Two years ago, when Danielle and I were first introduced to Monica Agaba, she told us about something she wanted more than anything in the world. Alongside her friends, family and other community leaders, she wanted to build a secondary school in her village. The village of Kihembe is populated by six primary schools and home to thousands of children, but the nearest secondary school, until earlier this year, was over 10km away; an insurmountable distance for most considering the fact that public transport is non-existent and the only way that most children can get to school is by foot.
Danielle and I were totally inspired by Monica’s drive and determination to bring a secondary school to her village. We wanted to support her to achieve her dream and, as The Zuri Project, this is exactly what we aim to do: we help local people in Uganda turn their project ideas and dreams into realities. Since we first learned of the idea, the secondary school has truly been a collaborative effort and so many people have been integral to its initial success as a project.
In Uganda, we must thank and pay tribute to Kihembe Development Association, led by Monica, for persevering and for acquiring the land from the government on which the secondary school could be built. The work of the Opportunity Africa team, who have been responsible for planning the building work, facilitating and monitoring the project, has also been incredible. In spite of facing the devastating reality of losing Herbert, the OA team has been resilient and committed throughout, and has seen the project all the way through to its conclusion. We are immensely proud of what the team has achieved. We are also incredibly grateful to all of the hundreds of other people in Uganda who have donated their time, money and effort to get involved in the secondary school project. It would not have been possible without their support.
In the UK, we must extend our thanks to all of our individual donors and fundraisers, who have worked tirelessly to raise funds to send across to our Ugandan team. Zuri Co-founder Martin cycled literally across the European continent to raise money for the secondary school project, an achievement that I still can’t begin to fathom how difficult it must have been. Ambassador Chris arranged and participated in a gruelling 3-peaks challenge with friends and colleagues, and battled the horrible British weather to raise an unbelievable amount of money to contribute to the secondary school project. Joe, Em and Jess have organised the first ever Zuri Project Summer Ball in Birmingham, due to take place at the end of this week. With over 100 people expected to attend, we are hoping that enough money will be raised to start planning the next phase of expansion for the secondary school, due to start in January 2018.
In addition to our passionate volunteers, we are also very grateful to our generous donors and funders, who have supported us with very generous financial donations over the past couple of years. Earlier this year, I wrote a blog about the generosity of The Rotary Clubs that we work with, and you can read all about their support for Zuri here.
As you have read, so many people have been involved in turning the secondary school dream into a reality. Below is a timeline of events showing you how the project unfolded. I hope you are inspired by the progress that our Ugandan partners have made. We certainly are.
September – October 2016
- Land legally acquired from the government of Uganda to start the building process.
- Community mobilisation and fundraising. Once the land was confirmed, community leaders and decision makers got together to organise community wide fundraising, which resulted in just short of £1000 being raised to support the first phase of the project.
- Laying the foundations. Many community members [Between 100-150] donated their time to clear the land and dig the foundations for the school, as well as providing building materials and tools to support the contractors during the next phase.
November – December 2016
- Contractors hired and main structure started. Opportunity Africa put the contract out to tender to local building firms and the building work started in the middle of November.
- ‘Super structure’ finished. By the start of December 2016, our team in Uganda had finished the super structure of the main school building, finishing the brick work up to the roof level.
December – January 2016 – 17
- Community meeting. Opportunity Africa arranged a meeting between community leaders, local councillors, local government officials and local NGOs to share updates and plan the opening of the school. It was agreed that the school should be open by the start of February, subject to funding.
- Latrines completed. Community members fundraised for three pit latrines to be dug and a structure to be built around them, resulting in one for girls, one for boys and one for staff.
January – February 2017
- Roofing and doors added to structure. After the Christmas break, work recommenced on the secondary school building, with contractors adding the roofing and ordering the windows and doors. During the first week of February, the roof was finished, and the windows were ordered to be added to the structure.
February – March 2017
- Desks crafted. In order for the school to open during the first week of February, we purchased enough desks for both classrooms, which were hand crafted and painted by local carpenters from the community.
- Scholastic materials purchased. In addition to the desks, we purchased textbooks and other scholastic materials to ensure that the school could open its doors to the community at the start of February.
- Teachers recruited. We supported Opportunity Africa and Kihembe Development Association to recruit the first teaching staff at the school – a headmistress is now in place as well as a number of full time class teachers.
- 71 students recruited for the first term! Students from across Kihembe have signed up to the school and paid fees for the first term. This number increased to over 100 by the end of the second full term, and we expect this number to continue to rise.
- Windows added and fixed. The windows were purchased and fixed to the building during the first term. Many schools in Uganda go without windows, which makes teaching during the rainy season nearly impossible.
- Painting done and building work completed. The final touches were added to the building during the Easter holidays and the building was painted white.
Visit of UK team
After hearing the tragic news of Herbert’s passing, Danielle and I decided to visit Uganda, to pay our respects to Herbert’s family and also to visit the secondary school. We were completely taken aback by just how much our Ugandan team had achieved in the short that passed since the work started.
Danielle with Moses, Job, Elly, Mercy and Monica, with the secondary school in the background.
Me [back row] with the class of 2017 after a showcase football match against the villagers, which ended in a hotly contested 2-2 draw!
We are absolutely thrilled with the success of the secondary school project to date. Supporting a project that has enabled over 100 children now have access to a secondary education is something that we are immensely proud to have been a part of. But this is only just the start of the journey. We have supported the teachers to plant vegetable gardens and coffee on the secondary school site, which we hope in the long term will support the school to have a sustainable, ongoing income on top of school fee payments [see gardens below].
Given that the school is already full to capacity, we are hoping to support Opportunity Africa to build another classroom block at the school at the start of next year, to enable even more children to have the opportunity to attend the school. All of our fundraising efforts from now until Christmas, will go towards the secondary school project. If you would like to contribute to our efforts, then you can donate via our website:
We really are incredibly grateful to everyone that has supported our charitable work in Uganda over the past three years, and for helping us to turn the secondary school dream into a reality.
As they say in Kanungu, webare munonga [Thank you very much].