Ugandan school, Project Shelter Wakadogo, which supports vulnerable and hard to reach children, has been named as one of the top 10 schools globally by World’s Best School prizes in the Overcoming Adversity category.
The category recognises that adversity will come in many forms for schools, including conflict, climate-related disasters, poverty, or a pandemic. It assesses how the school builds character, both individually and as a community, to support the greater resilience of all students.
Wakadogo was founded in 2009 in the aftermath of two decades of civil war and violence committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army in northern Uganda, which displaced over a million people. The school, which is located in Pece Acoyo in Gulu District, has grown from two classrooms to serve over 450 students and currently has one of the highest student retention rates in the country.
At the onset of COVID-19, Uganda, like many other countries around the world, faced government-imposed lockdowns, which adversely affected the running of major sectors, including education. With less than 9% of the rural population having access to the internet, many schools could not continue with other learning models. But, the team at Project Shelter Wakadogo was determined to continue providing education to their students. They developed a home-schooling programme and distributed learning kits and government study modules to students to support face-to-face learning, led by the teachers. By the end of the lockdown, they had conducted over 36,000 door-to-door lessons.
The decision to run this programme was critical, particularly for girls, because school closures across Uganda saw children forced into the labour market, a rise in teenage pregnancy, and gender-based violence.
The result is the need to prepare and plan for hybrid learning. If they win the prize, Project Shelter Wakadogo will use the funds to set up an online learning platform to facilitate hybrid and catch-up learning, in case schools should ever close again and share its approach and technology with schools in the region.
“It is a great honour for Wakadogo to feature among the top nominees for the World’s Best School Prizes,” says the school’s head teacher Odong Charles Kigundi. “Our greatest desire is to see more children receive quality education. This prize will enable us to provide more scholarships for marginalised and underprivileged children in the community. It will also help set up an online learning platform to facilitate hybrid and catch-up learning if schools close again, which we will share with schools in the region to reach more children,” he said.
In addition to providing a safe and child-friendly environment for students, Wakadogo School offers school meals, medical care, sports and music programmes, and quality education for vulnerable children.
“Our current annual operating cost is about $125,000, which will only continue to increase as more students enroll at the school. “As a school entirely funded by donations and contributions from the community, we are always looking for partners to support our various programmes and allow us to keep providing a safe and quality learning environment for our little ones,” concludes Kigundi.
The World’s Best School Prize is a project by T4 Education, a global organisation which provides engaging tools, initiatives, and events for teachers to improve education.
Project Shelter Wakadogo is a grassroots charity that was founded in 2005 in the aftermath of two decades of civil war and the violence committed by the Lord’s Resistance Army, which displaced over a million people in Northern Uganda. Through a large community effort, Project Shelter Wakadogo was born – land was procured, roads leading to the school were levelled and vegetables were planted to be used for a school meals programme. In 2009, the school opened. Wakadogo is a nursery and primary school funded entirely by donations and community contributions. The name Wakadogo means, ‘for the little ones’ in Swahili. The charity is registered in the UK, Canada, and Uganda.