Update from St Aloysius, Uganda
By Pat Johnson, Head of Chemistry at Mayfield (1992 – 2000)
Click on the image to the right or here to read the original article from the Old Cornelian, Spring 2010.
It is now two years since my Letter from another world – Uganda appeared in The Old Cornelian. Since then much progress has been made on the St Aloysius Kitanga Science project, in part thanks to one of my former chemistry students, Dr Ruth-Maria Leiber (Class of 1993). Ruth-Maria, who is now a successful biochemist working on medical diagnostic techniques in Switzerland, wanted to offer African girls the opportunity to enjoy an education like the one she had, and she sent a generous donation with which much has been achieved.
When I last wrote there was only one girls’ school offering O levels in the huge Kabale area - St Aloysius Kitanga Girls Secondary School where about 200 girls could board and study. Since then another girls’ school, St Teresa Girls’ College, has taken their first O levels, coming top in the impoverished neighbouring Kanungu district. St Teresa’s, about 4 hours’ drive from St Aloysius on terrible mud roads, was founded and funded by a woman Member of Parliament in the Ugandan Government, to help educate women from her own village. In February 2011 they started teaching A levels, and hope to have a Sixth Form of around 100 in 2012. A very good Chemistry department has been set up there with the help of my colleague. Jean. A level Sciences are a strength, as is English Literature.
After discussion with Ruth-Maria it was decided that both girls’ schools should benefit from her donation; however Ruth-Maria was also enthusiastic about the idea of awarding scholarships for promising scientists to proceed to St Teresa’s for A level study. Two scholarships were awarded to St Aloysius girls and two to St Teresa’s.
Time has passed and the first four scholars have completed their first year of A level study. The second lab at St Aloysius has been converted from a shell to a fully finished and furnished teaching room that can accommodate 60 students. A charitable donation from another source has meant that solar panels could be installed, and has paid for the installation of lighting and power in both labs thus extending the scope for teaching as well as the length of time that these teaching spaces can be in use. A whole floor has been added to the main building at St Teresa’s allowing the provision of four more large classrooms.
The next venture for St Aloysius is the provision of a vocational studies block where less academic girls and local women will be able to study tailoring, knitting, IT and home management; so far the walls are in place and funds reserved for a roof.
The work in Uganda is of course endless but so far much has been achieved. If you would like to join Ruth-Maria in helping African girls, perhaps by sending enough to set up another scholarship – in any subject – or to help with the building programme you will earn the endless gratitude of these hard working young women. My colleagues and I do all we can to make sure any donations are put to proper use. The schools do not expect us to do everything but try to work in partnership; using allowances they get from the Ministry and contributions from the parents to achieve any improvements. They are even making their own bricks!
The work in Uganda is of course endless but so far much has been achieved. If you would like to join Ruth-Maria in helping African girls, perhaps by sending enough to set up another scholarship – in any subject – or to help with the building programme you will earn the endless gratitude of these hard working young women.