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UGA02b - Pangani School Development, Kween: Partnership Reports

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Report Date: August 8, 2016

Report from Uganda Partnership Facilitator Following Visit


Key People:  
James and Gorret Mayende
Cherotich Asuman (School Principal)

We (myself and BHW's Agricultural Director) travelled the difficult road from Mbale to Kween on 6th July. James and Gorret have erected a small house on some land that they have been given in Kween and we were likely the first people to stay in it. The plaster was literally drying on the walls as we took up occupation.

The main purpose of the visit was to review what is happening with Foundations for Farming in Kween District and the activities of the school.

making a difference

Recent Events


The school is doing extremely well. It now has 315 children and is consistently rating among the highest schools in the district despite its extreme lack of resources. From our discussions with Asuman, the Principal, who has been there since the school opened four years ago and has been the Principal for the last three, he was able to tell me that the influence of the school in the community is quite significant. Far fewer students are dropping out and more of the children in the local area are now attending school as previously they had to walk a very significant distance to the nearest Government school. Most of the children probably would not have gone to school. In the local community there is a really good acceptance of the school and most parents pay, or attempt to pay, their school fees. The fees are set at 35,000 UGX per term (US$10) and about half can pay the full fees.  All, however, are trying to pay at least part given their circumstances.

The instance of Primary seven children staying at home or being withdrawn from school has decreased. The children are doing very well in regular tests. Early marriages in the community due to discouragement and school dropouts are diminishing. In addition parents are not sending their children away to schools at a greater distance, particularly as they get older, and this is helping families to stay closer together. These are also parents who can pay fees better.

future wellThe school is chronically short of desks (it needs 60), blackboards and water.  When I visited Asuman showed me where there had been a recent borehole drilled but it had not reached an adequate supply of water for a well to be installed. He showed me the new site for the well which is about 150 metres from the school (see photo) and indicated that the site had been properly surveyed for water. The drilling machine was in fact in the town centre and was about to start work the next day. It was likely that the borehole would be around 90 metres deep.

The school has significant challenges, apart from the grinding poverty of the community, with termites and dust. Literally every wooden structure is attacked by termites and most timber structures can be destroyed by termites within a year.  That is certainly the case with the buildings of the school which are continually being repaired and held together with replacement sticks and mud. At the same time Asuman was telling me that he is hoping to obtain steel wall supports which would help to prop up the walls and partially address the problem.  

The school feeds a large percentage of the pupils each day. Parents are expected to provide food both for the pupils and the teachers but the school is only able to feed those children for whom the parents have provided food. Like many African schools the teachers often have to wait for their salaries, often up to three months. They are paid well below the Government schools with the lowest paid teacher receiving 100,000 UGX (US$30) per month and the highest paid teacher receiving US$60 per month.

Recently an American charity (Food for the Hungry) has provided some very limited assistance to the school. Specifically FFTH sponsors approximately half of the children under the age of nine years old for half of their school fees per annum. In addition FFTH has provided seeds and assistance with the cost of ploughing to enable the school to lease two acres of rice growing land approximately 1.5 kilometres from the school site. The school employs people to grow rice in that area and the likely profit from this endeavour is in the order of 4.5 million UGX (US$1,300). On the assumption that this is successful the rice growing by the school may be extended next year to 4 acres. Asuman is also planning to plant fruit trees around the perimeter of the school along with shade trees. He is planning to plant oranges, avocados and mango, along with acacia trees. 

Two of the classrooms are still based within the church building and clearly the school would see a priority to establish some more permanent types of structures to address both the termite problem and the crowding issue. 

Foundations for Farming 

farming wellWhile we were at Kween we visited the home of David, one of the teachers at the school.  He attended the Foundations for Farming training which was run at Busia two years ago and came back quite enthused along with another teacher, Mark, whom we were not able to spend time with as he was away training. At his home David is clearly implementing Foundations for Farming principles and doing the best that he can in what is a very difficult environment. As far as we could determine he was the only person in the immediate area who was appropriately farming the land around their house. There were some other people growing maize nearer the watercourse but their crops were quite poor and substandard. David had fenced his property to ensure that goats and cows could not get into the property and eat his cassava. He had planted a large area with cassava.  

We also went to look at the rice planting and were able to see that it is doing very well. There is an extremely large area which has been sublet to a number of people who are carrying out growing operations. From our observation and the costings provided by James it would appear that the growing of rice as a commercial crop is a reasonably sound financial venture and should be encouraged. Even though Kween is a semi-arid area there is a watercourse approximately one kilometre to the south of the school. This provides sufficient irrigation for rice growing for one crop a year. There are some possibilities to support rice growing initiatives with groups of women in co-operatives. 

There are also virtually no trees in this area at all. James would like to see an uptake in homes planting fruit trees for their own sustenance and also trees being planted on the school property. He has put a proposal forward to us in relation to both of these items (termites don’t eat live wood so the proposed tree planting would be safe).

excellent seminarOn 7th July there was a full day seminar in the Kween church. Half of the attendees were Muslim and half of them were Christian. John covered many of the principles of Foundations for Farming and showed a number of the videos on his small video projector. The seminar was translated into Swahili. It is clear that, despite the challenges, there is a large amount of potential for an uptake of Foundations for Farming in the area. There are huge amounts of land in this area which are effectively underutilised. What crops are grown (maize and some cassava, millet and sorghum) are often quite poorly prepared, there are a lot of weeds and the crops are inadequately protected from animals. 

Because David has been doing so well we prayed with and commissioned him to continue training and teaching Foundations for Farming in the community. He is quite happy to do that.

What surprised us was that in this relatively lowly populated area 75 people turned out for the seminar and responded very positively. There were a lot of very intelligent and at times quite challenging questions. Each area has its challenges and it is clear that the challenges in Kween District are:
1) Low rainfall and
2) The impact of termites.  Termites will eat any mulch put between the plants within about a week and will also devour a compost heap.  

It is clear that some of these issues have been quite discouraging to the people. David and Mark had, after the 2014 seminar in Busia, come back to Kween quite encouraged and had also established a garden at the school and utilised the children to plant. At the time that we saw it this had largely been abandoned. We think it is probably better for David to continue to do what he is doing at his own home and provide encouragement for other families to do the same.

All-in-all the seminar was extremely well received. 


Personal Stories

Asuman Cherotich

principalAsuman has been the Principal for three years and has taught at the school for the whole of its four year existence. He presently teaches Primary 7 English and maths. He has done various courses on aspects of teacher training but is not a trained teacher. He is 27 year old Muslim man, is married and has a nine month old child. 

Asuman clearly enjoys teaching and comes across as a very competent and well organised Principal. He likes the effect that the school is having in the area. There is a reduction in early marriages and school dropouts. The school has a focus on quality education which means that it is being noticed by the educational authorities. It is in fact called a “miracle school” by the district education inspector. Circumstances are very challenging and difficult in this area.  Asuman is, however, pleased with the progress in this school.

Amos, Ian, Abel

good EnglishI stopped and talked to these three young men (all aged 12). They are Primary 6 students.  When they grow up Amos wishes to be a teacher, Ian a doctor and Abel a “leader”.  I noted that their English was good and that they were able to hold a good conversation with me. 


Partnership's Influence within the Community

This is largely as set out above and in the interview with the school principal. 


Plans for the Future

The school continues to grow.  The strategy of the school can be summarised as:
- Create more permanent buildings and in the meantime ensure that the existing buildings are as solid as they can be and as sound and dust proof as they can be.
- Plant fruit trees and shade trees around the perimeter of the school
- Continue with and develop the rice project if it is profitable this year. There should be approximately a 4.5 million UGX profit. There is a possibility of taking a larger area of up to four acres next year which would double this.
- James would like to see the possibility of expanding the school to have some boarding facilities as this allows for a higher level of fees and more income to the school. He does have a plan which involves adding an extension on to the house that he has just built to provide a hostel for a number of girls to board when they come to the school. This seems like a good idea and very practical. This structure is largely already there.  
- We commissioned David to continue to train people in Foundations for Farming and to be the “go to” person. This was done publicly.
- Ensure that teachers are regularly paid and that school fees are paid as far as practical.


Current Issues and Challenges

- Thefts by Karamoja people from further north who take cattle and goats and destabilise people.

- Every person talks about the negative impact of termites and the effect of termites is obvious in every single wooden structure, mud hut, house or building in Kween unless it has been built with concrete and bricks.

- The uptake of Foundations for Farming has in fact been quite slow given that the two teachers from the school were trained in 2014. We are hopeful that there will be a much better acceptance and uptake following our visit to Kween this time.

- Kween is extremely underdeveloped and extremely poor. There is no power on around the church or school, water (until the well is installed) is one kilometre away and the area is quite remote. People are very poor and appear to have a very poor mind-set.

- The biggest challenge however is to have a good uptake in Foundations for Farming as there is virtually unlimited potential in this area for families to provide for and feed themselves, not go hungry, and have produce to sell. There needs to be a mind-set change among pastoral people to ensure that they also take up agriculture. We are hopeful that some of this might start to change following our involvement over the last few days.


Prayer and Praise Points

1) The fact that 75 people came to the brief Foundations for Farming training speaks highly of the acceptance of the school in the community
2) The school continues to bring peace to the local community
3) The reduction in negative social consequences (early marriage and school dropouts)
4) The fact that people are sending their children to the local school rather than away from the area in the hope of receiving better education



This has to be among the most challenging places that we go to. This time however we did sense some growth and development, and particularly a mind-set change around FFF principles and self-reliance. At the same time progress is extremely slow. When we were here in 2014 with Kevin and Helen we put a three year reduction in budget in place on the basis that the school would start to become self-reliant and that there would be encouragement given to the parents to start to pay full school fees and thereby appropriately support the school. While a lot of this is happening I find it really difficult to see that we could possibly stop the support to the school in the next few years. The pace of change is much much slower than might otherwise be expected. The rice project does have the potential to boost the income of the school but is clearly going to be needed simply for upkeep and maintenance of the buildings which are literally falling down before the teacher’s eyes. It would also be great to support a tree planting initiative out here. 

Update from James and Gorret - 14th September

Bore Hole

The first phase of drilling the bore hole is done pending payment and we anticipate it being finished by mid October. 


(Following our visit BHW provided funds for each household who attended the FfF seminar to be provided with jackfruit, orange, mango and avocado trees and also funds for some trees to be planted at the school)
We have sensitized people on the size of the holes for the trees and how to protect them. People were happy and willing to take on the task of ensuring that fruit trees are grown. We have procured those that were available especially both grafted and local mangoes and grafted oranges. Some fruit trees for shade and timber such as Jambra have also been procured. Jackfruit and avocado trees will take some time to arrive. 


For the school: the fields are blooming and people have been hired to scare the birds. Harvest is expected in late October and early November. It was affected in some areas by floods and in some paddocks the rice was eaten by antelopes however we still expect fair results. 

Groups: We have formed two rice growing groups of five people each in a cooperative and are yet to form a third group. Each group will lease about 2 acres of land and grow rice. We talked to them about commitment and hard work. They were told that funds will be loaned to them and as they repay the funds it will be given to other groups. All fields are booked for hire in October. 


The school is currently closed for term 2 holidays. They have recently obtained 40 desks for infants. This is to enable them to write properly while seated at a desk.