The Observer (Kampala)

17 December 2012

Uganda: At Grace Children's Practical Education Is the Goal

"Good project; keep it up," reads a comment in the visitors' book.

"It's good; I would love to know how you thought about this [project]," reads another.

The book is signed by visitors from all over Uganda and countries like the US and Sweden. This is Grace Children's Village project in Kabale district. The school, which hasn't even had its pioneer pupils sit for PLE, started in 2009 as a demonstration farm for the locals. It's registered as a community-based organisation in Kabale.

In 2010, the founders decided to diversify and started a nursery section with a two-classroom block. Today, the school has up to primary three. Every year, a new class is added.

"We now have about 150 pupils, but we are targeting between 500-700 pupils when all the classes are complete," says David Bakeine, the co-founder and the director of the school.

For a community

Bakeine knew something was wrong when he realised that many children in this community were not attending school. That's when he thought of Grace Children's. Situated in Bubare village, Kabale district, the school is designed in such a way that pupils not only rely on class material, but also learn farm activities - which they engage with in their free time.

"When they are not in class, we help them learn how to feed a cow, goat, and other things like how to maintain a small vegetable garden.

"It's for only those in primary section," says Bakeine.

At the school premises are a host of various farm projects including vegetable gardens, banana plantations, pigs, cows and goats. The money raised from these projects is used to finance the school.

"We know that in class we have average and first-class pupils. We know that at any one moment a pupil may dropout before they finish their studies.

"Here, we want them to at least have a skill to do something," Bakeine explains

Inspiration

Bakeine says of the ten siblings he has, he is the only one who has gone beyond O-level.

"I have gone through the background which I don't wish anyone, if they have the means, to go through.

"I started this project to offer cheap, but quality education to my community."

Affordability

Many parents wish their children to attend good schools. But given the financial constraints, they find themselves with one option, UPE. At Grace Children's, a parent pays Shs 50, 000 per term and the child is entitled to lunch and breakfast at school. For the parents who can't raise this money, they are given a piglet from the school's farm which they help raise and when it produces, they sell some of the piglets and pay the child's tuition.

The pigs are a crossbreed from the boar Bakeine bought from South Africa and they go for slightly higher prices than the local breeds. And the future seems bright here. In the school environ, a storeyed building under construction is at the second level. Management hopes that it will be completed in 2013 to house the growing numbers of pupils.

It's funded by Bakeine, friends and well-wishers. One of Bakeine's partners is Dave Rutherford, a UK citizen.

Challenges

Some of the community members don't support the project - they think it's just a profit-making venture that wouldn't benefit the community.

"We needed to buy land for extension here and our neighbor was selling. When he heard that we were the ones buying, he refused to sell to us. We had to buy land in Kyenjojo district which we use to grow the school's food," Bakeine says with a tinge of disappointment.

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