As part of our first week training here in Uganda, we visited Nombe Secondary School, which received investment from EPAfrica in 2013 and 2014. We carried out what the charity calls a 'courtesy call', with the aim of checking how the projects carried out by past project workers were getting on, and to see how the school was doing in general- including whether the school could be a candidate for further investment in the future.
We were greeted by the treasurer, who showed us where the past project workers stayed when at the school, and a new house being built for the Pastor. He then took us to meet one of the two deputy head teachers (The Head Teacher was away at a meeting). He warmly welcomed us to the school and spoke highly of EPAfrica and the work we had done in the school. Some of us stayed to look over the most recent data on enrolment and exam results with the admin staff, while the rest of us were taken on a tour of the school by both deputy heads.
Past investment projects conducted at the school included refurbishment and restocking of the library, refurbishment and installation of plumbing in the science laboratories, and a health scheme to help the girls make their own sanitary products. The library still proved to be a very sustainable investment, as it was still well stocked and was clearly used a lot by students. The librarian was very happy with the amount of resources she had, although we all agreed that you can never have too many books!
While the science laboratories also remained well stocked with resources and were being used a lot, the severe drought that Uganda is facing means that the school is unable to spare water to use in the laboratories. Indeed, the water tanks at the school connected to the national water grid are mostly empty, and students have taken to sneaking out of lessons to walk down to the valley to collect (unclean and unsafe) water from the dammed lake. Ideally, the school would like to get a water pump to bring water up from the lake but, as the deputy head teacher informed us, the school is struggling to make ends meet financially as it is, mainly due to administration issues with the Ugandan government.
The health projects initiated by past project workers had not continued as planned, but had had some positive outcomes. The scheme put in place to buy materials and teach girls to install their own re-usable sanitary pads proved to be quite expensive, and the pads weren't very good quality. But when talking to the female deputy head teacher, we were able to have a positive conversation about how the female students are encouraged to bring their own sanitary pads from home, and are able to go to the school nurse and matron if they are having issues with their own personal hygiene.
Meeting various teachers and students, it was clear that the community were very grateful for the support and investment received by EPAfrica. The students in particular were very excited to meet us- we must have each shook dozens of hands! They also loved having their picture taken!
The administration at Nombe is very much aware of the issues facing their school, but also have much to be proud of. They have an ambitious plan for the future of the school, which mainly consists of heavy investment in buildings and infrastructure. We were really grateful to the deputy headteachers, staff and students at Nombe for welcoming us so warmly into their school. It was a great chance for us to gain experience of working in a school, before we fully immerse ourselves in our project schools from Monday, for the next 10 weeks! We learnt about communicating with people from a different culture, about how to get information in the most effective way, and saw first hand the impact that EPAfrica has on schools in the region. We all left Nombe secondary school even more excited about getting started on our own projects.