School Visit 2010  E-mail

REPORT FROM A VISIT TO ST. OLIVIA SCHOOL

March 22nd 2010

We are two committee members from St. Olivia Supporting Group (The Friends of St. Olivia School), Helen Fuglsang (Chairman) and Hanne Elmelund (Treasurer), who last autumn planned a winter break to Uganda. Obviously, we also wanted to visit St. Olivia Primary School. We had both been to the school previously, so it was going to be interesting to see the development the school has been through.

The school is situated in luscious and beautiful surroundings in a slightly hilly area. The nearby town is quite small. It’s really far out in the countryside.  We drove approx. 5 hours from the capital city, Kampala, along roads which demanded a very good driver who would look out for potholes and bumps!
When we arrived, we were welcomed by the School Director and the Headmaster. Together they were in charge of the day’s programme, which first and foremost was about the school’s ethos and objectives. We witnessed that both ethos and objectives were written in capitals in many of the classrooms. We were then given an overview of some of the challenges that lie ahead for the school.

There are three major problem areas. Due to bad economy, the teachers and the rest of the staff had not been paid for several months. This was based on falling pupil numbers and, as a result, less school fees. Some parents have taken their children out of St. Olivia School and enrolled them in the local state school, which is now free. Their time at St. Olivia School meant that these children’s general knowledge was above average, and so some were able to be moved up a class at the local state school. Further, some parents were behind in paying the school fees. This we have known about before, but it didn’t bode well now that the school was so short of money.

The building of the hostel has now been postponed, though hopefully only for a short period of time. In the opinion of the school’s management, if the hostel could be completed, more parents from further afield would be willing to enrol their children to the school. Pupils from St. Olivia School have grades that are very high at the finishing exams. This is something which has a high priority with parents, who are looking for a good education for their children.  Every year the grades of all final year classes are published in the Ugandan newspaper - a list that is closely studied by many parents.
St. Olivia School’s Director and Headmaster told us that they were very pleased with our initiative to sponsor a child’s school fees. They thought that this might encourage more children to the school. They have the following criteria for scholarships: 1. Orphaned children; 2. High achieving children; 3. Families with many children; 4. Children whose parents have used the school for many years.

After the meeting with the Headmaster, we visited several classes – from nursery class through to Year 7. The classrooms were dominated by much activity. There were posters produced by pupils and teachers on all walls. In each class they performed with enthusiasm and rhythmical clapping, a song for us. Not a dry eye in sight - it was very touching. After the classroom visits, the teachers and pupils had prepared a song & dance show accompanied by amazing drum music.

Next, we were given a guided tour around the campus. The buildings look solid and good, and they seem to be of a size that is suitable for each class. Each class has its own room. We saw the rainwater tank, donated by one of our members; and also the new facility, which is a tap that can be used when the rainwater tank is empty. We also saw the half-completed hostel building; but it’s worth remembering that it has been the same sight for many of the classrooms, that are now all complete. Until now, the plans have been adhered to, so let’s hope that will also be the case this time.

The visit ended with a meeting with the teaching staff, where we exchanged small presents and thanked them for a well-organised programme. We were left with the impression of a school that, despite financial difficulties, is dynamic and well-run, and where great care is taken of the individual child. It should also be mentioned that they have a very patient staff group!

The challenge for our charity is now to raise enough money for completion of the hostel and to establish more school fee donations.

Hanne Elmelund and Helen Fuglsang.

 
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