LWENGO/RAKAI – Cotton On Foundation (COF), the charity arm of Cotton On Group, an Australian-based organization has opened two more state of art primary schools in Southern Uganda to enable vulnerable pupils to attain quality and holistic education. Without these schools, parents and teachers said pupils would need to walk for hours a day to get to a central school, known as the hub for surrounding villages.
The two schools including Kyaterekera Primary School, a Church of Uganda founded and government-aided school in Lwengo, and Ntebezaddungu Primary School, a catholic church founded in Rakai District accommodate 500 pupils each from neighboring villages.
Handing over the schools to government and founding bodies, Ms. Clare Najjemba, Uganda country manager, Cotton On Foundation revealed that similar projects have been built and handed over to local authorities in Kyampalakata, Kensekka, Kalyamenvu, and Kasomolo within the Rakai and Lwengo districts to elevate their mission to develop 20,000 educational places in Southern Uganda.
Ms. Najjemba emphasized that Cotton On Foundation projects which include up to 10 classrooms, administration offices, and 12 units for teachers’ accommodation, toilets, and an amphitheater for each school are specifically for the children in those vulnerable communities.
“We are extremely delighted to officially handover these facilities to the community of Kyaterekera, West Buganda Diocese and Lwengo District. I look back at where Kyaterekera [primary school] was and I’m happy with the changes I see today,” Ms. Najjemba said at a handover/takeover ceremony also presided over by Venerable James Namanya and Lwengo District Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) George Ntulume.
Ms. Najjemba emphatically added that handover of outreach schools with biogas toilets and kitchens, two 400,000 liters rhino water tanks, and gigantic multipurpose halls means that pupils are able to get their education closer to home – a driving factor for Cotton On Foundation in creating these two brand new facilities.
She urged schools authorities, founding bodies, and communities to take full responsibility of these facilities to demonstrate ownership and sustainability of the education services in the areas.
“You have the greatest responsibility to ensure that whatever has been given to you is well maintained for now and the future,” she said.
In one of the poems, Kyeterekera Primary school pupils said they have started to feel different, citing a conducive learning environment facilitated by Cotton On Foundation.
Isah Kayemba, a primary six pupil who spoke on behalf of learners, thanked the generous Cotton On Foundation for porridge at Breakfast and Posho at lunchtime. He said the meals have “really improved concentration during classroom lessons and lives”.
The grateful pupil also said that workshops given to teachers by Cotton On Foundation extension and teacher mentors have saved learners from corporal punishment saying: “We are now free from violence at school.”
Venerable James Namanya lauded the donor for the facilities and urged parents to utilize the chance to take their children to school because the education facilities are now nearer to their homes, noting that a country without education cannot develop.
“Cotton [On] Foundation, you have challenged us,” Venerable Namanya said, urging Kyaterekera primary school authorities and the community on school infrastructure maintenance.
The elated headteacher of Kyaterekera Primary School, Mr. George William Byaruhanga who has served at the school since 2019 said the donation was timely and would help enhance teaching and learning in the school.
“We’re very happy that Cotton On Foundation has paid high attention to improving the critical education gaps here. The pupils are already enjoying all the new facilities including an outdoor amphitheater, biogas toilets, and kitchen.”
“Education is the key to eradicating poverty, so, these facilities will undoubtedly contribute to reducing the overwhelming poverty in this area,” he said.
Mr. Byaruhanga, however, said that he only has nine teachers providing education to 617 pupils.
Ibrahim Kitatta Lwengo District LCV Chairperson said the reconstruction works on schools by Cotton On Foundation come at a time when about 60 of the 130 government Primary Schools in Lwengo District have many more students than the pre-covid-19 lockdown enrollment levels.
“This has stretched the teacher to student ratio and hence affected learning adversely. Today we need more teachers, more classrooms, more learning materials and more toilet facilities which the government is unable to fund at one time” Kitatta added.
Lwengo District CAO George Ntulume assured the donors of the government’s commitment to deploy more teachers in these schools on the payroll in the shortest time possible.
Ntulume also called upon the parents to uphold their responsibility in school activities and also meet their children’s education needs.
“The major setback for UPE is that it is not entirely free,” Mr. Ntulume said, noting that: “Much as Cotton [On] Foundation has helped us (government) to set up these beautiful schools, parents must not ignore their roles and responsibilities”.
“They (parents) have to buy scholastic materials starting from pens, exercise books, shoes, and uniforms,” the CAO said.
Mr. Godfrey Kyamabbde, the district senior officer said the donation is timely as the majority of pupils in the district have been trekking long distances to get to access quality holistic education.
Kyamabbde said since accommodation for teachers has been provided, pupils are expected to complete their syllabuses in time and will commit their presence at school to support all learners.
Mr. Edward Lukyamuzi, the chairperson Parents Teachers Association (PTA) and deputy chairperson Kyaterekera School Management Committee (SMC) underscored the importance of community participation in promoting quality education.
This he said, rested on parents by putting their maximum efforts into the educational affairs of their wards.
Mr. Deogratias Ntezumukiza, the Cotton On Foundation Education Programmes Coordinator, Lwengo District said schools helped by the Foundation were performing poorly across all key education indicators.
“We undertook the initiative to map out schools that weren’t performing well in Lwengo District. And among them was Kyaterekera Primary School whose learning environment was not child friendly to enhance the learning outcomes,” Mr. Ntezumukiza said.
He expects that beneficiary communities such as Kyaterekera will move out of the poverty cycle through quality education service delivery.
“Realizing that this school had these challenges, we came in and we have provided the basics to make sure that we deliver holistic education,” he added.
According to the Cotton On Foundation’s 2021 Field Report, the organization supported 13,659 students and 439 teachers at 24 Cotton On Foundation-supported schools across Uganda, Thailand, and South Africa last year. The organization had 54 students on scholarships in Uganda and Thailand graduate that year.
The Cotton On Foundation supports communities in Uganda, South Africa, Thailand, and Australia. Since 2007, the organization has donated $120 million to positively impact these communities around the world.