Mbabaali Memorial School is considered one of the premier independent orphanages in the greater Kampala area.
The school educates 264 children. Of these, 144 have no parents and live at the school. The remaining 120 children have one parent, but no financial resources for education. The AIDS epidemic continues in Uganda, and it is estimated that in 2012, 62,000 persons died of HIV/AIDS in the country.
Since the beginning of the epidemic, approximately 1.1 million children have been left orphaned. The Mbabaali Memorial School receives 3-5 requests per day for placement of children.
Founded to help the most vulnerable children, the orphans.
The day Mbabaali Memorial Orphans’ School opened, 1,600 orphans with critical problems sought to register, but only about 5-6% of them could be helped. Any vacancy is immediately filed from the more than 20 requests received on an average day.
Many private orphanages sprung up to fill the gaps. The Mbabaali Memorial School is dedicated to helping orphans who are victims of the AIDS plague. They provide food, shelter, education and love in a nurturing and safe environment for 264 orphaned Ugandan children in a Christian tradition.
During its 14-year history, the Mbabaali Memorial School has survived from donations from close friends, personal income from the Director, and many people of good faith, but mainly from the donated work of many of the faculty of the school.
The school has two basic dormitories, one for the boys and one for the girls.
About 50% of the children are able to sleep on a twin bunk bed with a thin mattress. The rest must use their mattress on the floor, as there are not enough beds to go around. Very few children have mosquito netting for use at night, and the risk of contracting malaria is ever present. One teacher resides in the dormitory overnight to provide supervision.
Toilet and bathing facilities are very basic. The school only has latrines and the need to change locations for these is problematic given the lack of space. Currently the children shower by gender using hoses in a shower enclosure outside made from corrugated metal.
One goal of the school is to build a washing block containing flush toilets and showers.
The school now has a contained kitchen with two full time cooks.
The generosity of foreign donors has been of utmost importance in feeding the children of the Mbabaali Memorial School. Cooking is done over open fires and buying firewood is a major expense.
Breakfast is typically a maize porridge. Lunch and dinner alternate between rice or posho, a thick grits much like polenta. The diet is supplemented by meat or fish two times a month with occasional greens. Often sweet potatoes, cassava and occasional bananas are available.
Most children are of short stature and thin as they remain undernourished.
The monthly budget is $2400 for food, cooking oil, and firewood. Unfortunately this amounts to only 60 cents per child. The director is acutely aware that the children need more food with more variety and more protein but finding the financial resources to pay for these needs is a daily challenge.
If donations do not cover food costs for the month, the teachers go without pay and no school supplies are bought in order to be able to purchase food.
Buying the farm will allow them to provide more fresh meat, fruit and vegetables in the children’s diets.
They then expect only to purchase cooking oil, rice and sugar, with projected savings of $8,000 to $9,000 every year. This will decrease their food budget by 70%.
There are 26 students per grade, with a total of 142 girls and 122 boys.
Mbabaali Memorial School students performed exceptionally well on the 2014 Primary Leaving Examinations. Of 30 students taking the the exam, 22 passed division one and 8 passed division two. This was the school’s best performance in 14 years and the Mbabaali Memorial School is ranked BEST in the area. One of the students was only a single point shy of being in the very top rank of students for the entire country of Uganda!
If funds were available, 15-20 students finishing their primary education at Mbabaali Memorial School could continue on to University.
Fourteen dedicated teachers provide schooling in the basics as well as more advanced classes for those older children who are academically gifted. The children are in class 6 days per week, with two term breaks. Those who have relatives are encouraged to visit outside the school during breaks. Those with no families, spend time with host families around Kampala, so they learn how to interact in a family unit.
For those children with one remaining parent or who are being cared for by relatives, tuition is $74 per year. This covers uniforms, food, tuition and books. For the remaining 144 children, no fees are collected.
A vision for self-sustainability.
Finances at the school are often stretched beyond the breaking point, and at times teachers have gone without pay in order to afford food and water for the orphans.
The director of the school, James Kyeyune, has himself contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars for major expenses and on-going needs, but James has a solid vision to help improve the future sustainability of the school, lower costs, and provide food for the orphans.
The school is raising money to buy its own farm.
Why does a school need a farm?
In the words of James Kyeyune, director of the school, “The diet of the children will be highly improved, as they will have more to eat, better quality and more fruits. Buying this farm will help us reduce our food costs and raise money to pay the teachers. It will also provide employment to some of the orphans who fail to continue with education due to lack of school fees. We will be able to teach agricultural skills to our students, which might be helpful in the future. We shall be in a position to plant our own eucalyptus trees, which is a source of firewood for us for cooking.”
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