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The history of the East African state of Uganda is characterized by a long military dictatorship and a devastating HIV epidemic, which also affected the fishing village of Katosi. To offer the orphans in Katosi perspective, the village community built the “St. John Bosco School”. It offers free classes for the poorest children in the village. But due to significant structural defects, the school was in danger of being closed. This is where we came in with our support: seven new classrooms, sanitary facilities, a new water tank, and the construction of a library are the results of our joint project work with our local partner K.I.D.A.
Uganda is a landlocked East African country that borders on the crisis regions of South Sudan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In the north, Uganda borders on Lake Victoria, the largest lake in Africa. Uganda’s population is estimated at around 42,7 million people (2018). The official languages are English and Swahili, but over 40 different languages and dialects are spoken in the country. The history of Uganda is characterized by a long and violent military dictatorship that claimed hundreds of thousands of lives after the country’s decolonization and independence in the 1970s. The armed conflict lasted until 2006. In addition to the unrest, an HIV epidemic broke out in the country in the 1980s, which claims many lives to this day. The number of orphans in Uganda has increased dramatically since then. Almost a third of all orphans in Uganda lost their parents to the HIV epidemic. As a rule, orphans are taken in and cared for by the clan-like village community. In some places, however, the high number of orphans is now overloading the village community.
The project school, “St. John Bosco School”, is located in the Mukono district of the fishing village of Katosi , near the capital Kampala. The main sources of income of the residents are fishing and agriculture.
Katosi was severely hit by the AIDS epidemic, which is why it is estimated that around 70% of the village population is infected today. The “St. John Bosco School” was launched by the “Katosi Intercommunity Development Alliance” (KIDA), a small local aid organization, which erected a makeshift wooden building together with the village community in 2010. Additionally, a teaching staff was hired. So far, the venture has been financed by means of the village community. The school offers orphans and the otherwise poorest children in the area free education. Since schools in Uganda generally take school attendance fees, it would otherwise be unaffordable for these children. A friend of the organization first became aware of the school during private travels. In 2015, the then board member Marilena Frank traveled to Katosi to get to know KIDA and the school. They took inventory and carried out a basic assessment. At that time, around 165 children between the ages of 5 and 13 were being taught from first to seventh grade.
The inventory let us quickly identify the problems. Due to a termite infestation, the school was dilapidated and in danger of collapsing. This danger of collapse meant a greater safety risk for the students every day. The government threatened several times to close the school without replacement. However, the structural deficiencies of the school went further: Since the school was built as a mere temporary measure and with minimal financial resources, the pouring of a concrete floor was completely omitted. Due to unevenness in the ground, puddles formed in the mud floor during the rainy season, in which insects such as sand fleas bred and attacked the feet of the students. Due to improper extermination and permanent new infestations, infections of the affected areas occurred again and again.
Back in Germany, the team decided to support the school with a permanent new building made of brick to ensure the continued existence of the school and create an environment in which students can thrive. Together with our local partner K.I.D.A., we built seven new classrooms as a first step, at a cost of around €40,000. The inauguration of the building took place at the end of October 2017.
At the beginning of 2018, the sanitary facilities and a new water tank for collecting and processing rainwater were built and opened. This measure was accompanied by hygiene workshops in which the children were taught how to use water properly and about the importance of good hygiene. The total cost was around €7,300.
In the summer of 2018, we started our last construction phase at the St. John Bosco School: a library with adjoining administration rooms to make everyday school life easier. At the grand opening, teachers and students also received training on how to use a library.