Ugandan school thriving, thanks to Brisbane Water Rotary – Buwampa, UGANDA

March 15, 2023

A primary school in Uganda is thriving, thanks largely to the efforts of Brisbane Water Rotary Secretary Sue O’Neill.  Buwampa is located in Buikwe District of the Central Region, Uganda.

O’Neill recently visited the Divine Mercy Nursery and Primary school in Buwampa with Jan Pryor from Rotary Northlakes/Toukley to inspect the school’s progress and plant four Peace Poles bearing the phrase May Peace Prevail On Earth in English and three East African languages.

It all began in 2016, when a team from Rotary led by O’Neill visited the school, which then comprised three mud classrooms and was staffed by volunteer teachers.

Sue O’Neill and Jan Pryor inspect the poles with Ugandan Rotarians

“Children sat on timber planks balanced on broken pieces of rock,” O’Neill said.

“The school had an enrolment of 50 children who were trying to get some education in extremely challenging conditions.

“We were amazed lessons were delivered with such limited resources and inspired by the dedication of the local community and gave a small donation through Rotarians from the Rotary Club of Njeru.”

The money was used to buy blackboards and scholastic materials and O’Neill agreed to raise funds in Australia for a new classroom block to support the students.

In January 2018 the new school opened with three new classrooms and 365 children.

“Immediately our new three classrooms were inadequate and planning began to put in more school infrastructure,” O’Neill said.

Active fundraising continued in Australia and during 2018 and 2019 the school received more classrooms, a multipurpose building which houses a clinic, administration offices, teachers’ staff room and library.

“We completed a new kitchen and storeroom, another toilet block and two nursery Montessori-plan classrooms were built,” O’Neill said.

“We installed three water tanks plus two tank stands with feeder tanks to provide running water in the teachers’ houses and staff toilets.

“We provided uniforms, scholastic materials, desks, chairs and support to our teachers.

In 2019 we educated 478 students with an enrolment rate of 48.9 percent girl students compared to the Ugandan national average of 37.6 percent.”

During 2020 Rotary installed computers for the teachers and landscaped the school grounds and organised resources and Aussie teams to take kilos of Montessori supplies to the nursery school, with classes set-up with help from professional Montessori teacher Lanam Kijange.

“My son Bry O’Neill, a Montessori enthusiast, travelled to Uganda in November 2019 and January 2020 to help with the set-up and roll-out of the new Montessori method of education,” O’Neill said.

The advent of COVID-19 saw the school close in 2020, along with all schools in Uganda, and it didn’t resume until January 2022.

Rotary is now actively involved in helping the school to operate under COVID-safe practices.

The peace poles are part of a Rotary centenary project which has seen poles placed in 100 schools in recognition of 100 Years of Rotary in Australia.

They were organised at Divine Mercy with the help of members of the Rotary club of Njeru.

Neill and Pryor will visit Ethiopia and Rwanda before returning home, evaluating and monitoring Rotary projects in each country and looking at potential for future funding.

Author: Terry Collins