When visiting Hopeful Heart Academy, a Nursery and primary school in Namuwongo, Bukasa road just a stones throw from one of Kampala’s high life areas, Muyenga, you are welcomed by a typhus atmosphere surrounding a deteriorating residential house which by looks is a store or house deserted for years.
The appearance of both the walls and roof makes you doubt of finding human beings around but surprisingly this collection of deteriorating infrastructures is an intellectual hub, a Centre of knowledge, a lamp of hope and a factory of the best antidote to ignorance of 150 pupils as per the 2019 enrollment. Life at this school that opened in 2012 is precarious, everything hangs in haunts of filth.
The outer look of the building just like the inner one is surely not attractive at all yet these pupils find it as the last best option for them to also attain education.
The inner part of the building is more worrying than the outside. On entering the decrypt house, you are welcomed by dark corners which no lighting board can brighten, muddy walls and dust from a deteriorating floor. The ceiling is totally warm out and the ventilation is cholera. All pupils come from low end areas of Namuwongo comprised of slums like Soweto, Kanyogoga, Kasanvu and Go down.
Classes are divided by plywood walls in different rooms. There is poor hygiene and disposal of garbage both inside the class rooms and outside in the compound.
According to the head teacher of the school, Madam Maureen Taka who has served in the same position since the school’s inception in 2012, this place despite its unpleasant being is not permanent. There are worries that they will soon be displaced due to failure to cater for rent. She added that the ownership of the school and the landlord have no contract between them and payment is done monthly meaning that they risk being chased in case of failure to satisfy him.
That put a side, salary for teachers is another challenge being faced by the management of this school. Madam Maureen Taka said that teachers come and go any how because the management in most cases lacks money to pay them. And because of this, few teachers are employed to teach across all the five classes.
Sometimes setting exams is difficult at Hopeful Heart Children’s Academy because teachers are never sure of the pupils that would turn up. This is due to too much absenteeism of the pupils. Research carried out by Rafiki social vision an NGO that has directed its efforts towards relieving the plight of OVCs and the Youth found out that these pupils most of whom are orphans or come from extremely poor families are disturbed by poor health and shortage of food and other basic essentials. To some families sending children to school is the only option to avoid their hunger woes at home but do they find food at school?
These children leave their homes with hopes of finding something to eat at school but that is all in vain. At Hopeful Heart Children’s Academy, pupils sit in class for 8-10 hours for those in upper primary without eating or drinking anything, the only relief according to Madam Maureen Taka is to let these children play during break and lunch time so that they can forget food. When they return to classes, concentration is lost and sleep takes over leaving the teacher almost dealing with desks and dreams.
Rafikisocial vision was the first Non Profit organization (www.rafikisocialvision.org ) to respond to the situation at Hopeful Heart Children’s Academy. The team that was made up of Rafiki Social Vision members, Derrick Muyanja and Michael Kitooke went sensitizing parents, pupils and teachers on how to keep their children healthy and disease free.
“This is just a piece solved of the whole big problem” says the Rafiki team, “Therefore there is need for other foundations to intervene, combine efforts with Rafiki social vision to re institute the dying hopes of the young innocent Ugandans and also help the school fulfill its vision and mission” They added.
Among the urgently needed incentives is food and scholastic materials like uniforms, books, mathematical sets, pens and pencils for the children. There is hope that once these children have something to eat at school, learning can go on very well and the problem of absenteeism can be solved.
The fact that the school almost offers free service has made it difficult to pay teachers. The little money some parents and well-wishers manage to contribute is used in buying materials like chalk and sometimes porridge when it is enough. Less is left to appreciate teachers. It should be noted that teachers are the reason why it is still called a school. This is a call to whoever has a sympathetic heart to feel for the teachers and children of Hopeful Heart Children’s Academy just like Rafiki social vision has.
Apart from feeding the children and meeting teacher’s arrears, there is need for support in renovating the school structures, attending to the general hygiene of the school and most importantly helping the school find a permanent place. Poor hygiene characterized by poor disposal of rubbish and human waste. There is only one pit latrine which is also in a worrying condition. The overall state of the school and structures is a substantial constraint to better education of pupils at this school. The compound needs to be slashed and cleaned, the walls inside need painting and the ceiling needs urgent attention.
The problems plaguing the growth and development of Hopeful Heart Children’s Academy are quite enormous but all hope and confidence lies in the potential support from foundations like Rafiki Social Vision, individuals of benevolence and generosity, and the general public.
Writer is Isaac Akugizibwe