Can you guess the major barriers to quality education in developing nations like Uganda? Some include lack of good teachers, lack of quality training materials, lack of funding and even hunger. A whopping 171 million kids around the world are stunted by hunger by age 5, which affects brain development - and hence the ability to learn.
We have found that Batwa children struggle academically because of several reasons: hunger, not having educated parents at home to help with learning, too large of class sizes without dedicated, skilled teachers, and no electricity at home to study with. These kids really need smart, fun, dedicated teachers, good nutrition and loving care.
The Batwa young'uns from Kalehe village, where we mainly work, have struggled at the local school we previously had them at, with scores like 4 or 11 out of 100 - in preschool!
We decided to tackle the problem head on, opening our own preschool - something we have prayed about for more than a year. The Hope Stone Academy for Batwa is one of a kind! We opened this early learning program Monday, September 18th.
We hired an outstanding Ugandan man, Wilson, as head teacher. He has experience teaching at two different schools in the area, and has been working with our Assistant Director Charity to develop lesson plans that will incorporate the Batwa culture as well as language and numbers.
School will be held in the RSF House for the first term. We offer individualized attention with a small classroom size, and will not use corporal punishment, aka "caning," which is illegal in Uganda but widely used in rural schools. We will give our kids nutritious meals,with fresh fruits and vegetables daily plus meat weekly. Hope Stone will be free of monetary cost to the Batwa parents, but we ask them to give us two baskets they have made per term, continuing a practice we started when we had previously enrolled their kids in other schools. This gives the parents a personal investment in the education of their children.
We need to raise $7,500 to fully fund our school through the end of the year. Corporate sponsors welcome! We plan to buy land and build a school in the near future, which will ensure we can continue serving this village and expanding to other Batwa children who have not been able to attend school or who have dropped out.
By the way - you guys are awesome givers! We asked for new school shoes for our kids in a recent plea, and you guys came through over and above, so every child we sponsor - whether at Hope Stone or Bishop's Boarding school - now has a pair of leather shoes, sandals and 2 pairs of socks!