An Interview with Bwambale M. Robert — School Director, Kasese Humanist Primary School
How did you become involved in humanism? When was the moment, or series of moments, that eventually led into you becoming an open humanist?
In the early years of 2000 I became critical of religion, in the year 2000 when I started being skeptical about the natural world and things in it, was asking myself questions, asked religious people plus other people both in school and out of school and their answers to my queries did not satisfy me, so I became critical and curious of religion. Through my research online, I stumbled about humanists. Humanism/Atheism and Rationalism and since then I later joined organized humanism by creating in place a community based organization.
Was there a family background?
Yes, am from an Anglican back ground.
Is humanism demonized in Uganda, or an accepted minority philosophical and ethical worldview?
Humanism is demonized by religious zealots who want to paint a bad picture on humanism so that people can tag it and the majority remain believing that being religious is the only way to success, a great life which actually is not the case.
To some extend I think Humanism in Uganda is an accepted minority philosophical & ethical worldview.
You are the school director for Kasese Humanist Primary School. What tasks and responsibilities come with being the chairman for the Kasese Humanist Primary School?
My common tasks are:
Planning for the school
Identifying projects, lobbying for support and publicity of Kasese United Humanist Association & its associated schools.
Ensuring the workers are paid as an appreciation for their hardwork
Am also engaged in construction efforts of the schools and its sister projects.
Ensuring I coordinate the sponsored pupils with their sponsors and notifying them 3 times in a year about their progress.
When did this become a calling for you — teaching the young?
In 2010, I together with other colleagues and members of Kasese United Humanist Association, we thought it was a wise idea if we created a school and one year later we opened Kasese Humanist Primary School.
Kasese Humanist Primary School was only founded in 2011, which is a relatively short time ago, and is run by the Kasese United Humanist Association. It is a secular school grounded in science education. How does the Kasese Humanist Primary School differ from the majority of other primary schools in Uganda?
Humanist Schools and orphanages differ from religious schools in the ways below:
We teach religious education on comparative terms.
Our learners are encouraged to think for themselves and are given opportunity to think freely without any sort of commands.
We cherish evolutionary science other than creation science.
Our school welcomes learners from all religions, it matters less if one is religious or proclaimed non religious since we look at our schools as a center or source of knowledge and not a place of worship.
We have secular posters or messages on classroom walls or compounds.
We observe and celebrate secular days by holding celebrations, happy moments or memorial events.
There are no religious instructions or observance of religious tenets.
We do not indoctrinate our learners to any religion or belief system but what we do is to enlighten and allow our learners to be curious, explore and come up with their perceptions.
We do not perform rituals of any kind.
It has a number of clubs and teaches during the day to a limited number of students. Are there after-school programs to cater to other students?
Yes, we do have after school programs like: Running activities, computer lessons, vocational skills training, playing a key board, music dance and drama, weaving, knitting and gardening
Is the primary school in high demand, but can’t fill all of the potential slots based on a limited number of pupils being taught there?
Yes, there is a high demand for primary school education to accommodate learners,
Uganda has scores of children and the level of illiteracy is still high as some parents out of ignorance, poverty don’t know the value of education, some times we do force parents to keep their kids in school.
As well, there are 3 campuses now. So within 5/6 years, not even, the primary school developed up to three campuses. What were the honest failures and successes on the road to development of Kasese Humanist Primary School up to the present?
Kasese Humanist School has developed over the years from being a nursery & primary school and now has 3 campuses in a period of 6 years now. We earlier this year opened the Secondary Section. In spite of this we have had successes and failures quoted as below:
Misconceptions by locals who don’t know the meaning of Humanism or being a humanist, some locals tend to associate humanism to devil worshipping or satanic. The rumours are propelled by enemies of the schools mostly religious zealots and selfish locals who are enemies of development.
Salaries payment to the staffs sometimes delays or they get paid in bits due to poor collections as some parents pay in bits.
Disease out breaks is common among learners due to the living conditions in their homes. Poverty, ignorance remains a key factor affecting people here.
Having our schools on permanent homes owned by ourselves.
All learning spaces have classrooms.
The Child Sponsorship scheme where more than 100 children schooling in our schools have sponsors who meet their tuition needs.
School’s potential to have in place income generating activities like the Bizoha Tractor, maize & cassava milling plant, land for rent etc.
My projects have got international attention and this has been possible because of my online presence which has exposed me to organizations and individuals who have helped much in boosting up my works financially, morally and materially.
What are some of the main campaigns and initiatives of the Kasese Humanist Primary School?
Vocational skills training
Anti Witchcraft campaign
Eco huts & botanical gardens project for eco tourism & out door learning.
Letter Exchange & pen pal program
Child sponsorship program
Reading for Pleasure program
Running program by Kasese freethinkers academy
In general, what are the perennial threats to the practice of humanism in Uganda?
Religious bigots who do not understand humanism and what it entails end up making ignorant statements about it and misguide people.
Some school proprietors most of them in the religious circles may also smear a bad picture in an effort to smear our schools out of envy.
You can help my work by sponsoring a child at any of my schools.
Volunteering in my projects as teachers, nurses or farmers
Spreading the message to friends, relatives and working colleagues about our innovations.
Donate finances or material to my initiatives.
Offer moral support, knowledge, advice to my projects.
Donate to staff salaries or even sponsor a classroom.
Any closing thoughts or feelings based on the discussion today?
I think Kasese Humanist Primary school and Kasese Humanist Secondary School is on the right track. Setting our schools on a science and humanist foundation is a good thing that other schools in Uganda or any part of the world could adopt.
It remains our core duty to enlighten people about who we are and what we stand for.
I am so grateful for this brief interview. I thank Jacobsen of Conatus News for this interview.
Yours in free thought,
Bwambale Robert Musubaho