Agwata: Northern Uganda School and Clinic Partnership
Our third women’s group, the Agwata group, is located in Lamwo district, about one hour due west from the town of Kitgum where our second women’s group is located. Agwata is a small village of about 1,000 people which is one of five villages within the parish containing over 7,000 inhabitants. Here, Outreach Uganda is working with the entire community and parish, and at the request of our women’s group way back in 2010, helping them upgrade and expand the community’s parent-supported primary school, and more recently helping the community establish its own clinic which is equivalent to a government Health Center 2.
The women’s group in Agwata is our largest women’s group with over 90 members which are divided into five work group clusters for easier manageability. From the very beginning, the women in this CBO have been pioneers in wanting their village to have a good primary school and also a clinic since they are in an area of the sub-county that is far from the next nearest government school and government health center.
Agwata School Expands from 20 to over 580 Students in 2017
Since 2010, and through Outreach Uganda’s help through both general donations, and through the support of our child sponsorship program for many of the students in the school, the school has steadily expanded each year culminating with the addition of the highest level primary class, called P-7 (equivalent to sixth grade in the U.S.) in 2014. During this same time period, the school astutely recognized as the government was beginning to realize the same thing, that pre-school, or Nursery as it is called in Uganda was critical to students succeeding in primary school. Consequently, Nursery classes were added year by year with the final youngest level of Nursery class called Babies Class added in 2015. In 2016, 6th grade girls began boarding at the school for the last term of the school year.
As of March 2017, the school now has over 580 students with 17 trained teachers plus three other staff. There are four completed classroom blocks which house eight classrooms. Construction on a fifth classroom block began in February. The original mud and thatch building which still houses two classes underwent a major refurbishment so it can hopefully last another few years. Our dream of a Nursery playground for our youngest students became a reality in early 2016.
Our first class of P-7 students graduated in December 2014 and eleven of the thirteen graduates have progressed onto secondary or vocational training primarily because of scholarships offered by our child sponsorship program. In 2016, over half of the P-7 class of 32 students was girls. The success of girls at progressing through primary school is due in part to our Girls’ Education Initiative program which meets weekly after school with girls in P-3 to P-7. There are currently over 120 girls in this program.
Agwata Clinic Began Operations in June 2013
Because the nearest clinic was over 17 kilometres away, a very far distance especially during rainy season when roads and paths are very muddy and impassable, our Agwata women’s group desperately wanted a clinic in their very own community. Outreach Uganda helped their dream become a reality in June 2013 when the Cubu Clinic opened its doors. The clinic serves the 7,000 people in the surrounding parish of five villages.
In mid-2014, the district and another NGO helped train seven specially selected people to be on the Health Care Unit management committee. There are usually at least 600 patient visits per month depending on the season of the year. Currently, we are fund raising to help the clinic be able to offer both maternity and immunization services at this location.
Initial Work with Agwata village and the northern Uganda school in 2009 and 2010
From the late 1990s to mid-2000s, most Ugandans in this area resided in one of two nearby IDP camps during the LRA war which ended in early 2007. They had been forced into the camps, theoretically for their own safety, by the Uganda government. Similarly, they were told to leave the camps and resettle back into their ancestral lands during 2009 albeit with no assistance except for some free seeds by Lutheran World Federation.
Carol Davis, Outreach Uganda’s founder and president first met some of the women briefly in 2009 as they were still in smaller “satellite” IDP camps as they began the resettlement process. We promised to tell their story to others and see if we could muster some help as they began the resettlement process. That we did, and were back in 2010 as the Agwata community began its parent-supported primary school which then had two classes with about twenty students, and a couple of unpaid and untrained teachers.