Unity is Strength has three trustees, Lizzie, Tom and Jane Hulton-Harrop. Before sending any funds, Lizzie requests budgets from Dominic Mukwaya, the Founder and Director of St Paul KAASO, to see where funds are needed. The trustees discuss these needs and, with Dominic, decide how the funds should be spent.
When the funds have been spent, Dominic sends the trustees a report and set of accounts detailing the expenditure. We have regular calls to discuss how things are going and how the projects are impacting the school and the wider community.
Photo from left: Rose Mukwaya, Jane Hulton-Harrop, Dominic Mukwaya and Tom Hulton-Harrop in Uganda, October 2017
COVID-19 Relief Fund
KAASO has suffered hugely during COVID, with the school closed by government mandate from March – October 2020. In October 2020, only the final year Primary Seven students were allowed to resume classes and throughout 2021, other classes had slowly been able to return.
On 7th June 2021, Uganda went back into a national lockdown where all schools had to close again, which has made things even more difficult.
When the children were back in school, while it was wonderful to have them back in education, KAASO faced major challenges to meet the strict COVID safety measures. They are now suffering under a heavy burden of additional costs.
Where one teacher used to take a class, two or three teachers were required for the same number of students due to stringent social distancing measures. Dormitories that used to house double-decker bunks were required to have single beds only, spaced 2 metres apart, creating a severe lack of dormitory space – and a need for more matrons. Hand washing stations had to be erected around the school as well as temperature guns purchased for daily temperature checks and a constant stream of disinfectant needed to comply with the twice-daily sterilising that must take place in each classroom.
To make matters worse, many of the fee-paying students at KAASO are no longer able to afford to pay school fees (or partial fees) and so while outgoings have increased, incoming funds have decreased.
All of this means that the impressive juggling act KAASO once ran which enabled the fee paying students to cover those unable to afford school fees is becoming unsustainable and the school is struggling to make ends meet.
We, along with other supporters of KAASO, set up a COVID Relief Fund to alleviate some of the pressure from these challenges. Funds have covered hand-sanitising stations, Protective Personal Equipment, temperature guns and have helped to cover teacher salaries and wages for non-teaching staff at KAASO (matrons, cooks, gardeners and administration staff).
Protective Personal Equipment has become the norm across KAASO. Teachers actively wear masks in the classroom and across the school’s grounds: “If I forget it, I have to go back and pick it”.
The COVID-19 pandemic has threatened both the health and employment of the community in Kabira. Local lockdown, minimised mobility and the closure of the school left the teachers at KAASO without employment. Teachers were unable to teach leaving them with little opportunity, no income and little activity to occupy them during working hours.
However, the teachers were determined to find a way to support themselves and their community during times of hardship. So, the Piggery project was born. A piece of land was allocated to a group of teachers; they built a pigsty and were able to purchase two pigs. The teachers cared for the animals; learning animal husbandry skills and diversifying their own employment skills. Caring for the animals gave the teachers purpose and an activity to focus on, plus an opportunity to advance their own knowledge in a new discipline.
Since the piggery was built, the two pigs have given birth to four piglets which will be sold on the local market or further afield in Kampala. The ambition is to create a project which is self-sufficient and catalyses a multiplier effect that would enhance local market activity, enhance local incomes and contribute to food security. This small but sustainable initiative has established a new and lasting income-generating activity for the school community at KAASO. A diversified income source gives financial insurance and stability to teachers in times when education, sadly, has to be paused. The benefits experienced have prompted teachers to plan for the project’s expansion, so parents are next!
The success of the project has attracted national attention and has consequently been visited and endorsed by the Commissioner of the Ministry of Education. It has been heralded as a national example of self-sufficiency and resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As demonstrated by the Piggery project, teachers had to diversify their income sources to prevent struggle during the pandemic. The brick-making project offered an alternative activity for teachers to diversify their skills, support local infrastructure development, and generate an income during the closure of the school. Four teachers worked with Dominic to build a brick kiln on the school grounds. They learnt how to make bricks giving them something to do and something to learn! 15,000 bricks have been fired and are ready to be sold on the local market in Kyotera. These bricks will be used to build schools, clinics, homes and other important buildings across the community. The price of bricks is set to rise in the winter months, for which the team are preparing.
Growing Eucalyptus has become an important income-generating activity for KAASO. Wood can be sold for scaffolding frames and telephone poles across the rural community. Teachers were encouraged to support this initiative to enhance their skills, incomes and opportunities.
At first, teachers were reluctant to take part in manual activity however, after experiencing the economic benefits from the trees grown they were inspired to be involved and support this community-wide initiative. In the coming weeks, KAASO will host a government official to showcase the initiative. It is hoped that this visit will prompt wider recognition of the school’s self-sufficiency efforts.