What’s Happening at St. Bakhita School

October 2014 Trip Plan

We are looking forward to our trip to St. Bakhita in October, 2014. Susan and I will be accompanied by Jeff and Jane White. This is Jeff’s second trip and Jane’s first. The students will be in the middle of the last term of the 2014 school year and preparing for final examinations. The results of the exams determine grade placement for the 2015 schol year. As in prior years, the expectations of the teachers for excellent results are high.

We will work with the teachers to develop the 2015 operating budget and set our fundraising goals to support the plan. We also will deliver pen pal letters from the Harrison Middle School in Yarmouth, Maine, and will be delivering personal greetings form many of the secondary school student sponsors.

There will be much to report upon our return in late October.

March 2014 Trip Notes

Arrival of 20,000 New Refugees From South Sudan
The big news in the Kiryandongo Refugee Settlement is the arrival and processing of 20,000 Dinka and Nuer refugees from South Sudan, in the last ten weeks. They continue to arrive by the thousands. The UN, Office of Prime Minister of Uganda and a number of NGO’s have stepped in to facilitate the process. Michael and Charlie walked around a large part of the settlement seeing temporary tents and the start of construction of mud huts by refugees with resources. With the lack of progress toward peace in South Sudan, the length of stay by the recent arrivals is unknown.

Panyadoli Self Help Secondary School and Scholarships
Michael Anywar and I met with head teacher Lagu and the Board Chairman of Panyadoli Secondary School. We discussed success of the 15 St Bakhita graduates entering Senior 2 and expectations for the 22 graduates starting Senior 1.

Panyadoli enrollment is up by 150, or nearly double, due to recent refugee arrivals from South Sudan. Tuition for these students should be provided by outside agencies, thus temporarily stabilizing the financial situation for Panyadoli Secondary School.

We discussed the need for parents of St Bakhita graduates to form a support group to provide input to the Panyadoli Board and Head Teacher.

Michael and I reviewed our plan to limit the number of scholarships for St Bakhita graduates at Panyadoli. Scholarships for the students in Senior 2 would continue through Senior 4, assuming satisfactory academic performance. Scholarships for students recently starting Senior 1 would be limited to 20 through Senior 4. As long as they achieve at least academic achievement level 3 in final exams. Scholarships to Panyadoli for those presently at St Bakhita who complete P5,6 and 7 at St Bakhita, would be limited to the top performing 5 boys and 5 girls plus others if they achieve level 1. These scholarships are subject to the ability of SFR to raise sufficient funds annually. This policy will be written and shared with the various constituencies in such a way and at such times so as not to reduce motivation of students who may not get the secondary school scholarships from SFR.

While on the Panyadoli campus, Charlie and Michael met with most of the St. Bakhita graduates. The 16 in Senior 2 are a well adjusted group who has settled in to this phase of their education. They again expressed interest in an SFR sponsored school trip. Charlie encouraged them to plan a trip with a cost of not more than 1,250,000 UGS. Students will contribute 30,000 each and SFR will provide the rest. The students committed to present a plan to Charlie by April 6.

Pen Pal Letter Program with Harrison Middle School
Pen pal Letters from HMS were read by some of the teachers with great interest. The letters would be given to students at a convenient time during the next week. Madame Pauline gave Charlie 150 letters to give to HMS students. We also discussed further Skype calls between the schools.

Meeting with St Bakhita PTA President
Charlie and Michael met with Angelo, the president of the PTA. He informed us that due to the unexpected increase in enrollment at the nursery level, the PTA has funded a teacher position and a second guard/property manager. In addition, they have begun to supplement all teacher salaries by $12 per month as agreed in the budget discussions. Due to overcrowding at the lower levels, the PTA is funding the construction of a classroom and modest teacher’s room. The bricks are in place and the roof should be up in a few weeks. Doors, windows and final finish to the classrooms built last year have been delayed until the PTA can raise the funds.

Review of Teacher Files
Charlie, Michael and Head Teacher Justin reviewed the teacher’s personnel files. Five were missing and several were incomplete. Justin agreed to bring them up to date by the end of the term. Charlie met with each of the new teachers and observed them in the classroom. They are a great addition to our dedicated staff.

Review of Financial Records and P-7 Registration and Examinations
Michael and I reviewed his cash summary for January and preliminary records for February. All is in order, but we agreed to more timely coordination to assure consistent records. We also discussed the budget and, based on recommendations of the teachers, registration fees for the students in P-7 will be substituted for sugar in the budget. Registration is necessary for the students to achieve successful completion of primary school and qualify for secondary school. Michael will arrange with Orient Bank to get internet access to bank statements.

We discussed teacher recommendation for monthly examinations for students, at least in P-7. Teachers believe experience with exam taking will lead to better final exams. There is nothing in the budget that teachers are willing to trade for the cost of extra exams. Michael and I had met with Ndugga Henry and he suggested copying and using exams that are published in the Kampala newspaper, in lieu of costly monthly exams. Michael will look into that option. Charlie suggested teachers prepare their own monthly exams, but Michael believes it is beyond many of their capabilities.

Bosco Project Update
Charlie met with Loding Bosco and Soleme for an update on supplying sanitary supplies for female students. They reported success with the distribution for term one and its importance for improving attendance by the girls.

Collecting P-7, Senior 1 and Senior 2 Formal Student Applications
Michael had collected applications for all students who had enrolled, requesting support from SFR for tuition for 2014. Charlie read them noting all had been prepared in the student’s hand. All were accepted on behalf of SFR. Charlie delivered to students, greetings, letters and small stipends from their scholarship supporters.

St. Bakhita Student Newsletter
The teachers agreed to help students to prepare a yearbook type newsletter by the end of 2014. There will be student editors for each department. We hope this will be a good learning experience in addition to sharing the St. Bakhita story with constituents.

Bowdoin College Intern Program and Schedule for 2014
Bowdoin College students have expressed interest in spending an internship at St Bakhita Primary and Nursery School. Their goal is to arrange financing and coordinate goals with SFR. St Bakhita teachers are excited about participating in the program.

Future groups to visit Oct-Nov 2014 and Beyond
Charlie and the teachers discussed issues related to the right number of guests accompanying Charlie to the school. Initially, some teachers offered that any number would be welcome. After further discussion, we decided 6 would be the maximum.

Inventory of Supplies and Books
The assigned teachers organized the educational materials and supplies in the supply room. A written inventory has been started.

P-7 Debate
After class on Friday, two 5 person teams from P-7 had a formal debate. The topic was abolishment of capital punishment at a school. Students of all ages sat the audience and the presenters were well prepared. This weekly event is a fun way to end Friday classes.

Technology Plan
We had several discussions about developing a technology plan for the school. The computers, printer and projector are underutilized due to lack of a local resource. Michael will continue to pursue a solution and resource.

Response to Nancy Austin
Charlie encouraged the teachers to interact with Nancy and follow up on her recommendations for teacher continuing improvement and education.

Trip to St. Bakhita, October 2013

Charlie and Susan visited St. Bakhita from October 24 through November 1, accompanied by Dr. Nancy Austin, a seasoned teacher and retired professor of education, who observed the classrooms and interviewed each teacher to determine their needs and to set up a plan for continuous improvement for teachers and administrators. Also part of the group were Ann Noyes of Yarmouth, Maine, USA, and Doug and Georgette Morrell of Brunswick, Maine, USA.  Nancy worked with all the teachers, observing them in the classroom and working with them to develop the framework for their continuing education (see article elsewhere in this letter). Georgette, an art teacher, taught a group of 27 students and teachers how to paint with pastels. They embraced the new medium and created wonderful paintings. Doug, a former teacher, assisted in the classrooms and had wonderful interactions with the students as he corrected their papers.  Doug also brought soccer balls for the children. The life of a ball in the school yard, being kicked against brick walls and played on a field with stones and rough patches, is quite limited.  With the new balls, there was a spirited game between the fifth and sixth grade boys. To the dismay of the sixth graders and their rooters (sixth grade girls), the fifth graders won! The teams wore the new uniforms provided by Helms & Company, Inc. of New Hampshire, USA.

Susan worked with students in the middle nursery, P2, and P5 classrooms, with help from Ann Noyes and teacher Pauline Layat. The 66 children in the nursery classroom used crayons to draw and color anything they liked. Their teacher Rosemary had the children write their names on their masterpieces, and after Ann and Susan wrote “Good” with a red pen on each one, they were given back to the children to proudly take home. For the P2 classroom, the media were watercolor paints and stickers, and the completed pictures were attached to the classroom wall for a group photo with the artists. In P5 the medium was watercolor, with many of the students completing two and even three paintings, also displayed for a group photo. None of the students in any of the three classrooms needed instruction, as they are creative, enthusiastic, and focused. All of the unused art supplies were left in the storage building for ongoing use.

Ann, an author and etiquette expert who is retired from The Protocol School of Washington, presented to students and teachers a typical American meal served and eaten according to Western etiquette.

2014 Operating Budget Approved

The operating budget for St. Bakhita Nursery and Primary school for the school year beginning in January, 2014 was approved by the teachers and SFR. Included in the budget are the costs of adding  Primary 7 within  the campus.  The process, which was instituted for the 2013 school year, had the teachers develop a list of needs, from salaries to text books to supplies. Charlie Roscoe, on behalf of SFR, suggested $34,000 as the amount of money that will be raised from SFR donors to support the budget. In an interactive meeting, Charlie and the teachers discussed all the elements of the list of needs and agreed on where cuts should be made to make the budget equal the SFR commitment. The budget is an increase from $18,000 for 2014 and includes a 50% increase in teacher pay to $1,200 per year.  A copy of the budget is available by contacting Charlie.

Twenty-Three Students Graduate from Primary-7 and Enroll  in O-1 (First Year of Secondary School)

Twenty-three 2012 graduates of St. Bakhita Nursery and Primary School have completed their year of  Primary 7 at Star Education Center, a private primary school in Bweyale and have been accepted for 2014 to attend the Panyadoli Self Help Secondary School located a few steps from St. Bakhita Nursery and Primary School.

Fifteen Students Enrolled in O-2 (Second Year of Secondary School)

Fifteen 2011 graduates of St. Bakhita Nursery and Primary School and 2012 graduates of Star Education Center    havecompleted their first year at Panyadoli Self Help Secondary School. They begin O-2 in January 2014.  The school islocated in the settlement and is only a few minutes from most students’ huts.  In their first year of high school, students completed thirteen courses. Six are taught on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and seven are taught on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. This a very rigorous program which the students embrace with determination.

Trip to St. Bakhita, May 2013

On April 26, 2013, Michael Anywar, the teacher representative, hosted Charlie Roscoe from Yarmouth, Maine, USA, Dick Forte from Natick, Massachusetts, USA. and Jeff White from Alexandria, New Hampshire, USA during their visit to St. Bakhita Nursery and Primary School.  Also stopping by to deliver school supplies, sports equipment, gifts and cheer for the students were Shirley Martin from Yarmouth, Maine, USA and Dr. David Trobisch from Springfield, Missouri, USA.

There were many purposes for the trip including meeting with Michael to review the quality of education provided to the over 550 nursery and primary students and to learn of the needs of teachers and students as they pursue quality education. We met with teachers to update operating budgets, discuss capital projects including completion of three new classrooms and a proposed solar power system. We met with the students who are provided full scholarships through generous donors to Schools for Refugees, at Star Education Center primary school and Panyadoli Self Help secondary school. We also met with the director of the Panyadoli Health Center who provided a tour of the very rudimentary obstetrics facilities.

Trip to St. Bakhita, October 2012

On September 30, 2012, Charlie Roscoe, Bill Morrell from Brunswick, Maine, USA, and Mark Woodsum from San Diego, California, USA, arrived at St. Bakhita Nursery and Primary School. We were greeted by Michael Anywar, the teacher representative for St Bakhita School and Business Manager in Uganda for Schools For Refugees, and Mathew Ochola, the recently elected head teacher. Shortly after entering the school grounds on Sunday, a dozen children gathered to greet us. As we met in the small office to unpack suitcases filled with supplies for the school, the students looked on with wide, curious eyes. Of special interest were the soccer (football) balls which Bill had carried in his luggage, and the volleyball and basketball which Mark carried for the students.Charlie, Bill and mark attended classes, set up the volleyball net, basketball hoop and net ball courts, organized and participated in football games, and distributed over 300 pen pal letters from students at Harrison Middle School, Yarmouth, Maine, USA. During the week, Bill and Mark introduced the teachers and students to Frisbee tossing and whiffle ball. Leftover rope used to secure the volley ball net was quickly turned into a jump rope at which many of the girls excelled. The school yard during recess and after school was filled with new sports, where previously, football and modified net ball (without a hoop) were the only games played.

We brought an Apple iPad for Michael to use for expanded education offerings including teaching aids, movies for students, and business and communication functions. Bill explained functions and operations to Michael, and because of that as well as his help in diagnosing problems with the school generator, he was named the honorary director of facilities and technology!

Michael gave a tour of the expanded garden on the school campus. The school property is approximately ten acres, of which four acres are newly under cultivation by the students, for maize and other vegetables for porridge and teachers’ lunches. On a buying trip to Bweyale, Bill bought hoes and slashers for the students to use as they plant and weed the gardens and cut grass on the playing field. Previously, they had one hoe that the students passed around as they gardened. Now, eight or more students will be able to hoe at the same time.

THE PARHAA NATIONAL GAME PARK TRIP, written by two students

A few months ago we traveled to paraa national game park. We were fourteen in number; seven girls and seven boys
which came from  different classes in st Bakhita school..this trip was an interesting one just because it was our first time to move out of the settlement and especially to a national park. It was on the 06/oct/2012 in the morning of Saturday at 5:30am when we start off from the settlement. We passed the karum bridge on the way to northern Uganda befor turning off to the road heading to Arua. We drive for about 60-70kms befor Approaching the packweack Bridge. And turning to our left were we entering through the northern bypass into the park through a small bridge which we did recognize it name. At the park gate all the cars came to stop. We wonder what was happening. We saw Michael and Charles Roscoe jump off the car heading toward the small office at the gate. As we waited we posted for photos at the gate which the PTA chairman kept on taking. Soon Michael and Charles were back as we set off on our game tracking but later we learned they were paying for the pass into the park.

On the first eye what we saw look like some big ant hill not knowing that those were herd of elephant and later we recognize them as our car approach them and this was the start of our long journey. We drove through the park up a point where it was written game tracking and we took that route just few minutes we saw what we call the African great giraffes just two of them but later on our way back we saw plenty of them apart from the hippos which we were told count the highest.

Population in the park driving the name pa-raa which mean homes of hippos. Other animals we saw were buffalo, waterbuck, warthog and Uganda kob. At about 1:00 we reach to the ferry side than we cross the Nile on the ferry to the Masindi side. Here we had a lot of time to play around and take our pack lunch. By 2:00 pm we enter the Seabill boat and rided up to the falls and came back to the shore where our drivers were waiting for us. From here we got back into the car and drive our way back seeing many animal as it was coming to evening and many animal are out eat and soon we at Packwack bridge and passed up to Packwack town and than made our way back to the settlement. As we enter the settlement the student start to sing song of happiness bring us finally to St Bakhita school compound.

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SCHOOL OUTREACH

On March 19, 2012,  Bosco Oringa, former student at St. Bakhita School in Uganda, and Susan and Charlie Roscoe were invited to address the students and teachers in their classrooms at the Harrison Middle School (HMS) in Yarmouth, Maine, USA.  They presented the story of St. Bakhita School and the life story of Bosco Oringa. The teachers and administration of HMS selected Schools for Refugees as the charity for a week-long fundraising as a part of their  World Languages and Cultures Week. Under the direction and with the enthusiastic support of Mrs. Vicenzi, the students raised $1,100, which has been sent to the St. Bakhita school to buy materials to construct much needed wooden desks (tables) and benches for their classrooms.

INTERVIEWS WITH MOTHERS

Please go to the new section titled “Parents” to read interviews with three mothers of St. Bakhita School students who are struggling to support their children’s education.

PEN PALS

The pen pal program, an exchange of letters between St. Bakhita students and Yarmouth (Maine) Harrison Middle School (HMS) students, is underway! Letters written by the HMS students were mailed to Uganda on January 20, 2012. Letters were received at St. Bakhita School on February 24! Students and teachers in both schools are looking forward to new friendships and an exciting learning experience!

 UGANDA VISIT NOVEMBER  2011

Susan and Charlie Roscoe visited St. Bakhita School from November 6 to 11, joined for several of those days by friends Bill Allen and Shirley Martin. We received a tremendously warm welcome from Michael Anywar, teachers, PTA representatives, and students, including a celebration in our honor that featured songs and traditional dancing. The children were well rehearsed, and their performances were expert, enthusiastic, heartwarming, and quite an emotional experience for us.

During our second day there, Susan and Shirley, with help from two artistic teachers, set up an art studio under a big tree in the school yard. The students proved to be wonderful artists, very observant and creative, and we attached all their paintings to the tree to make a gallery. We were short on art supplies since the big suitcase that contained most of them was lost by the airline. It was finally found on the day we returned to Entebbe, and we sent it by car to St. Bakhita’s to be used during the next term.

Bill brought three soccer balls with him to give to the school, and that first day we all walked to a nearby field after school. Once several cows were moved from the field, the games began. The boys play very good football (soccer, in the US). The girls play very fast-moving netball.

Much of our time at St. Bakhita’s was spent in the classrooms, where we had opportunities to observe teachers and students and to participate a little. The classrooms are necessarily very structured, since there are so many students in each one, the largest having an enrollment of 75 children. A big change from Charlie’s 2010 visit is that the teachers now have teaching guides and some student textbooks purchased with funds provided by Schools For Refugees.

 Lessons begin at 8:20 AM, when the teacher enters the classroom and says “Good morning, Students,” and the students stand and reply “Good morning, Teacher.” The lesson commences, with the teacher explaining the information and giving examples. Frequently the teacher will stop and ask, “Are we together?” and usually the collective answer is “Yes,” but students are encouraged to speak up if they need help, and then the teacher explains further. The teacher writes each step of the lesson on the blackboard, and the students copy it into their notebooks. Then examples in the form of questions are written down, and the students provide their answers in their notebooks, which are then corrected before moving on. The students are all polite, focused, and well behaved. The teachers are definitely in charge, but never resort to harsh discipline, or even raise their voices. They are respected. There is also a very active PTA.

Instruction is in English, with occasional translation from Acholi.  Substantially all students are of Sudanese descent.  Several have been sent back from South Sudan by their parents because of the higher quality of education available at St. Bahkita’s.

 There are breaks in both mid-morning and mid-afternoon, during which the children play in the schoolyard and adjacent grassy area, and the teachers gather at their table in the yard and work on their lesson plans. At 1:00 the children are each given a cup of porridge -– ground maize boiled in water, with sugar added when available. We are exploring possibilities for providing more nutrition, perhaps by adding vegetables or fruit to the porridge. The maize is donated by parents, and it was parent labor that constructed the cooking hut and two new classrooms connecting two older buildings. SFR funds were used to purchase building materials, and enough cups that each child has one. After lunch the younger children go home, while the older ones return to the classroom until the school day ends. Very little homework is given, since the children have work to do when they get home, which includes tending to siblings, working in gardens, and caring for livestock. The children study hard, play hard, and work hard, and by day’s end they have earned a rest.

For current enrollment figures for St Bakhita Nursery And Primary School please visit the section entitled “Students”

 

Campus

Classrooms are in brick school buildings with tin roofs and half with dirt floors. The teachers’ “office” is a table in a circle of chairs under a big tree. Lunch is prepared under a tin-roofed shelter built with SFR funds