More About St. Paul School

St. Paul Infant Primary School is located approximately 2-3 miles outside of Nkokonjeru, Uganda. The village of Nkokonjeru is approximately 30 miles east of the capital city of Kampala in a remote area of a tropical rain forest.

St. Paul School serves approximately 120 children, aged 4 to 10 years. Most of these children live in small, mud homes in the rain forest surrounding the school. Headmistress Namirembe Agnes started the school in 2007 as a way to meet the educational needs of the poor children in the area. The school serves many children who may not otherwise attend school because of the distance of their homes from the village of Nkokonjeru and the costs of attending schools in the village.

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St. Paul School, 2012

When the Mwebaza Foundation first partnered with St. Paul school, classes were held in a makeshift building constructed out of boards nailed together with a thatch roof. Students were extremely crowded in the two classrooms as neither were larger than a few hundred feet in area. The children sat on the dirt floor, using the benches as tables. Consequently, jiggers (burrowing fleas) that live in the dirt would burrow into the hands, knees, and feet of the children during instruction.

The school used to get their drinking water from a community marsh fed by a spring approximately 1 mile from the school. Students are sent to retrieve the water in jericans. The water is brown and murky and of questionable quality. School personnel reported that some children suffer from waterborne diseases such as typhoid, and that chronic diarrhea is a problem for many of the children.

DSC_0085In 2013, the Mwebaza Foundation received the funds to purchase a one-acre property and construct a new 4-classroom solid-brick school building for St. Paul. The new school has two rainwater collection tanks and sterilization systems, five new EnviroLoo toilets, which are waterless and convert waste to compost, and a solar system for electricity.

A quarter of students attending St. Paul lack the money to pay the annual school fees of $60. Many students are allowed to attend school for free or at a discounted rate, which makes it difficult for the administration to pay teacher salaries and cover school expenses. In 2014, the Mwebaza Foundation established a scholarship program to help send the most needy students to school. Guardians of these student scholars volunteer around the school to help give back to the school. Such parents assist with the gardens, care for school-owned livestock, and prepare school lunches for the students.

There are currently 3 teachers at the school, including Headmistress Namirembe Agnes. The Mwebaza Foundation would like to construct teachers homes on the premises that would attract more qualified  teachers to work at St. Paul school.

St. Paul School has been partnered with Coyote Ridge Elementary in Broomfield, Colorado since 2009. Coyote Ridge has conducted various fundraising activities that have helped fund many of the projects instituted by the Mwebaza Foundation.

DSC_0002The Mwebaza Foundation has provided the school with a motorcycle (“boda-boda”) and a 14-passenger van that are used to transport teachers and children to school and in the off hours, is used as a taxi to bring in additional income for the school.

Through a generous grant from the Heaven’s Hope Foundation, the Mwebaza Foundation secured the assistance of Send a Cow – Uganda (SACU) to construct high-yielding keyhole gardens on the school grounds. Vegetables produced in these gardens are regularly fed to the students at lunch. The Heaven’s Hope Foundation has also provided funds for the planting of fruit trees on the school grounds. SACU has helped with the selection and planting of these trees. The fruit produced will be fed to the children at the school and sold in the market during the holidays.

Because St. Paul is in a rural area, and because more parents of students are subsistence farmers, fewer children are underfed. However, the Baganda diet is typically high in starch with limited protein and few green vegetables. The school lunch program at St. Paul, with its combination of porridge, vegetables, eggs, and fruit, helps students get the nutrition they need to be healthy and productive at school.

Foundations and individual donors have helped the school acquire some livestock to help meet a variety of needs. The Heaven’s Hope Foundation purchased chickens for the school to start an egg-layer program there. Because there is a lack of veterinarians in the area, providing adequate care for the chickens was problematic. Thus, the school staff agreed to transfer their chickens to Mwebaza School in Kyengera and combine them with those purchased by the Heaven’s Hope Foundation for Mwebaza School. Veterinary care is more accessible in Kyengera due to its proximity to Kampala. Representatives of Mwebaza School regularly transport crates of eggs to St. Paul School to be fed to the children there.

The school also runs a small goat-rearing program, that was funded by the Mwebaza Foundation. New goats are sold to sustain the program and bring in extra income for the school. The goats also provide an additional source of manure for the school garden and orchard.

Students at the school struggle with diseases such as malaria, typhoid, and influenza. Approximately one-quarter of the students have one or more parent who has died, in most cases, from AIDS. According to school staff, the HIV infection rate in the area seems to be higher than that of the rest of the country as many people in this rural are remain uneducated about prevention and treatment.

School staff estimate that less than half of St. Paul students receive further schooling after graduating from or leaving St. Paul. The creation of a secondary school at the St. Paul site remains a goal of the St. Paul administration and the Mwebaza Foundation.