Review: Humanist Schools in Uganda

Humanist Schools in Uganda: providing hope in challenging times

The story of humanist schools in Uganda is how one good thing can lead to another: one Ugandan boy taught evolution and science at his Catholic school grows up with a mission to spread rationalist education. That young man, Peter Kisirinya, meets Moses Kamya at Makerere UnIversity and in 2004 they take the bold step of inviting the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU) to host a “Humanist Visions for Africa Conference” in Kampala.

Discussions at this meeting are the catalyst to start two pioneering schools: Peter opens Isaac Newton High School in Katera, Masaka; Moses opens Mustard Seed School in Busota, Kamule and they form an association to foster collaboration between the schools.

Our speaker Steve Hurd, an educationist who taught in Uganda as a young man, and his wife Professor Hilary Hurd, have been with Peter and Moses on their journey. In 2008 they founded the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust to help the association realise its vision to offer humanist, liberal education to needy children.

By 2020, the association was running five schools and teaching 600 students, 400 of whom boarded. Over time, as the teachers’ skills and knowledge, and use of educational resources has developed, the children’s achievements have risen. For instance, at O-level, Isaac Newton is 5th out of 35 schools in its district and at A-level, 92% gain university entrance level, there were four 1st class honours, two Masters and one PhD.

There are so many other benefits flowing from these schools. They provide a safe haven for girls and young women who are much less likely to get pregnant while there. The schools, which are located in rural areas, need food, cooks, caretakers and a host of other services which create a whole local economy around them. The schools have become community hubs, hosting farmer cooperatives, providing power and water to enterprises, and volunteering.

The association and trust, working together, have been able to help other communities facing catastrophe and, more recently, the covid pandemic. They have established four primary schools which offer hope and livelihoods in desperate and struggling communities. SELHuG is proud to support the trust, however modestly!

Steve was the perfect speaker at our first hybrid Zoom/New Cross library meeting last month, taking any technical challenges in his stride and delivering a most entertaining and eye-opening talk. Thank you Steve.

You can read more about the schools, and donate, here.