King's College has been supporting the work of Ararat Christian School in Kampala, Uganda. The principal of Ararat Christian School, Gideon Kabenge establised the school in 2017 and is helping provide an education for AIDS orphans and disadvantaged children in the local community. Their experience is something they want to share with Warrnambool students, who they hope will join them on a trip overseas next year. "Having been there we know it's safe," Mr Rouse said.
The school in Uganda doesn't just cater for its 130 students, it is home to about 50 orphans, who live onsite. King's College has raised thousands over the years, including paying $2000 to get electricity connected to the Ugandan school.
"We learned when we were there that when someone has electricity connected, they can then charge everybody else to connect to that," Mr Rouse said. But Gideon didn't do that. "Because we connected electricity there, it has made it available to the whole village." Mr Tucker said because King's College donated it, Gideon donated to anyone who wanted to connect to it. "Incredible," he said.
The Warrnambool school has also paid to put doors on the toilets, help pay for teacher's wages and provide resources. With no government funding for the Ugandan school, donations from other individuals and organisations have helped buy a water tank and pay for the meals to feed the orphans. "It's growing and we're hoping it's going to extend as more and more people become aware and catch the vision of what we are trying to do here as a school to support them," Mr Tucker said.
While in Australian schools, students who are thirsty just go to the bubble taps for a drink. In Uganda there is no running water in their homes or at the school. Just one 5000-litre water tank that is used for drinking, washing hands, and cooking at the school will last just two days.
"If it doesn't rain they have no water," Mr Tucker said. "At the moment the school has to buy two tanker loads of water per week...just so students can live." That water is also used by the orphans who live at the school who have to wash their own clothes in a bucket.
Those kids live in a dormitory at the school, which has three-bed-high bunks in a room with no air-conditioning for the warm days and nights. For those who do have a home to go to, they have to walk kilometres to a central point in the village to get water which they carry home in yellow cans which can weigh about 20kg when filled. "People are carrying those on bicycles or by hand. That's how you get water from the central point in the town to your home," Mr Rouse said.
Meals for the orphans are cooked in the school's "kitchen" over an open fire which quickly fills up with smoke before eventually making its way out the doorway. "The room has no chimney, somebody is in there cooking for hours and hours a day. Dirt, concrete floor, no windows, no door over an open fire. That's how every one of their meals, if you're an orphan living there, is prepared - that's if they have enough money to buy food to feed you for that day." said Mr Tucker. But despite that, Mr Tucker said what struck him was the sense of community among the orphans.
He said Gideon went to great lengths to tell the orphans they were one big family.
"And they treat each other like brothers and sisters. That's all they have, they have each other. They look after each other,"
School starts at 6.30am Monday to Friday for students in year three and up and doesn't finish until 5pm. On Saturdays they also go back to school until 1pm. "They'll have 14 lessons in a day," Mr Tucker said. "Spare a thought for the poor teachers who are there too. They work very, very long and very, very hard with very, very little to support their learning.
"And yet, they are just so delighted to be at school because they are able to go to school. So many of their friends in their community won't be at school because their parents can't afford to send them."
The school has just four computers which run Windows 7 and can no longer be updated. And they don't have access to the internet. Compared to King's College, which has nice furniture, TVs, whiteboards and air filters in the classrooms, the Ugandan classroom has scratchy old blackboards, concrete floors or handmade desks and not much else. "The facilities in each room was basically a blackboard - if you can even call it a blackboard - that can't even be wiped clean before you start writing on them again," Mr Tucker said. "A blackboard and a piece a chalk is about all they have in their classroom as a resource for every lesson. That's almost all they have."
Looking around at all the resources Australian students have for their learning, he said sometimes we take for granted what we have. "I had my eyes opened... to see the learning that has to take place without any resources. Not just 'only some', without 'any' resources," he said.
With not much grass at the school, a tropical downpour will send the playground - which has dangerous or broken equipment - into a muddy mess. "Our oval gets muddy; this is another level. Tropical downpours turn theirs to slush," Mr Rouse said. Mr Tucker said during the visit he watched the rain turn the dirt to mud which ran down the hill, across the broken steps and into the courtyard, where children would spend recess. A muddy area with no concrete for them to even play four square or down-ball.
King's College is now raising money to buy playground equipment for the school.
This article courtesy of The Warrnambool Standard on 20 July 2023.