“When the chimney smokes we send the children to school.”

Blog post by Dr Jan Webb, British GP and member of the Act4Africa Grains for
Growth team.
“When the chimney smokes we send the children to school.”
These words, spoken to me by a Ugandan lady, puzzled me at first. I asked what
she meant.
“It’s simple, we cannot afford to let our children go to school unless they get fed
there. At least then we know they have some food in their belly. If there is no smoke
from the school kitchen then there is no food being cooked for them. It is better that
they stay at home to help with the digging. At least then we might have food
tomorrow.”
 
 
That brought home very starkly to me that the children are hungry, they are last
in the queue for food, their growth is stunted, their energy is sapped. They know
they must help with the digging and fetching water, they do so gladly, but it
would be good to let them learn to read and write as well and get them out of this
cycle of poverty.
Subsistence farming is a hard way of life in Uganda- the plots are small and the
yields are low. Poor storage of crops after harvest causes further loss due to
infestation and contamination by dangerous fungi.
This fragile food chain affects all, especially babies and young children.
Preparing School Dinner.

If their nutritional needs are not met, the growing child is at risk of irreversible
growth stunting and poor neurological development. They are susceptible to
infection and even death. The COVID-19 crisis has dramatically worsened this
situation.
Grains for Growth is a proven programme, developed using World Food
Programme approved training and equipment. 35 women farmers in the
Mayuge district of Uganda have already taken part and tell us they have
benefitted from improved food security throughout the pandemic.
 
Communities are encouraged and supported through the process of change. The
women are shown new ways to check that the crop is dry enough for storage, it
is then placed in reusable containers to prevent any deterioration. The loss of
maize after harvest has reduced from 30-50% to virtually zero. The family then
has a safe, secure supply of food for use later in the year. 
 
 
The nutrition of the whole family improves. Children under 5 years of age have
the best opportunity for normal growth; the strength to cope with and enjoy
learning to read and write which in the long term translates into better
opportunities for worthwhile employment- thus reducing the cycle of
deprivation.
 
In addition, as school fees in this area are often partially ‘paid in kind’, the safely
stored maize could be part of the contribution for full payment of fees, meaning
children are less likely to miss school. If girls have a good rate of literacy then, in
turn, their own chances of surviving pregnancy and their future children’s
mortality rate is reduced. They have a greater understanding of important health
messages and good childcare practices.
 
A handful of grain can go a long way!
 
Donate to support long-term improvements in food security today. 
£11 buys three heavy-duty airtight bags which will hold 100kg of grain each (enough for 365 meals) safe and secure from insect damage.
£16 will buy a tarpaulin drying sheet to prevent dangerous contamination of grain.

By Jennifer Akullu, Lead Teacher, Kathy’s Kindergarten.

In line with government guidelines and COVID-19 lockdown, Kathy’s Kindergarten was sadly closed for most of 2020.  However, thanks to the support of our donors, our teachers have continued to support the children at home: initially providing them with home learning packs and regular visits to check on their health and wellbeing, providing food aid when necessary to keep up with their nutrition. More latterly, the children’s home learning has been boosted through 1:1 tutorial visits from our dedicated kindergarten teachers. 

Act4Africa’s Ugandan Lead Teacher, Jenifer Akullu tells us: 

“The program of food distribution started in May where children would be given eggs, sugar, flour and milk directly taken at home for them to share with their families and during these out reaches of food distribution teachers realized that the pupils were missing a lot as most parents did not have the time or skills to help the children.  Their early achievements in class would easily get to zero since next year is far and this prompted the school to adapt the home learning program for pupils of Kathy’s Kindergarten.  The teachers organized a learning program in pupils’ homes, after consent with their parents and this was supported by both parents, Act4Africa and teachers making the exercise easy to roll it out. 

“Teachers visit pupils’ homes upon appointment prior to the visit. The 3 teachers would be assigned different homes with packages to guide the pupil’s learning.  This has been a routine activity for the children and teachers which has helped strengthen the teacher child relationship, keep pupils learning and improving their ability of class work execution. This program has been a great success as the children’s performance in tests and class work is so good. We believe that by next year we shall have automatic promotions to those who will have scored up to the school pass mark next year.

“These learning programs have basically been a one-on-one teaching and parents are so grateful for this initiative that has kept children busy and learning from their own teachers and at a free cost unlike other children who has been receiving such learning from other teachers from different schools at a cost.” 

Peter, a father said, “Thank you so much teachers for your tireless support to our children, I love the love you have for our children and how passionate you teachers are about teaching these children of ours.” 

Olivia, a mother, exclaimed,  “You people are a real deal, my son is so blessed to have you people as his teachers, thank you so much Act4Africa and Kathy’s Kindergarten for being my child’s saviour during this pandemic, my child has not missed a thing about learning, thanks  to you.”  

Meanwhile we got to hear from our very own kindergarten child himself. He delighted us with his words: “My teacher is a super-hero, my school is the best in the whole world, because my teachers follow me up to home so that I can learn, I want to be like my teacher because she loves teaching me and my friends.” 

His mother also continued by saying “You people feel my heart with greater joy because everything you do for our children is wow!” 

We could not achieve this without your support, so thank you for providing these children with a “WOW moment” in 2020!  We do not yet know when we can re-open the Kindergarten, but we do know that your donations will help us bring education to over 50 children at this difficult time. Please donate to give hope and education to the next generation.

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