Funded by the Carson Family

In January 2007, 625 children (285 girls) in Kalangala were eagerly awaiting the completion of their new primary school. At that point in time these children were cramped into six small, damp, ramshackle classrooms. Desks and benches designed to seat two children struggled to accommodate four or more. Space was so tight that schooling was carried out in two shifts - with Forms 1,3 and 6 studying from 7am to midday and forms 2 and 5 studying from midday to 4.30pm. The dedication of the 11 teachers who work there is astounding and ensures as many children as possible have the chance of the education that will transform their lives.

I was told by the Head Teacher at the school and the Head of the Parent's Association that there are many more children in the local villages who do not come to school. They are hopeful that the new building will encourage more to come. As they told me,

"The new building will mean the number of children will increase when they see this wonderful new building. It will do a lot to improve the conditions here. Right now, when it rains, it rains a lot. The water comes flooding through the classrooms and we are forced to stop our lessons. But this will no longer happen in the new building which has a good roof, cement walls and a cement floor. We are planning to have an opening ceremony so that everyone around will hear of this new school."

Even so it will be difficult for families to find the $0.5 per month for the school fees, plus a contribution towards the teachers' salaries. The people who live here must often choose between paying for food and water for their children or paying for an education. Often the longer term needs lose out to the immediate ones. I hear that there is some level of assistance from the local church (which currently also donates the use of their building as another classroom), which helps the disabled and very poorest children to attend school.

The pupils at Kalangala School are aged between 6 and 16. They walk for up to an hour in order to take part in the lessons here, and the half of the day when they are not at school must be spent helping out at home. Chores will include working in the fields, fetching water and looking after younger siblings.

Whilst at school, the lessons include History, French, Mathematic, Geography, and Science.

I asked the Engineer about the construction of the school. He told me that it is built from cement blocks. On of the biggest struggles they faced during the construction was the increasing rise in the cost of these. The sand for the mortar was also difficult to source and had to be rough in from 15km away. Many of the local community were involved in the building of the school, which also provided some invaluable paid employment to the area.

I also asked how the area was selected to benefit from a school. The Pastor form the local church told me,

"There have been ActionAid supported REFLECT circles (for adult literacy) in this area for three years. These four groups often meet in the current school buildings. They soon realised that the school was in desperate need and raised this with AcitionAid. The feeling is that there are lots of children in this area and the teachers here are very strong and motivated - we are simply lacking the capacity to improve our school. These children you see here are intelligent. They are always well-received when they go to secondary school. We had to find a way to make sure that as many children as possible had this opportunity."

And I am delighted to report that many more children will now be getting this opportunity. In January 2007, Kalangala School was three or four weeks from completion. The windows were being installed, concrete floor was being laid and new desks were being sourced. There was a great deal of excitement.

This school will provide an excellent environment for the children to learn. There are also big plans that it will take a key role in some of ActionAid's campaigning and training work aimed at teachers. In particular events are already being developed which will be aimed at helping the teachers to deal with issues around HIV/AIDS and violence against girls in school!

This has only been possible thanks to the very generous support of the Carson family. Thank you!

The community sent you all a chicken as a thank you gift. I hope you don't mind that I left it in the DRC!
Some of the pupils and teachers

The old school

The old school

The new school under construction

The new school under construction