Conversation on Ongoing Projects for Humanists NUg with Payira Bonnie
Payira Bonnie is the President of the Humanists of Northern Uganda (Humanists NUg). Here we talk about updates on Humanists NUg.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen: We’ve been working together for some time now. I consider this one of the long-term projects or initiatives, and, therefore, partnerships. How are things with the children? This is one of our main areas of emphasis in our collaboration.
Payira Bonnie: Well, thank you Scott, it has been a year and some good months of rides and I must say the progress because of this partnership is keeping the school moving forward.
Kids are doing well, we closed last year with about 61 Learners in all classes (K1, K2, K3 and P1). First-term started on 3rd February 2020 and we have so far registered 72 learners. There is high hope that more will come in by end of the third week of February.
During holidays with the help of our longtime friend, Gunnar Olafsen, we painted the classrooms, and built energy-saving stoves. Parents and well-wishers joined in the painting. We got some new good teachers too.
83 kids in total at this time.
Jacobsen: What has been the situation for some of the funding?
Bonnie: Humanists in Northern Uganda has been operating without funding for some time and this affected the running of the school project greatly. A big thank you to Humanists International for their Development grants we are able to promote Humanism in Northern Uganda: open Skeptic Clubs at Universities in Northern Uganda, organize workshops, have radio talk shows to promote Humanism.
Jacobsen: How can others provide some needed resources to the schools for the children?
Bonnie: As you know Scott, most of our children come from families that leave on half a dollar for 2 days. They practice subsistence family which is seasonal. Most of these kids come to school barefoot: no shoes, not sandals. This puts a big danger to the kids’ lives with tetanus and other diseases.
If Humanists all of the world could come in support by sponsoring the purchase of shoes of about 14 US Dollars each for all the children.
If also we could have the play swings fixed, this would be a good thing for the kids and the school. This will not only improve their brain developments but also many parents would want to bring their kids to us because of facilities.
We haven’t sorted out our washroom problems. As the school grows, the washrooms become smaller for the population. We need to construct more washrooms and ‘atrines.
As the saying goes, “Water is life,” water scarcity in the area where our schools are located is heartbreaking. Our staff walk 2 km to the well. That is 4 km to just curry 20 litres of water and the school uses 300 litres of water on a daily. Everything gets worse in dry seasons where the well dries up. We have to move to a much further place in search for water. We dearly need water in the compound of the school.
Last year, Primary One was introduced. This year, we introduced Primary Two. Next year, we intend to introduce Primary Three. We, therefore, need more classrooms built to house them.
The Uganda national power grid hasn’t been supplied in Ongako Sub-County, the Village where the schools are located. We are, therefore, safe with Solar Panels and Batteries. This will help for security, run computers, and printers that will help for setting and printing exams for the Primary section.
I can only mention a few, but we need financial support to improve the school and activities at the school which I think will help improve the performance of the learners.
Jacobsen: How are the different schools being run at this time?
Bonnie: Most schools worked with the Uganda Ministry of Education and Sports Education Calendar. Most of these schools charge higher in school fees than what our school does. Ours being a Humanists school and the community being religious; we have challenges of trust. The surrounding schools are trusted more than we are trusted.
Jacobsen: How many pupils are in each school at this time?
Bonnie: The Preschool (K1, K2, K3), 67, and Primary 1 and 2, 16.
Jacobsen: What have been the growth trajectories of the schools? I mean in terms of internal capacity and in terms of teachers and students.
Bonnie: A child with a free mind has no limitation to what they can achieve in life. They will work towards reaching their potentials. Being kind to fellow humans and above all knowing they are the sole responsibility for their mistakes and good deeds.
Jacobsen: How is this related to the overall organization? The work of Humanists NUg.
Bonnie: Looking at how we started, the school is moving in the right direction. More learners in the school. More teachers. More classroom and our hope is that we build a modern classroom for the school accommodate over 900 Learners in both Preschool and Primary school. With the Boarding section for Upper Primary (P5 to P7).
Jacobsen: Finally, what is the importance of education in an independent-minded manner and a humanistic way for the next generations in northern Uganda?
Bonnie: Promoting humanism in the Organisation’s core reason for existence. We believe that with these kids, Northern Uganda, Uganda and East Africa as a whole will have a generation of young people who think rationally with scientific evidence to find solutions to Africa’s problems and not prayers.
Jacobsen: Thank you for the opportunity and your time, Payira.
Image Credit: Payira Bonnie.