After nearly two years of school closures in Uganda as a result of the pandemic, we were thrilled to open our classrooms again in Kyaka II refugee settlement, Uganda in January 2022.
Thanks to your generous support, many children returned to learning in brand new classrooms. Find out how they children having been getting on over the past six months.
In Kyaka II, we are working with 30 communities from the Democratic Republic of Congo to provide early years education for their 3-6 year olds. This includes high quality training for teachers and school management committees, and providing environments conducive to learning.
When we arrived in Kyaka II in 2019, these 30 communities had preschool shelters, but fourteen were completely derelict. Whilst parents were trying their best, without support or resources to maintain these schools for their young children, they were completely unusable and teachers were only equipped to deliver basic childcare. Since then, we have been working with award-winning, low-carbon builder, Haileybury Youth Trust (HYT) to replace these 14 buildings.
The new structures are simple but durable two-classroom buildings, with accompanying toilet blocks.
Inside they are colourful, safe spaces where children can learn, play and thrive. Teachers are trained to deliver high quality Early Years Education and communities and parents are supported to engage with their children’s learning and get involved in the management of the preschools.
All 14 derelict preschools have now been rebuilt, with the final four buildings finished between April and June 2022.
Along with the children in the other 16 schools we support, our current enrollment is now 5,978 young learners, around 200 children per centre, with a sustained 90% attendance rate.
IMPACT ON THE CHILDREN
The buildings offer safe, secure and attractive spaces for the children. Whereas children used to learn in tents or mud structures, the new classrooms provide shelter and an environment conducive to learning. One parent with two children at St Joseph preschool in Sweswe zone said:
“If you look at the structure we have been having here, it was a shame to us parents to say that our children are studying from there. The structure was about to collapse and the rains had washed away much of the mud on the walls. You [Children on the Edge] saved us when you started constructing a building here for us. Now our children are safe and I know they will learn very well”.
Focus group discussions with teachers, parents and community members took place in June 2022 with an overwhelming positive response to the new buildings and the impact they have had on the children since they opened in January.
Five-year-old Mapendo Miriel who went back to a new classroom in Buliti Zone in January said:
"I love my new school, especially the bricks which look like chocolate and the colours. Everyday we have been playing outside the building with my friends but when all schools reopened, ours was also opened and today we are inside learning and having fun!”
The focus groups confirmed that the children are learning well. Teachers told us how the children are more interested in lessons than ever before with the colourful new classrooms and accompanying resources providing a much improved space to learn and play than the unsafe, dilapidated shelters that were in place before. The children are curious to know and explore new things.
The children are learning to count, and are able to put things in order according to quantities, with some able to write and speak in English.
They love their lessons and enjoy coming to school; parents told us how they used to have to encourage their children to go to school, but now, with the new classrooms, they are excited to get to lessons.
One parent told us: "Before, our children did not know anything about schooling, we were all disinterested, but now every morning, the children ask to be taken to school. They cry and demand to go to school whenever they are unable to go [due to sickness]”.
The buildings have helped with behaviour too, with teachers telling us the children’s behaviour has improved and they are more respectful to their teachers and with each other. One teacher told us how the children now “actively express themselves, they know how to greet people and sing songs”. Other parents told us: “Our children would not share with others but after going to school for 6 months, they have learned to share with others".
When the focus group was asked if they had seen any positive or negative changes in the children in their community following the opening of their new preschool building, they laughed and said in unison that there had been no negative changes. They said: “Children were unruly, wild, unable to write or mention any word in English. It’s the opposite now. They have learnt a lot in school and we really appreciate it”.
IMPACT ON TEACHERS
The teachers are well respected within their communities in Kyaka II and the school management committees have commented how wonderful and hardworking they are. They are motivated to teach the children, with community members and parents describing how they love the children, are very well organised, punctual and have taught their children so much.
Community members told us that early years education was never valued before, as the caregivers they had before lacked knowledge and the training necessary to teach well. We were told: “Their training was not intensive compared to what Children on the Edge Africa has given them. Their work is felt through our children. They are doing a very good job, kudos to our teachers!”.
In February, 38 teachers graduated their teacher training at a special ceremony officiated by a District Education Officer who said, “This is the first time in the entire district to have an ECD caregiver’s graduation and indeed Children on the Edge Africa is a game changer. The issue of using untrained teachers should be something of the past.”
Naome Furaha who teaches top class at Kyamagabo preschool said:
“Previously we were teaching in a UNICEF tent. The tents were pitched here back in 2019 and all of them are torn and full of holes. Children can no longer study safely from there. I love this new building because it's very beautiful both on the inside and the outside. It even allows fresh air to come inside the classroom. The classroom is well lit and, for me as a teacher, I have enough space to display my learning aids which was not possible with the tent. This classroom is very strong and safe and it will be here for more generations to come.”
Another building investment was the construction of a resource centre, designed to be used as a gathering place for training and planning. Over 262 teachers from across the Kyaka II settlement visit the resource centre each week to gain ideas and inspiration on creating and equipping their learning spaces. Teacher training as well as weekly feedback and planning meetings are held at the centre.
IMPACT ON PARENTS
Parents are better engaged in their child's learning; many come to check in on the preschool to see how they are learning and take an interest, even though many don’t know how to read and write.
They help prepare the children for school, with many providing uniforms, and bringing food at snack time for the children to eat. Parents have taken an interest in supporting the preschools with materials and help to make things like balls and dolls using local materials for the schools to use.
Jude Byensi- Director and co-founder of St. Jude Nursery School- Bujubuli, told us:
“The parents now have confidence in the school because of this new building here. We have received very many children and as you can see all classrooms are full and we expect more to come. I thank Children on the Edge Africa and their friends for thinking about us. We have nothing to give you but to pray to God so that he blesses you abundantly”.
Parents attend meetings with teachers and the school management committees and feel proud that their children attend. Parents are even learning a small amount of English from their children, who are taught in several languages, including English.
All the centres have trained teachers and 181 Centre Management Committee members are engaged across the 30 communities we work with, to support the running and upkeep of the buildings and to strengthen support for early learning in each zone of the Kyaka II settlement.
IMPACT ON THE COMMUNITY
Outside of class time, the classrooms are also used as meeting places for support groups, teachers and children. In the last quarter, two zones engaged parents to help plant fruit trees outside the classrooms to aid learning about growing food, and to make the space even more colourful and welcoming.
"I thank Children on the Edge Africa for this new building here at Buliti A. In 2019, our school was up there near the church and it was in a very bad state, parents were sceptical of giving us their children fearing that the classroom could collapse on them. We now have numbers never seen before”.
Niwasiima- Caregiver Vision preschool
With the overwhelming need for early years provision in the Kyaka settlement, enrolment at all centres has been skyrocketing each day. To meet the ever growing need for early childhood development provision in the Kyaka II refugee settlement, our Cluster Learning Approach has been developed to provide a sustainable, cost effective early years education model, that is beginning to create access to quality learning for thousands more children who can't access our classrooms.