Since Dad's death, Mum, Paddy, Jo and Leo have had a number of thoughts as to how we might build a lasting monument to his memory.
As you may know Oonagh and Nick were closely involved in a number of church and school projects in Africa and with this in mind we have decided to put our efforts into building a primary school in a remote part of northern Uganda. The Rotary Club of Reading has kindly agreed to be the sponsor.
This particular opportunity was suggested to us by Fr. Arapa Boniface, a parish priest in the Lira diocese and a friend of Oonagh and Nick's since he was their locum priest at St. Matthew’s West Norwood for a period in 2009. They worked with him on a similar project which successfully built a school at Minakulu, some 60 miles west of Orum, the site of this new project. Fr. Boniface will again manage this project for us.
Orum is a particularly deprived part of Uganda. A study by the US Government earlier this year found that of the 112 districts in Uganda, Orum is the fourth poorest and has the tenth worst education rates. The population suffered greatly during the brutal 20-year LRA insurgency during which time murder, abduction, mutilation, child-sex slavery and forcing children to participate in hostilities was common. Whilst LRA's activities are now based in DR Congo, South Sudan and the Central African Republic the after-effects are still felt in this part of Uganda.
Local findings have shown that young children whose parents have no formal education are five times more likely to live in extreme poverty than those who have a parent with at least a secondary education. There is also a strong correlation between a mother's education and her children's health. With poor health and associated higher levels of non-attendance at school there can be a self-sustaining inter-generational cycle of poverty. The building of this school would do something to help break that cycle.
Initially, the project we are embarking on will build a primary school comprising two classrooms. It will allow for the education of 140 pupils. Organisation of the school will be run by Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Parish at Orum. They will provide the teaching staff and assistants and will be remunerated from school fees payable only by those parents who are able to meet the costs. Those parents unable to pay fees will see their children educated for free.
As for the work itself an engineer has been engaged and we have plans drawn up and costings produced. The building will comprise two classrooms, one staffroom, one Headteacher’s office and a reception room. The total cost will be £13,250. We will need to connect to mains water and in due course look to provide electricity from solar power. Parents of future pupils will at no cost provide sand, water and site clearance. Local labour will dig foundations and provide septic tanks, again at no cost.
We have enlisted the help of The Rotary Club of Reading to oversee the project from the UK. John Osborne, a friend of Oonagh and Nick’s is overseeing the Rotary Club’s involvement.