Ellie and I got the pleasure of going to Kakiika Technical School on Monday in our roles as Project Manager (Ellie) and Coordinator of EPAfrica‘s Mbarara Summer Team.
Kakiika is a school we worked with in 2013 and 2014: our first two years with an Mbarara site. After two years of investment we still visit our partner schools annually: on Monday Head Teacher Eliazar and Deputy Head Teacher Silver gave us a tour of the school, updated us on their enrolment and exam statistics, and talked to us frankly about the positive impact the EPAfrica investment had made as well as the ongoing challenges that they face as a technical school in rural Uganda.
These “Courtesy Calls” are a great way for EPAfrica to stay in contact with our friends in schools we have worked with, who often talk fondly of the PWs who spent two months in their community. We were extensively grilled on how Howard, Sophie and Rosie (2013), and Lily, Alice and William (2014) were getting on, and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them; both their hard work and the strong relationships they formed remain today.
With a similar aim, we also invite them to our annual Head Teachers’ Conference, where teachers from schools we are about to work with have the opportunity to engage with those we have worked with in previous years. Courtesy Calls serve a very important purpose for us too, as we get to see what investments have been sustainable, why this is the case. This allows us to evaluate what investments make durable impact, and reflect on why a certain project may not have lasted.
The improving final-exam results are a real positive indicator of the school’s upward trajectory in recent years. In 2012, their pass rate for final exams was 51%, last year it was 92%. The most significant jump was between 2013 – 60%, and 2014 – 91%. While many factors are at play, Eliazar believes that a ‘reading culture’ has grown in the school, where students are working more independently in their free time, enabled by the improved library, its system and resources which our PWs worked in partnership to invest in.
It was great to see that so many of the projects that the school had taken on with the help of our PWs in 2013 and 2014 had proved important in improving health, exam performance and attracting more students from the local area. Access to water used to be one of the biggest weaknesses of the school. The new water tanks, which tackle the problem of water supply in the dry season, are believed by the Head Teacher to be playing a key role in drawing more parents to send their children to school at Kakiika. Maintaining and increasing enrolment is very important for this school, which requires the tuition fees to supplement the government funding.
Eliazar and Silver told us, however, how funding remains a limiting factor for the school which finds it necessary to separately pay for more teachers than their funding enables.
Despite these and other challenges, Eliazar and Silver are very pleased with the way that things are going for the school, especially regarding enrolment and exam results. We thank them for their kind hospitality, and wish them the best of luck with their aim of introducing two new subjects – plumbing and metrofabrication – in the next five years.
Ben is a coordinator in Mbarara and a recent graduate of History from Cambridge.