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Eagle’s View: should the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust support an additional humanist primary school?

By Steve Hurd

Steve is Chairperson of the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust. In this article he explains the challenge of deciding whether UHST has the capacity to support another humanist school. What do our readers think?

In recent years, Uganda Humanist Schools Trust (UHST) has increased the number of schools receiving our financial support. We currently help 10 Humanist schools, 3 high schools and 7 primaries. Each time we add a new school it follows a careful evaluation. We are currently considering adding an 11th school, Eagle’s View Humanist Primary School. It is not an easy decision.

Rogers Muwanguzi, the school’s founder and Director is very active on Facebook and a number of UHST supporters have approached us to ask what we know about the school and whether we intend to support it. Before making such a decision, we like to make a couple of visits and have a period exchanging emails to build up an understanding. We visited the school for the first time in July 2022 and then again last month.

Our interest was reinforced by a UHST supporter, Ian, who hails from London but lives in Greece. Ian followed the Eagle View’s Facebook posts and has offered to help the school, through UHST, to improve its infrastructure, so long as we felt that it was a school worth backing. Quite a responsibility! As we were already showing interest in helping the school, Ian’s offer of help has shifted the balance and propelled us into a serious evaluation of the proposition. We are also aware that a close friend and supporter, whose judgement we trust, provides ongoing help with the school’s running costs.

A momentum is developing in favour of supporting the school. However, we now need to assess whether the school warrants our support in the context of the overall demands on our charity. I summarise what we have learned and the issues that arise in the paragraphs that follow.

Eagle’s View Humanist Primary School is near the village of Kayiira, in Jinja District of Busoga. It lies one hour south of Mustard Seed Humanist School, where Rogers was a former student and Deputy Head Boy. Both schools are not far from the River Nile on its Eastern bank.

The case for taking on Eagle’s View is strong. We like the fact that it has been started by Rogers, who gained his humanist inspiration as a student as Mustard Seed School. It is a positive example of the humanist ethos spreading beyond the founding group of schools. It is also encouraging to see the developing link between the two schools as children from Eagle’s View move on to Mustard Seed for their secondary education.

There can be little doubt that the school has the potential to lift a very deprived community, where child labour in sugar plantations is rife, and to transform the life chances of its children. The school’s potential to be a catalyst for change in its community parallels what we have seen with other schools, notably Isaac Newton and Katumba. For some time, there has been a feeling on the part of UHST Trustees that we would like to help the school. The question has always been whether we could afford to do so.

A generous donor has paid for a decent girls’ dormitory, that sleeps 35 girls, and an admin block with offices and staffroom – the latter being used to sleep 10 boys with difficult home circumstances. 10 temporary classrooms must be replaced with decent weather-proof structures. A new kitchen with efficient wood burning stoves is needed. More toilets are required – at present 4 long-drop toilets cater for over 400 children and staff. The school will need a hall if children are to be able to take national examinations. Finally, the whole site needs to have perimeter security fencing.

Initial work at Eagle’s View School to provide new classrooms, kitchen and toilets will cost about £80,000, but full costs will be nearer £100,000. We have taken on such commitments before. At Katumba we built a new school from scratch. The total cost was £100,000 - £80,000 paid from a legacy received by one of our trustees. During Covid we raised funds to complete the construction of Kanungu school, which was only slightly further along than Eagle’s View. In that case the work was done on a shoestring by Robert Magara, the school director, and two friends who did all the labouring. A successful appeal covered much of the £35,000 cost.

As a charity we need to consider the needs of all the schools we support. If our money is spread too thinly the rate of improvement of all schools will be slow and standards of education and welfare may slip backwards. In addition, we need to be able to help with emergencies that occur from time to time, e.g. a long-drop toilet collapses, kitchen stoves crack, a roof blows off, the water pump runs dry, there is an enforced closure of schools due to Covid or Ebola and thus no fee income to pay salaries – all of these have happened. Life in Uganda is precarious and the unexpected is normal. The big threats come from weather events, epidemics and political instability.

We must also consider the known needs of other schools:

  • Isaac Newton Primary School requires an examination hall, kitchens and more toilets.

  • Mustard Seed Secondary urgently requires new science and computer labs if the school is to retain its Examination Centre status.

  • Katumba Primary would like a dormitory to house children who arrive late for school after walking 4 miles or more each way.

Our supporter Ian is willing to fund the first stage by providing Eagle’s View with an improved kitchen and food store. This will reduce firewood consumption by two-thirds, create more tolerable working conditions for the cooks, and provide a test of whether the builder can deliver good quality work to a budget. Ian has indicated a willingness to help further but would like to make decisions sequentially according to builders’ progress on delivering on budget and his own personal finances. It follows that if we give the go ahead then UHST should be prepared to step in to raise whatever additional funding may be necessary to complete the project.

We could consider the possibility of launching an appeal for Eagle’s View. During Covid we had three successful appeals in two years for emergency funds to pay teachers when no income was coming in and to buy the Evangelical and Muslim primary schools we now support. Each appeal raised over £30,000. However, we have not really tested the water since Covid, and it may not now be so easy to raise such large sums.

If we had thought too hard about the possible difficulties ahead with any of our previous schools projects then we might well not have started any of them. We have got to where we are today as a charity by moving forward cautiously but accepting some calculated risks. It has been a step-by-step process – in the local language of Uganda mpola-mpola (slowly-slowly).

The kind offer of help from Ian will probably be the key factor in deciding to accept Eagle’s View as one of UHST’s partner schools. The backing we have received from many loyal supporters over many years provides the cautious confidence that together we will be able to complete Eagle’s View Humanist School whilst maintaining the ongoing support required by our other schools.

We welcome the comments and observations of readers of Humanistically Speaking.

Supporting the Humanist Schools

If you feel you or your group would like to help us to support the Humanist Schools in Uganda, or to sponsor a high school student then please contact (07773 972601).

Donation forms can be found at:

+44 (0) 1782 750338

All administration costs, including trips to Uganda to visit the schools, are paid for on a personal basis by our trustees, so every £1 donated by our supporters goes to help the schools in Uganda.

UHST Book Store link.

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