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 Nursery and Primary 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.
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.
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.