John Ntege is a man with a dream. Years ago he was in a very serious car accident and had a dream that he needed to build a school for children. After man years, and ups and downs, St. John Kama School stands proudly in a rural area about an hour outside Mukono. John is not a young man in Ugandan terms in his mid sixties, due to many people dying young of AIDS and malaria, but he has a childlike gleam in his eyes when he talks about the school. The school is still being fixed up and some generous donors of Sister Schools have helped in that support by remodeling classrooms. Often times in the rural school settings they only have the red dirt/mud for the floors, and children often get parasites and chiggers. By adding a floor you are simply able to keep children healthier in school and be able to get more of an education, which equates to a different life. Since Sister Schools has partnered with the school it has grown from around 100 to 245 students, which is wonderful in a rural environment.
A Literacy Center was also built at the school by the generous donations by Carol Lycette, Fernwood Elementary and OAC Services and other Sister School supporters. The Literacy Center is still being organized to display the donated books from Sister Schools in a way that makes sense to the children in the different grades and that they can have easy access. When we were there we handed out a few books and it was astonishing to see the children gather around very quickly and start looking at the images, it was like moths to a light, in a good way.
John named the school after himself but the “Kama” stands for a plant that grows in Africa through the harshest of harshest conditions. Quite symbolic to the life an Ugandan child might have and how education can change that life, even through the harshest of conditions.
I realize at times it may seem that Sister Schools is just delivering school supplies to children in Africa and how can that change a system or a society? But there is more; school supplies delivers hope, but also when each school gets the school supplies that our US children so joyfully send, you are assisting a school’s budget to then accomplish other things; add a teacher, purchase desks, or even buy books.
It wasn’t until around 1996 that Ugandan government changed their thoughts on education, and that every child had a right to an elementary education (education past elementary has a tuition). You often see older children in lower grades because they are going to school for the first time. Moses, from Bishops West, told me the story of a 58 year old man who went back to get his elementary education because he wanted to learn to read once the law was changed.
This trip has really allowed me to look at education through such a different lens, going back to graduate school at Seattle University a few years ago and having a very large student loan seems like such a gift, compared to being a very young child and not being able to attend school because you can’t afford a pencil or a uniform. I have a dream that Sister Schools will be able to change that for many more African children in the years to come.