This is Naume Ekirapa. Naume lives in Kawempe, one of the biggest slums in Uganda. Naume and her five brothers and sisters live in one room with their mother. They have no electricity or running water. Their father abandoned the family to be with another woman. Naume is very bright (she placed 7th out of 30 in her primary school), but often cannot go to school because the family cannot pay. Naume loves to sing and dance, and we believe will do very well in school, as long as she can attend regularly. Naume will be attending the Miracle Destiny School in Kampala, Uganda. Her fees will include breakfast and lunch and a snack at the school, so she will be well fed as well. The school is a project of the Miracles Centre Kawempe Church, and was created to offer a good education to the children of Kawempe slum. The school gives each child individual attention by maintaining the number of students in each class at 25. The school also has bedding, so the younger children are given a siesta in the afternoon, before they go home at the end of the day.
Naomi reentered class in person on March 1. This school season will last until July 24th. They will then return to school to start the next school year on August 9th, when she’ll enter the fourth year of high school. This time round the school year is running from August 2021 to April 2022, instead of February through December. They will get back to the normal school year which runs concurrent to the calendar year in 2024. Since the students were receiving notes and school work online in the past year, but were not assessed, this is what the Ministry of Education directed. Right now teachers are doing tests to check where students are at as they try to cover ground that wasn’t covered in the past year.
Naomi is in her third year of school, and appears to be doing pretty well, despite the pandemic, studying remotely, and trying to maintain some sense of normalcy in her life. She wrote us a lovely letter, and answered our questions about the year and its challenges. Things were a little delayed because of the pandemic, so the letters are from 2021. She is most definitely growing up into a lovely young woman.
Naomi will enter her third year of secondary school, which is very exciting for her. She didn’t do as well as we would have hoped at the end of 2019, and she seems to be a bit distracted with a lot of other activities. Our contact Rose spoke with Naomi and she promises that she will work as hard as she can to improve. We know how easy it is to get distracted, but we also know that moving forward in school is challenging in many of these countries, and without good grades, high marks on the national exam, and a chance to move forward, it is very hard to find meaningful work. We hope she will work hard and keep trying!
Naomi has definitely had a different year! In late February she moved to the campus of her high school, which is a couple hours from her home. So not only did she begin high school, but she moved away from home, which is challenging. High school is much harder than primary school, and she has definitely struggled a bit with the subject matter. As she told us in her year end letter, it’s hard to go from studying four or five subjects, to 13! We have no doubt that she will get her feet under her and shine, as she did in primary school.
She did it! Naomi passed her National Leaving Exam with high marks and she will be entering high school on February 12! We are so excited and proud for her and can’t wait to see where she goes in high school. She will be entering the Miracle Destiny High School, which is a boarding school about two hours from where she lives. MDHS is run by the same people who created her grade school, and so her transition will be fairly seamless, which is good. We imagine it will be a challenge to live away from home, but we have no doubt she will shine.
Naomi took her high school entrance exams in mid November, and will find out in January how she did. While she waits for her exam results, she helps the younger students at school with their dance routine for the year-end concert.
Naomi has changed the spelling of her name, so we will use her preferred spelling of Naomi. She is such a lovely young woman! Our contacts tell us that she has been studying very hard. At the end of this school year, she will take the high school exams to see if she passes on to the next level, and which school she can enter. It’s hugely important; many students don’t pass into high school, or into a very good one and their options are quite limited if this is the case. Naomi took mock exams on the 17th and 18th of August, joining nearly 200 other students to practice. She’s consistently been a good student, and she has a lot of will to succeed, so we have no doubt she will pass and do well.
For a school field trip the group went to the Equator, and they sent a photo of the kids enjoying the marker.
Naume passed into Primary Seven with good marks, and she’s doing really well. In her coming year, which is the last year for her before high school, she will have to do some extra studying for her national exams, so that she can enter high school and continue on. It’s a sad fact of life in Uganda that many students don’t score high enough on their national exams to enter a good high school, and are relegated to a bad school, which greatly limits their future possibilities. We don’t think that will be an issue with Naume, though!
Here is her year-end letter to us, and a photo of her dancing in the year-end concert. For her letter, we asked her to tell us something interesting that she learned about her country, tell us about her best friend, and about a hard time in her life and how she got through it.
Naume is doing really well in her classes. At the middle of the year, she was 6th in her class, and she was elected Assistant Head Girl, which is a very big honor. Apparently, there was a lot of competition, and she won. Her classmates obviously like her a lot and have a lot of faith in her. Congratulations, Naume!
Naume entered fifth grade with a big honor: just after school started in February, she was elected Sanitary Prefect! There are several prefects for the school, and the Sanitary Prefect has the job of making sure the cleaning of classes, compound, and bathrooms is done (she doesn’t have to do it, but she has to organize and lead). They have prefects’ meetings in which they report, from each of their separate assignments. They also get to help with keeping order and leading at assemblies and other such school gatherings, and directing parents during parents’ visits at school. She has an assistant who helps her with her job. She was elected by her peers in what we have been told is a very competitive process, so that in itself is a great honor; it’s also something that helps her gain self-esteem and confidence, since it is a leadership role with the other students. We are very happy and proud for her.
In June, Naume was sworn in and Robert and Rose sent us some pictures of the very fun swearing in ceremony for all the prefects. Naume is looking so beautiful and grown up in this picture of her with her friends, who are the Head Prefect and the Assistant Head Girl. What a great opportunity to develop really important skills in leadership and organization. We’re very proud of you, Naume!
Naume did beautifully in school once more and ended the year being a star in the year-end concert at school. She is growing up so fast, and is so dedicated to her studies and her school and her friends—we could not be prouder of her!
Naume’s most recent grades are excellent – she placed 5th out of 24 students in her class! She is doing really well, and is so happy to have received all the letters from the National Honor Society Students from Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy. She wrote a letter back to each student, which made them all very happy. She’s growing up quickly now, and we’re very excited to see where she will go.
Christa went to Uganda in November to visit Naume and Rebecca, and meet Robert and Rose, our contacts there. Robert and Rose founded a church and a primary school in the division of Kawempe in Kampala. Kawempe is a low-income division of the city, which boasts 9,000 people per square kilometer. It’s crowded and noisy and filled with life and laughs and color. Roosters wake you in the morning, the roads are filled with deep ruts which only get deeper in the afternoon rains; women wearing fabulous colorful long dresses walk gracefully with heavy packages or loads of fruit balanced on their heads.
Robert and Rose Nabulere started Miracle Destiny School in 2008. They are now building a high school about 30 km outside of town which will open in February of 2015. The high school will also be a boarding school and have a vocational component for students who don’t go on with their studies, so they can learn things like beauty school, mechanics, etc. They also hope one day to build a university and medical clinic. These are people with a vision!
Rose told me the story of the primary school. In May of 2008 the property was just a open dirt field with a building on it. “A grazing ground for goats,” is how she put it. They rent it from a local woman. They paved the front, built all the infrastructure (stairs, wall, bathrooms, etc.) They rent a couple other buildings nearby for classrooms, and they built a couple new classrooms in back for the older children in lieu of paying rent. They built a kitchen, where Flavia makes breakfast and lunch for 300 every day. They have 25 staff, 12 of whom are teachers. The school teaches 290 students from nursery school (3 1/2 or so) up through 7th grade. After the seventh year of primary school, children take a national exam. If they pass the tests well, they can get into a good school. High school is four years and if they pass their exams, they can go to the last two years, making it six total. If they don’t pass their exams, they will not get into the last two years, and then cannot go to university after that. They can still do something like become a primary school teacher or go to vocational school. There are a huge number of students vying for very few spots, the further up the education ladder you go. There are approximately 500,000 primary school students in the country for perhaps 20,000 or 30,000 university spots.
There are government schools in Uganda, and they are free, but uniforms and supplies still cost, and the classes can have as many as 120 students in each one. Because of this it is easy for kids to drop out and teachers and parents won’t know. Robert and Rose wanted a school that had small classes and gave more personal attention to the students. They have turned away at least 100 students because of their class size limits, until they can get more space, money, teachers and supplies.
In 2007, Robert and Rose borrowed money to go to the UK for two months for a training in Christian education—how to run a school, administration, etc. He met a man who agreed to come to Uganda to tell his story at Robert’s and Rose’s church. The man decided to help and his church back in England raised the funds for the first two years. Now, the kids’ tuitions help pay for the school costs, plus they collect donations. About a third of the kids are sponsored and they are always looking for more sponsors.
All the uniforms are made by Timothy, a young man who studied fashion design at a vocational school in Kampala. The uniforms consist of grey-blue shorts and cream shirt for all boys, grey-blue jumper and cream shirt for girls in lower levels, and grey-blue skirt and cream shirt for older girls. On Tuesdays all children wear their sports uniform: bright orange tee shirt and light blue sports shorts. This allows the parents to wash the daily uniforms.
Flavia and Joan do the cooking. Everyone in the school helps out with chores when it is needed, including helping out with teaching.
In the first term, the school has Sports Day. During the second term the classes all do field trips, and at the end of the year, the whole school puts on a concert, with each class performing a different dance, song, or skit.
Although they had been running a church since 2005, Robert and Rose bought the church land in 2012, so they can have their own space. The church is a huge open space made of corrugated metal with a pole frame. There is a raised stage and a cement floor. They run two services on Sunday. Robert is a passionate speaker; he transforms from calm and mellow in his everyday life to decisive, fiery and powerful. He conducts his services in English and Luganda, switching back and forth, with a translator doing the same thing following along. There is a lot of dancing and singing, lots of amens. Everyone is very gracious. They welcomed me, asked me how I was liking Uganda and the greeting for me was “welcome,” and “praise God.”
Meeting Naume and her family was wonderful. Naume’s mother, Harriet, is 40. She used to work at a soap and chalk factory. She was paid $1.50 per day on the days she could work. She has, since 2011, worked as an administrative assistant and “social worker” of sorts at the school. She is tall and lovely, statuesque with a gorgeous smile and a great voice. She sings in church every Sunday. Naume has four brothers and sisters. Her oldest sister is 18 and has a child of her own. She does not live with the family. Zach is 17, Patrick is 11 and Israel is 8. Naume is a tall young lady, quiet and serious with a huge smile. She doesn’t say a lot, but clearly loves performing at the concert. She is a great singer and dancer, too!
Naume at the School Concert
Naume performed several times with the Scouts, and with her grade class. She clearly has a good time dancing and singing! Naume is second from the right on the first video and in the foreground with a white t-shirt and jeans in the second. In the third video, she is second from the right in the front row, with an orange t-shirt on.
At the end of the concert, the Teachers and Parents had a “dance off” of sorts, which pretty much ended up just being a whole bunch of people dancing together. These folks love to dance, and as you can see, they do it quite well! Pastor Robert and his wife Rose are in there dancing away as well.
And finally, the cross-cultural event of the day: a bunch of little Ugandan kids bouncing up and down to that most famous Christmas song of all: Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad.” After I filmed this, I DID join in and dance with everyone!
Naume’s grades were terrific this year; she ended up very high in her class position, so we’re very proud of her. We also received a letter from her that answered some questions that we have started asking all the girls for their letters. While it is wonderful to get thank you letters, we want to know what is going on for them in school, what their goals are, etc. So Naume and Rebecca sent our first letters that answer some of these questions. Here is Naume’s and it’s wonderful!
Here in Flagstaff, a group of National Honor Society high school students from the Flagstaff Arts and Leadership Academy are raising funds to help Naume with her schooling next year. They wrote her a letter to introduce themselves, and Naume sent one back to them. Here are both letters; we’re really excited to help make this connection, and the FALA students are really excited to help Naume. Thanks to all of them, from ONE and from Naume!
End of the 2013 School Year
We received some wonderful photos and a letter from Naume at the end of the 2013 school year, as well as her very impressive report card. Congratulations, Naume! She tells us that she is learning to play chess, which we think is great! Not that any of us can play chess, but we know it’s a game that asks for forethought from its players, something that is a good thing in young students. The photos are from the end of the year festival they had at the Miracle Destiny School.
In July of 2012, Naume and her whole school went on a very special field trip to visit several places near their city. She wrote us a letter telling us about it and thanking us for helping her go as part of her schooling. An opportunity like this would never have been possible for her prior to our help, so we’re really excited for her!
End of the 2012 School Year
Naume was part of a dance presentation for the end of the school year. Here she is in the traditional and the creative dance performances. She also wrote us a lovely note, and her grade report is wonderful – she’s 3rd out of 28 students! Congratulations, Naume!