Children of the Nations School Thrives in Uganda

02/28/11

Mercy Awor stood at the front of her class. The bright-eyed eight-year-old girl welcomed visitors to the new Children of the Nations (COTN) school in Uganda; that’s part of her job as the official Student Representative. Surrounding Mercy and her fellow students, the classroom walls are covered in posters about colors, numbers, and animals. A handmade banner of the ABCs hangs across the room and sun streams in from the many windows. There is a joyful feeling among the children ranging from nursery school all the way to Primary Five (fifth grade). It’s hard to believe that one year ago, none of it even existed.

Last year, children like Mercy who live in COTN’s Uganda Children’s Village and in the nearby village of Anai-Okii Village attended local government schools. But government schools in Uganda don’t offer quality education: dirt floors, no desks, few windows, underpaid teachers, and up to eighty children in a classroom are commonplace. And usually the teachers teach in the Ugandan language, not English. Wanting a better education for children in need under COTN’s care, COTN’s Uganda staff decided in February 2010 that it was time for a school of their own—one where lessons would be taught in English, the class size would remain small, and children would be encouraged in a loving, Christian environment. Construction began on the first two classrooms, right on COTN’s property near our Children’s Village. Local teachers heard about the new COTN school and six were soon on board—willing to work for less pay in the first year, some riding their bikes an hour each way in order to teach at COTN. Wendy Brown, COTN–International Education Director, explains why: “Being a nonprofit organization, an American organization, and one focused on children, the teachers know they’re going to have support as far as teaching material and professional development. They know they’re going to get paid,” Wendy says. “And we’re a ministry. Sometimes that’s appealing to people. It’s a ministry and not just a job.”

By April 2010, just two months after the construction began, Mercy and other children from nursery school through Primary Two (second grade) were learning at COTN’s school. A construction Venture Team last summer built two more classrooms, enabling Primary Three through Primary Five classes to begin this school year. The rapid progress of the school amazed the community and other prominent educators. The director of a local public school visited in September and remarked that the school has made nearly 5-years worth of progress in a few short months.

The COTN staff and teachers are thrilled, especially because children are learning rapidly. “In taking new subjects like math and English, they are fast and neat,” says Grace Koli, who teaches nursery. Families in the surrounding community are also excited about the new school. If room is available after COTN home and Village Partnership children are enrolled, anyone can pay the school fees to send their kids there. Wendy attributes the all-around enthusiasm to the improved teachers and surroundings. “Children learn better when they enjoy the environment,” she says.

The COTN–Uganda staff wants all our children to have that positive learning environment, and right now the older children and teenagers are still attending government schools. That’s why the staff plans to continue to expand—one day all the way through secondary school. “It just feels like they have an opportunity to thrive and grow in the school that we have. And everybody’s just so excited about [it],” Wendy says. “The children are not just going to school, they are thriving and developing into the young people that are going to lead that community and lead that country. It’s very exciting.”

Sponsor a child in Africa like Mercy and enable her to attend school! Or support COTN’s school in Uganda to help African children get a better education.