14 November 2012

Uganda: Nkoyoyo Lives His Dream of Education for All Children

He is better known as a man of God, who has led the Lord's folk on the path to salvation. What is not known to many, however, is that the retired Archbishop of the Church of Uganda, the Rt. Rev. Livingstone Mpalanyi Nkoyoyo has a big heart for underprivileged children.

Nkoyoyo has devoted his retirement to caring for the vulnerable and disadvantaged children, giving them a good education.

Four years ago, Nkoyoyo started, Martin Nkoyoyo Inclusive Primary School, on the outskirts of Mukono town. An inclusive school is one where both physically impaired and able-bodied children mix and study together.

Martin Nkoyoyo Inclusive Primary School is the only one of its kind in Mukono district. The school is also home to orphans and former street children.

"A few other children come from the community here. We want all the children, including those with physical and visual impairments, to have the best education possible," Nkoyoyo explains.

The school has a population of 484 pupils. "I started the school to help all kinds of children, irrespective of their health complications or social backgrounds," Nkoyoyo says.

"Despite the physical weaknesses of some of the children, they deserve equal opportunities. It is what we are trying to give them here," he adds.

Twelve-year-old Stella Arinaitwe is one of the 40 blind pupils at Martin Nkoyoyo Primary School, who sat Primary Leaving Examinations this week. She is confi dent she will pass the exams.

Arinaitwe says the school has groomed and taught her to do all the things that children do. She is optimistic that her future is bright despite her blindness.

"I can read and write. I do not want people to call me blind because I can do a lot of things on my own. I move around the compound without guidance, go to the chapel and to the bathroom," explains Arinaitwe.

Other blind children in the school play music instruments, including pianos and guitars. Some work on the farm.

The man of God has three others schools - Nkoyoyo Boarding Primary School, Bishop Nkoyoyo SSS in Matale, Mukono; and Chain Foundation.

Born in a family of 25 children in 1938, Nkoyoyo did not study in a boarding school. His father, Elisa Wamala Nkoyoyo, who was a sub-county chief in Busimbi, Mityana, argued that boarding schools were not ideal for primary school-going children.

All his children went to day primary schools. Dorothy Wakabi, a social worker with Chain Foundation, says Archbishop Nkoyoyo believes that good education and nutrition are the best gifts any child can get in life.

"He monitors all the schools and personally inspects classrooms and the library to ensure that the children have all they need," Wakabi notes.

Wakabi adds that on top of empowering children through education, the Archbishop personally teaches the children Christianity values. Being a religious leader, he spares time to tell children stories. Many orphans in the school fi nd solace in him.

"They love him because he tells them stories and also plays with them. They always look to his next visit," Wakabi explains.

Livingstone Mpalanyi, the school's co-ordinator, says the inclusive school has over years attracted many volunteers, who are interested in helping the needy children.

Nkoyoyo says it makes him happy to see the lives of needy children change. "No child wants to live on the street. It is important that we give them the best of life," he explains.

The school has a 20-acre farm land, where vegetables and other crops like maize, soya beans are grown.

They also have a piggery, poultry farm and friesian cows. Nkoyoyo Inclusive School offers an all-round education, which includes co-curricular activities.

"We teach the children skills that will help them make it in life," Nkoyoyo explains. But all is not rosy at the school.

Justine Abuku, the head teacher, says children with visual impairments lack reading materials. "Textbooks for the blind and their studying materials are expensive, yet the population of the school is increasing," she notes, adding: "Some parents leave children physical disabilities at the school and never return."

The school lacks funds and depends on fi nancial assistance from abroad and the support of the community.

"We have to feed all the children daily. Many of them count on the school as their home," Abuku explains.

But Nkoyoyo is determined. "With or without money, children must access good education and nutrition."

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