awobi’s Story

Posted on by Elaine Miller

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!