Meet Joseph, whose hope and determination has ensured that the children in his community have a safe place to come and learn.
The school he founded in Kyaka II settlement in Uganda has recently benefited from a complete rebuild as part of our programme in Kyaka II and is now a bright, safe space where children can come to learn and play.
27 year old Turyamuhebwa Joseph (Joseph) is the founder and director of St Joseph Early Childhood Development Centre, in Kinoni - Kyaka II refugee settlement, Uganda, where thousands of Congolese refugees live; and where Children on the Edge are supporting communities to provide early years education for the youngest refugee children.
Joseph's school has just been completely transformed thanks to our programme to rebuild and renovate 30 existing school buildings in Kyaka II.
The brand new school building and toilet block has given the school a complete new lease of life. The old dilapidated building and poor toilets which used to flood on a regular basis, meant that children had stopped attending the school and Joseph was almost forced to close.
"My dream had got to the point of becoming a burden. All I could see was a junction, but I was not sure of the way to take. My expenditures were higher than my income and it reached a time when I didn't even have enough clothes and was selling food from my farm in order to sustain the school which was on the edge of completely folding”.
Joseph was inspired to start up a school for children in his own community in Kyaka II settlement after helping his brother-in-law, who runs a secondary school in Kampala. Local parents were really happy to hear about the new school, and pledged to support Joseph both financially and practically to get it up and running.
Joseph, his wife and a few other teachers began by teaching 160 children under jackfruit trees at his home in Kinoni in Kyaka II refugee settlement. Joseph then asked parents to contribute UGX 5000 (about £1) towards the construction of a school building.
Working with a Centre Management Committee, Joseph started constructing classroom blocks using mud and wattle. But despite his best efforts, the classroom block wasn’t strong enough to withstand the heavy rains and winds and needed regular maintenance; often closing for days at a time to repair walls and rebuild sections. This time off affected the children’s learning.
The latrines were also made of mud and wattle and when it rained, they would fill with water as the iron sheet roof leaked. The area near the latrines was prone to flooding and created terrible odours as a result.
Joseph needed more funds to make the classroom and latrines fit for purpose, but parents weren’t willing to contribute any more money. Gradually the number of children attending the school started to reduce and the Centre Management Committee became dormant. Joseph’s expenditure was more than his income and he was considering closing the school completely.
Joseph then heard about some teacher training being offered by Children on the Edge Africa and was keen to join the course so he could gain knowledge on teaching younger children, which could help him reshape the school.
On the course, Joseph heard about our construction programme with Haileybury Youth Trust (HYT) to renovate and repair existing classrooms and early years centres. As his school was in disrepair, it was eligible to be part of the programme and Children on the Edge funded the construction of a brand new two-classroom block and latrines.
“It was great how Children on the Edge Africa surprised us with a four stance permanent and beautiful pit latrine, which was beyond our expectations! Especially when the latrine issue had been one of our biggest problems”.
“Children on the Edge not only constructed these new classrooms, but did not abandon us in lockdown, engaging us in other activities like cluster learning and the provision of home learning materials, which have helped in improving children’s academic progress. During all this, the teachers continued to be supported too, which has kept them motivated”.
Local people were trained and helped to build the new classroom as part of the programme and the community was delighted by how both children and adults were able to gain new skills and training.
Joseph and the other teachers working with him are currently finishing training for their Certificate in Early Childhood Education and Care (CEC), and after some interruptions due to Covid, they are due to finish later in 2022. Joseph told us that the teacher training has already helped him a lot. He has learnt how to create materials, plan lessons and how to cooperate with and mobilise the community.
A new Centre Management Committee was elected and was given managerial training by Children on the Edge Africa. They have now become very active in school activities, including helping out with the physical levelling of the land for one of the classroom blocks. Community members now love to use the classroom building for local meetings, and the children gather in large numbers and play there outside of their lessons.
“I want to thank Children on the Edge for their contribution towards the community. The learners will finally have a good environment for learning with a pit latrine ensuring proper hygiene for staff and children. Children on the Edge Africa has lifted the burden off my shoulders and restored my hope, as well as that of the parents who had given up on the school”.
Our programme in Kyaka II is kindly funded by Players of the People's Postcode Lottery.