Okune Primary School
A total of 1,021 pupils are currently registered at Okune Primary School in the Otuke district of northern Uganda, most of whom come from economically disadvantaged families. Access to education is particularly important for them to lead a self-determined life. However, the lack of space, the high noise level and the lack of hygiene standards at the school are detrimental to concentration and even encourage school drop-outs. In addition, there are 9 teachers at Okune Primary School who are also suffering from the current teaching and learning conditions.
The project aims to improve the quality of learning by expanding Okune Primary School with 4 new classrooms, 1 teacher’s office and equipping the rooms with appropriate furniture. To create more awareness around the taboo subject of menstruation, a menstrual hygiene building with 4 separate rooms (changing, rest, learning and counseling room) and a special incinerator for the disposal of used hygiene products is being built. To promote mental health, additional training and workshops are offered for pupils, teachers and parents. LTP (Link to Progress) is responsible for the project organization on site. LTP and Visions for Children were already involved at Okune Primary School as part of our
program at Okune Primary School last year, where water access was provided, sanitary facilities were built and workshops were held on topics such as hygiene and menstruation.
Some of the inhabitants of the 356 villages in the Otuke region of northern Uganda live very isolated lives in makeshift dwellings with a grass roof and walls made of mud blocks. Agriculture and animal husbandry are, as in other districts of northern Uganda, the most important economic activities. However, there is a high unemployment rate, as the unfavorable weather conditions caused by climate change and the large price fluctuations affect yields. Child labor – especially in field and garden work – is part of everyday life here. Added to this is the low level of education in the region: 35% of adults aged 18 and over are illiterate and 18% of children aged 6 to 15 do not attend school due to poverty and hunger.
POOR LEARNING AND TEACHING CONDITIONS
Okune Primary School is a public school with a total of 1,021 pupils. Most of the 515 girls and 506 boys aged between 6 and 17 come from socially and economically marginalized families. They are taught together in 7 classrooms, with the class size currently averaging around 100 pupils – the state requirement is 63 pupils per class. Due to the lack of space and the lack of tables and chairs, around 145 pupils have to follow the lessons from the floor. In addition, the school building is generally in a dilapidated state due to 20 years of civil war in northern Uganda. A calm and concentrated learning atmosphere is almost impossible here, which leads to students becoming demotivated and consequently dropping out of school. In addition, there is no separate office for the 9 teachers to prepare and follow up on lessons.
LACK OF MENSTRUAL HYGIENE STANDARDS
There is no place forgirls at Okune Primary School to retreat and rest when they have abdominal pain or need to change their clothes due to their period. They also have no accessible place to store new pads. If necessary, they always have to inform the school management, which is why they often don’t even ask out of shame. There is also currently no disposal point for the period products used, which are therefore either simply thrown into nature or the latrines, causing them to become blocked. For these reasons, schoolgirls often drop out of school and go home again. In addition, there is generally no protected space for girls to ask questions about menstruation and puberty. This fosters ignorance and stigmatization, followed by the increased risk of teenage pregnancy.
The project focuses on three central points: Expanding Okune Primary School, improving menstrual hygiene standards, training pupils, their parents and teachers on mental health.
EXPANSION OF THE OKUNE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL
In order to create sufficient space and a better learning and teaching atmosphere, a total of 4 new classrooms and an office for the teaching staff are being built – barrier-free access via ramps. The new and existing classrooms will be equipped with 21 benches for the pupils, each consisting of a table and a bench, as well as 11 teacher’s desks for the teaching staff. To minimize health risks, a 10,000 l water tank for rainwater treatment is also connected to the school building, which is used to fillthe hand washing facilities or for cleaning work.
IMPROVING MENSTRUAL HYGIENE STANDARDS
As girls are often absent from lessons during their periods due to a lack of suitable rooms and hygienic sanitary facilities, a menstrual hygiene building with 4 rooms is being built in addition to the new classroom block. The menstrual hygiene building consists of a changing room, a study room (incl. blackboard), a quiet room and a counseling office for a female teacher. The rooms are intended specifically for girls and serve as a safe space for them to protect themselves from sexual assault and to break taboos on the topics of menstruation and puberty. An incineration plant is also being built near the building so that used sanitary towels can be disposed of appropriately. Hygiene articles are also made available on the premises and regularly replenished by a teacher. The costs incurred are financed via the school development fees.
KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER ON MENTAL HEALTH
In order to provide holistic education on the topic of mental health, pupils as well as their parents and teachers take part in various workshops to recognize clinical pictures at an early stage and thus protect their own mental health and promote inclusion. The workshops will be held by our partner organization LTP in close cooperation with health assistants from the district.
THE LOCAL PARTNER - LTP
Our partnership with LTP (Link to Progress) has already existed for several years and together we have successfully implemented a large number of projects in Uganda. The organization is run by women – a rarity in Uganda due to the prevailing, extreme patriarchal structures. LTP’s professionalism, the diversity in the team with regard to the various skills and the valuable expertise (especially in educational work for girls in northern Uganda) are also crucial for the expansion of Okune Primary School and promote sustainable cooperation.
WHAT HAS BEEN ACHIEVED SO FAR
OFFICIAL PROJECT LAUNCH
The education project at Okune Primary School in the Otuke District in northern Uganda starts in August. The aim of the project is to improve the learning atmosphere and menstrual hygiene as well as to impart knowledge on topics such as mental health, periods and puberty.