Education has always been the Kanyike Project’s priority.
In 1987 one teacher taught a handful of children under the shelter of a mango tree. Lessons had begun at Magejjo Primary School. Classrooms came next. A mud-walled school was quickly built and replaced with a sturdier building made from local bricks by 1994. But a devastating lightning strike in 1999 meant the school had to be rebuilt. The villagers rose to the challenge and the school has been maintained in a state of good repair since. A new roof had to be built in 2015 so that lessons could continue in the dry.
There was no land flat enough for the pupils to play sport, so a UK appeal was launched in 2002 to pay for the construction of a level site and provide two sets of kit.
Now a large playing field enables games of barefoot football or netball.
Meanwhile, Sr Joan, the founding trustee of the Kanyike Project, realised that children orphaned by HIV/AIDS – 40% of the pupils - were arriving hungry at school. She promised to raise the money to pay for a satisfying meal of porridge at lunch time on condition that the villagers provided the firewood. Two cartloads of wood arrived the very next day, so keen were the villagers to take her up on this promise. Porridge has been supplied daily since 2006.
The school originally had no water supply. A borehole was drilled so clean water was available on the school site. This is a rarity in Uganda and means that time which once would have been spent fetching and carrying water from a spring can be devoted to lessons.
Today, there are 500 pupils and nine teachers. However, not all children can attend. They might be needed to help at home or look after livestock. Money has to be found for fees and equipment. Learning is still difficult. Classes are large and basic equipment is lacking: children share chairs, desks, text books and writing equipment.
Yet progress has certainly been made. Exam results have been improving and the orphans are no longer hungry. The essentials of farming and crafts such as bead work and basket weaving are taught. This means children can help their families, raise money to invest in the school and also have a means of making their own living when they leave.
But the bore-hole at the school is in urgent need of repair. So providing clean water for the pupils to drink is a current priority.