Posted on March 29th, 2017
St. Stephen’s Primary School lies on the outskirts of Kamuli Town, and was chosen as HYT’s 10th ‘One Village at a Time’ project. Until recently, younger pupils studied under mango trees, with weather and the need to fetch water constantly disrupting their education. Teachers also struggled to reach school on time due to the difficulties of their daily commute. Thanks to the generous donations of three Haileybury houses, and the hard work of HYT trainers and trainees, this is starting to change.
HYT began by constructing a new classroom block on the site of a previous attempt that was abandoned when the school’s funds ran dry. The new build contains two classrooms and a central divider which enables its conversion into an exam hall. While those in the thrall of GCSE’s and A Levels may not see it as such, the examination space is a blessing for the pupils of St. Stephen’s, who otherwise must travel 5 kilometres to the nearest assessment centre. Such journeys incur unnecessary stress and travel costs for vulnerable families and children. Once construction is complete, St. Stephen’s Butaaya will provide a state of the art examination hall for local pupils.
There is not long to go before the classroom block is ready for use. The final or “finishing” stage is one of the most important, and it is being funded by Haileybury’s Batten House. This will include the instalment of window shutters and burglar bars for shelter and security, and also the application of plaster and paint. At HYT we believe it is important to instil pride in schools and their communities. An attractive, professional structure is likely to be well-maintained and looked after for years to come. Outfitting and decorating also provide vital construction skills for trainees. Thanks to Batten, they will learn all of the techniques necessary to become professional builders.
Another key technique for HYT masons is building with specially designed curved blocks. Kipling House has provided the opportunity for such training by funding the school’s rainwater harvesting tank. Like HYT’s regular Interlocking Stabilised Soil Blocks (ISSBs), curved blocks are cured in the sun and do not require the firewood that is used for making traditional burned bricks. With their interlock minimising cement usage, they provide a durable, environmentally-friendly alternative to plastic water tanks. Kipling’s generous contribution will equip St. Stephen’s with this resource-saving device, and the trainees with the capacity to build more of these structures.
Even with a brand new water tank and classroom, a school is nothing without its staff. Long distances and difficult road conditions make it hard for teachers, most of whom cycle, to reach school on time. This is where Haileybury’s Lower School come in, with their sponsoring of a staff accommodation block. Building on the innovative designs shared with HYT by the Richard Feilden Foundation, this comfortable home is economical and tailored to the local environment. It’s veranda takes advantage of Uganda’s tropical climate to provide ample outdoor living and cooking space. As the most complex structure at St. Stephen’s, it represents one of the final challenges for trainees before their graduation as ISSB masons.
It is inspiring to see the efforts of Haileybury fundraisers combine with those of Uganda’s youth to create vital structures for schools and communities, and the impact doesn’t end there! HYT-trained masons, like Haileybury’s pupils, gain valuable knowledge to help and empower them throughout the rest of their lives. They will use their new skills to build and improve the lives of people all over Uganda, as part of a charity that prides itself on giving a hand up, not a hand out.
Finally, you may know that HYT is a finalist in the prestigious 2017 Ashden Awards. You can read more about what this means for the Trust and our work in Uganda here!