EDUCATION

Ugandan school, Project Shelter Wakadogo wins inaugural World’s Best School Prize for overcoming adversity

"Wakadogo performers doing Aguma music and dance. Aguma is done to show happiness and celebration in Acholi"

Wakadogo performers doing Aguma music and dance. Aguma is done to show happiness and celebration in Acholi (PHOTO /UG Standard).

The five World’s Best School Prizes, founded this year by T4 Education in collaboration with Templeton World Charity Foundation, Accenture and American Express, are the world’s most prestigious education prizes and see winning schools share $250,000

Project Shelter Wakadogo in Uganda, which was founded in the wake of war and now educates over 450 children with one of the highest student retention rates in the country, was today named the winner of the inaugural World’s Best School Prize for Overcoming Adversity. The five World’s Best School Prizes, founded this year by T4 Education in collaboration with Templeton World Charity Foundation, Accenture and American Express, are the world’s most prestigious education prizes and see winning schools share an award of $250,000.

The five World’s Best School Prizes – for Community Collaboration, Environmental Action, Innovation, Overcoming Adversity, and Supporting Healthy Lives – celebrate schools everywhere for the pivotal role they play in developing the next generation of learners and for their enormous contribution to society’s progress especially in the wake of COVID.

Project Shelter Wakadogo was chosen as the winner of the World’s Best School Prize for Overcoming Adversity from among the Top 3 finalists for the prize, which also included Pinelands North Primary School in South Africa and Escola Evandro Ferreira Dos Santos in Brazil.

The Prizes were founded by T4 Education in collaboration with Templeton World Charity Foundation, Accenture, American Express, Yayasan Hasanah, and the Lemann Foundation to share the best practices of schools that are transforming the lives of their students and making a real difference to their communities.

Vikas Pota, Founder of T4 Education and the World’s Best School Prizes, said: “Congratulations to Project Shelter Wakadogo for winning the World’s Best School Prize for Overcoming Adversity. It’s time for world leaders to sit up and listen to institutions like this outstanding Ugandan school.

“Far too many children will continue to be left behind in the wake of COVID unless governments take urgent action to tackle the education crisis. As a first step, they must turn to the knowledge and experience contained within our schools because those on the frontlines of education know better than anyone else the change we need to see.

“We founded the World’s Best School Prizes to surface the expertise of trailblazing schools from every corner of the globe so that leaders can learn from their incredible stories.”

About the school:

Project Shelter Wakadogo in Gulu, Uganda, has flourished from a school with only two classrooms founded in the wake of war to now educating over 450 children with one of the highest student retention rates in the country.

In the aftermath of two decades of civil war and the violence committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army, which displaced over a million people in Northern Uganda, families in the village of Pece Acoyo in Gulu were slowly returning to their homes. Amongst the wreckage left by the war, calls for a safe, quality school began to grow. Through a large community effort Project Shelter Wakadogo was born – land was procured, roads leading to the school were levelled and vegetables were planted to be used for school meals. In 2009, the school opened. The name Wakadogo reflects the school’s mission to extend a duty of care to those who walked through its doors, meaning ‘for the little ones’ in Swahili.

Its commitment to provide free school meals, healthcare and a quality education for the surrounding community, has seen the school become a second home for many.

When Uganda imposed a long lockdown during the pandemic, Project Shelter Wakadogo quickly determined that online schooling wouldn’t be possible for its students. In Uganda, only 2% of the population has access to personal computers and less than 9% of the rural population has access to the internet. Instead, Project Shelter Wakadogo pivoted to conducting 36,000 home-schooling lessons during the pandemic. This dedication to continue to provide education to its students was crucial as the school closures across Uganda saw children forced into the labour market, a rise in teenage pregnancy and gender-based violence.

Project Shelter Wakadogo will use the prize funds to offer more scholarships for marginalised and underprivileged children in the community. It will also use the funds to set up an online learning platform to facilitate hybrid and catch-up learning, in case schools should ever close again, and share its approach and technology where possible with schools in the region. It will also use the funds to continue to provide mid-morning porridge and midday meals to its students as most in the wider community live on one meal a day.

The five Prizes:

The winners of the five World’s Best School Prizes were chosen by a Judging Academy, comprising distinguished leaders all across the globe including academics, educators, NGOs, social entrepreneurs, government, civil society, and the private sector, based on a set of rigorous criteria. Judges were informed by a public advisory vote in which nearly 50,000 people from around the world voted for their favourite schools.

At the same time, Dunoon Grammar School in the UK won the World’s Best School Prize for Community Collaboration. Escuela Emilia Lascar in Chile won the World’s Best School Prize for Innovation. Bonuan Buquig National High School in the Philippines won the World’s Best School Prize for Environmental Action. And Curie Metropolitan High School in the US won the World’s Best School Prize for Supporting Healthy Lives.

A prize of US$250,000 will be shared equally among the winners of the five Prizes, with each receiving an award of US$50,000.

All shortlisted schools across the five Prizes will share their best practices through School Transformation Toolkits that showcase their “secret sauce” to innovative approaches and step-by-step instructions on how others can replicate their methods to help improve education everywhere. These will be available on the new T4 Communities app launched at World Education Week.

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