Update from our friends, Horace and Beth, JJ Community Transformation

Dear Friends,

We enjoyed a lovely visit to Wales during July and August this year, which included some hot weather (even Horace thought so!) and my parents’ golden wedding anniversary celebrations. Other than this, since the last newsletter, I (Beth) seem to have been rather caught up in fulfilling various government administrative requirements. JJ’s permit as a non-governmental organisation (NGO) expires towards the end of this month, and we submitted an application for its renewal in September. This included various reports, recommendations and proof of registration with other government entities. As part of the process JJ needed a certificate of registration with the Financial Intelligence Authority. Last week we learnt that NGO’s also need to register with the Uganda Data Protection Office. Registration requirements for these included introducing the roles of “Money Laundering Control Officer” and “Data Protection Officer”.

Separately, each of JJ’s institutions are registered with the Ministry of Education and Sports, which has introduced an online portal for registering staff and learner details. In theory it should be a straightforward (albeit time-consuming) process, just a matter of typing in the basic information required for each person. In practice, it’s not so straightforward: some parents don’t have national IDs, and data provided for learners (especially dates of birth) are often inconsistent, with different details provided upon enrolment at JJ, for registration for national exams and on making application for a national ID!

As I started drafting this letter, I received a phone call from one of JJ’s primary teachers requesting an advance of roughly half of his pay, and asking that I send it direct to his daughter who is in her first year at university. Her contribution towards three months’ rent for the one room house she shares needed to be paid. I missed his first phone call having been called outside to meet a mother and her daughter, strangers to me. The lady (a primary school teacher on the outskirts of Kampala) had heard from someone that we “help children” and wanted help in providing for her daughter’s education. I explained that if they lived in Bushenyi, her daughter could attend JJ’s Secondary School as a day student, and the mother would be able to afford the fees, but it will be difficult to help her as a boarding student due to the significant increase on food prices, and since the girls’ dorm is full anyway (that is until we can build another classroom block and use the 3rd room in the girls dorm as a dorm rather than a classroom).

In September, one of JJ’s younger primary teachers came to see us at home in Bushenyi and requested an advance of almost three months salary, which he would pay back over six months. It was sad to hear his story. He had faithfully saved a little from his salary each month, in order to upgrade his teaching qualification and study for a diploma. He kept his savings with his father for safe keeping (he was still living with his parents, and cycling roughly 5km to work each day). However, recently when he requested the money, his father lost his temper, and the money was not given to him. The quiet young man is now renting a home nearer to the school, and has again started saving. He planned to use the advance in order to buy some animals, and use them to generate income to add to his teaching salary. The government, through its 2019 Teacher Policy, states that all teachers (including nursery school teachers) should be degree holders by 2030. Current teachers are expected to enrol for further studies to upgrade their qualifications. These are just three examples of many requests for help (and these examples are of people with regular employment income). As elsewhere, the costs of fuel and basic food items have increased significantly during the past year. Unlike many schools, JJ has not reflected these increased costs by raising the fees charged during the year. This has at least not added to the stress on families’ incomes, but it has significantly added to the stress on JJ’s finances (!), and also on staff members, since we have made minimal salary increments during the year. We are very thankful for some generous donations received during our visit to the UK in July/August, and we are also thankful that they were mainly unallocated. Thus, although we had been hoping to use the funds for building developments, instead it has been necessary to allocate them towards the costs of salaries, food and other running costs.

Other news in brief:
· Sue Smith, Hand in Hand’s CEO (based in Chelmsford, UK) and Peter Karanja, Hand in Hand’s East Africa Development Manager (based in Kenya) spent several days in Uganda last month. They travelled with us to Bushenyi to see the progress at JJ’s three institutions and also visited a project which they support in Kampala.
· National Primary Leaving Exams for Primary Seven pupils are due on 8th and 9th November. Senior 4 (O Level) exams are in progress and Senior 6 (A Level) exams will begin mid November.
· Our car has been in and out of a garage (in more than out!) over the past month or so. Thankfully it came out last Thursday and has so far stayed out(!) and has worked well other than a minor repair made at the weekend. [STOP PRESS!! and another minor repair yesterday...]
· Horace’s employment is likely to end next month. The company he works for has gradually been winding down, and he has been on half pay since the first Covid lockdown. He is looking out for other opportunities and has earned some income through independent accountancy work and tutoring.

Thank you for your interest and support,
With love, Horace and Bethan