This Ugandan village school is named in the top 10 World’s Best Schools for 2022
By Jamile Ikpeba
PROJECT Shelter Wakadogo, a kindergarten and primary school in Gulu, Uganda, has been shortlisted in the Top 10 shortlist for World’s Best School Prizes for Overcoming Adversity.
The World’s Best School Prize is a organized by T4 Education, a global charity which provides engaging tools, initiatives, and events for teachers to improve quality of education.
The Ugandan village school management has been widely praised for transforming the lives of their students and making a real difference to its communities. This comes after it helped its pupils continue learning safely during the Covid-19 lockdown.
Project Shelter Wakadogo cares for forgotten children
According to the school’s profiling published by T4 Education for the World’s Best School Prizes, Project Shelter Wakadogo started off in 2005 with only two classrooms when three village women decided they wanted to do something small to help a group of forgotten children.
Uganda was just coming from twenty years of civil war and violence after incursions by the rebellious Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda displaced more than a million people.
It was the first school to open in the village, and has never looked back, overcoming one adversity after another while ensuring that learners stay in school.
“We believe that education is the most powerful and effective way to change lives,: says the school that now serves 450 boys and girls.
In 2021, the Covid-19 pandemic challenged staff at Project Shelter Wakadogo to think outside the box and continue providing education to their learners. The Ugandan Government, like many others, imposed a series of national lockdowns to tame the spread of the coronavirus.
The teachers knew that once out of school for long, some of their pupils would be lost to child marriages, teen pregnancies, child labour, boredom and other vices. But online were a pipe dream as well: only 9 percent of Ugandans have access to the internet.
To surmount a challenge, the school at Project Shelter Wakadogo developed a home-schooling programme supported by learning kits and study guides, while teachers went door-to-door delivering lessons safely.
All in all, 36,000 home based lessons were delivered by the teachers. The result was that when President Yoweri Museveni finally lifted the lockdown after over a year of no learning, pupils at Project Shelter Wakadogo weren’t that far behind with their studies.
Organisers of the World’s Best School reckon that, while facing challenges and obstacles, Project Shelter Wakadogo supported and developed children and ensured their personal growth and of the school as a community was not compromised or heavily disrupted.
What Project Shelter Wakadogo would do with prize money
The school’s head teacher Odong Charles Kigundi told media in Uganda that their greatest desire was to see more children receive quality education, but that needed money.
Should they win the prize, he will ensure the school provides more scholarships for marginalised and underprivileged children in the community. Project Shelter Wakadogo would also capacitive its learners for online lessons.
Kigundi added that the school relies entirely funded on donations and contributions from the community to meet its US$125,000 annual operating bill.
Part of the money the school receives goes towards non-educational costs incurred such as school meals, medical care, sports and music programmes.
Two South African schools also make the list
Meanwhile, the two South African schools have also been named among the Top 10 best schools for continuing to provide education despite facing many challenges which include poverty, discrimination, gangsterism and violence.
West End Primary, located in the heart of the Cape Flats, struggles daily with the challenges of poverty, unemployment, gangsterism and substance abuse. Most of its students come from families that were directly impacted by the policies imposed during Apartheid, whose harsh consequences they still suffer today.
Pinelands North Primary School, another Cape Town institute, has been shortlisted for its unique ways of closing gender disparities. At Pinelands, all pupils, male or female, wear the same uniforms – shorts and t-shirts.
The school uses gender neutral bathrooms and everyone, including teachers, is addressed by their first name. From Grade 2, students are taught sign language.
When Covid-19 struck, Pinelands School implemented a revolving fund to assist families who were struggling financially. All staff supported pupils and parents who lost family members during Covid-19.
Also making the top 10 list from Africa include the Amani School for Refugees in Kenya, and the Best Intellectuals Model School in Aba Abia State, Nigeria.
The prize money
There are five categories for the World’s Best School Prizes – Community Collaboration, Environmental Action, Innovation, Overcoming Adversity and Supporting Healthy Lives – and each category now holds ten schools.
A Judging Academy will decide on the eventual winners. The panel comprises globally distinguished academics, educators, social entrepreneurs, and members of NGOs, governments, civil society, and the private sector.
The winners will be announced in October at World Education Week, where a prize of $250 000 will be equally shared among the winners of the five categories.
Vikas Pota, founder of T4 Education and the World’s Best School Prizes, said the 1.5 billion learners worldwide have been adversely impacted by school and university closures as a result of Covid-19.
He worried that the global education crisis meant it would be too difficult to achieve universal quality education by 2030.
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