Tag Archives: endurance

Sunday: Community Innovator

Posted on by Sophie Hicks



Jan 2016 7

Sunday is only 22 years old, yet already he is the headteacher of Lacek Community School in Nwoya district! To hold such an important position at such a young age is testimony to both his considerable talents as a teacher and to how highly he is considered in the surrounding community. But Sunday is not just a Headteacher. He is also participating in the Teacher Changemaker network, which we coordinate in partnership with STIR Education in Northern Uganda! So far, Sunday has implemented an incredibly successful Village Savings and Loans Association in Lacek School (they have saved an impressive 3,775,400 since May) which is also helping to bring parents closer to the school to monitor their children’s education, improving student motivation and performance. Read on to discover how Sunday is changing the way the local community views education and impacting on the next generation at Lacek Community School!

My parents were escaping from the Lord’s Resistence Army, so I was born in Gulu. But our original homeland is in Kinene. We moved back to Kinene in 2006 when the war ended. I was 13 years old. I have only 3 brothers without any girls. My mother gave birth to 4 girls but they all passed away. There were only 4 boys left. I have four half brothers and sisters from my fathers second wife. We all live together in Kinene. My father had many wives, almost 11. He is 80 years old now.

Teaching became interesting to me because of a certain teacher in my primary, called Mr Laloo. That teacher really made me who I am. I struggled to learn English, so he put a lot of work into teaching me how to speak and write well. I liked the way he taught me, and I promised to myself I would become a teacher.

_MG_0854Being part of the Teacher Changemaker network made me realise that the problem in our schools is parent engagement. It touches me. There is a lack of parent engagement in these communities – parents have very negative attitudes towards education. I saw that many were not able to pay their children in school. I sat down with the School Management Committees and asked, which is the best way we can help these parents? I decided to bring the Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA), which other localities are doing successfully. When they save money for 2 months, that money alone is able to pay the school fees for their children. So I decided to mobilize parents. Many parents joined me. Every week they come and save their money in the pool. So far they have saved 3,775,400 (since May 2015).

Children are getting benefits from their parents being in the VSLA. Their parents can borrow money and pay them, buy for them uniform, the scholastic materials. Also, the parents are able to monitor their children, whether they are in the class, whether they are learning. They first move around all the school compound checking what is wrong, what is good, and they feedback later.

DSC09377In our culture, when you are a teacher, people prefer to be like you, because teachers are able to make unknown known. So people take teachers as the most important thing for the community. The change makers. Whenever there are any problems they first consult the teacher. During village meetings, I am always the chief’s guest when they are making bylaws. I help them to decide which ways to manage the schools and build the community. And when we are making school rules, we invite the chiefs to help. So when the child is not at school, we can give a phone call to the chief to inform him about the problem within his area of service.

I am getting some great advice from the network, like its OK to make mistakes. For us we take mistakes as a very bad thing. When we make mistakes in the Ugandan education system, people do not like it. But when I see anyone making mistakes, I just help them, and do not tell them off. The network always tells us that through mistakes, you can learn.

_MG_1272The part of the network that has motivated me a lot is friendship. Before, I didn’t know any of the other teachers in Nwoya district who are now in the network. I speak with my friend Gino (a pre-primary teacher at Purongo Hill Primary School) by phone almost daily. We just call each other and share the things from our day.

In the future, after going for my ECD diploma, I’m hoping to be a tutor and train teachers in Early Childhood Development. I can see myself so much specialised in the ECD because I understand young children’s behaviour.

My daughter, she is very stubborn! She is around 2 years old.
At around 1 ½ years, she was also able to speak. She acquired language very early. I play with her everyday, even if she is not understanding everything I say. She is called Akello Charity Hope. She loves playing, she plays so much. When I reach home in the evening, we sing songs together. I will arrive and she will immediately come to me to sing songs, to speak funny things. In the future I want her to be like me – a teacher.


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Kilimanjaro: the climb of a lifetime!

Posted on by Sophie Hicks

643900_10151093237226985_2031015318_nA procession of lights, burning like candles in the black of the night, is winding its way up the side of the final peak. It is reassuring to see the lights, a sign that the long road to the summit is well travelled. I look up to the roof of Africa – shaded in luminous tones of grey and silver under the glow of a full moon – and feel the weight of the challenge to come.

It is summit night, and my group is just about to set-off. Our guide woke us up at 1 am and eased us into a waking state with warm cups of hot chocolate, salted popcorn and sweet porridge. We do a final check to make sure we have all the necessary equipment and provisions, adjust our many layers to protect us against the cool of the night – and we’re off !

551672_10151093242321985_1095448802_nIts been a long journey to this point – and not just geographically. I started fundraising almost a year before the trip, organising a black-tie ball for my community, which proved a great success ! I sold tickets in advance for £10 a pop, which instantly raised a lot of money. On the night, after an interactive presentation of the challenge and charitable cause, a band played while I sold cakes and raffle tickets. I received some very generous donations and, equally as important, my guests had a great time ! It took hard work and sustained effort to raise the money, but the satisfaction of reaching the final goal was worth it, especially since the funds were going to such a good cause – in this case an education project in Tanzania that aimed to improve school infrastructure.

404143_10151093241781985_985586758_nThe Kilimanjaro adventure also marks my first voyage out of Europe ! This seemed a little daunting at first, but the great thing about doing a challenge like this, is that you are surrounded by people in exactly the same situation. I became very close to my fellow climbers. We supported each other first during the fundraising stage, then on the plane to Kenya and finally all the way up to the top. Together, we all failed to contain our excitement as we caught the first glimpse of majestic Kilimajaro from the bus. We shared our successes, our fears, our first Tanzanian meal – by summit night, I had made friends for life. And those friends count when you’re on the side of the highest mountain in Africa !

Since starting the climb six days ago, we have hiked through a stunning range of unique ecosystems. First, we came to dense rainforest, high canopy ceilings accentuating the echoing cries of the wildlife – monkeys, insects, birds of every size and colour – that call the biome home. The tall, elegant trees shrink to squat shrubs on the second day, huddled together in dense masses across a foggy landscape. But the scenery opens up again once we reach the moorland, with its wide horizons of peaty soil covered with heather, bracken and moss. Here, the air is clear and crisp and views across an ocean of clouds are breath-taking. Towards the end of the hike, we cross over into another dimension – a bizarre desert moonscape, inhospitable, with sludge grey dunes of dust that stretch as far as the eye can see. At night, temperatures drop to below freezing point, and I’m infinitely grateful I brought that extra sleeping bag liner ! And while the temperatures don’t rise, the dismal landscape slowly lifts, transforming into a snowy wonderland and signalling that we have reached the beginning of the end; the base of the highest peak and the final push to the summit…

578343_10151093240286985_430173984_nWe are half way up now. I try to maintain a meditative state of mind, focusing solely on the steady flow of my breath and the swinging coattails of the person in front. We round a corner just in time to see the rising sun. Somebody plays ‘Circle of Life’, from the Lion King, on their phone while we admire the golden hues of light illuminating the vast planes of the African Savannah. I expect a dramatic cliff to take us to the top of Kilimanjaro, but in reality, the climb is the opposite – a gradual incline that requires infinite endurance, a strong body and even stronger mind to conquer. I briefly falter and want to turn back, but the wonderful porters urge me on, one taking my bag, the other offering me some sweetened tea. Their compassion makes all the difference, because before long I see a flash of green amidst white glacier – the signpost marking the summit. The relief of reaching the top is almost overwhelming, and I try to savour the beauty of the scene, viewed from the roof of Africa.






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