Katente West Primary School – Residential Hostel for Blind and Partially-sighted Pupils.

Photographs of the Katente West Hostel Story and of the work to be done.

Katente West Primary School, in Mubende District, is a rural government primary school, for children aged 6 to 13 years, founded by the Catholic Church. In 2019 it had 679 pupils. It has a good record on inclusion and care for disabled children, currently teaching 62 pupils with a variety of special learning needs (ie 9%).

The Ugandan government has a policy of school inclusion, so all children, including those with disabilities, should be attending school. Primary education in Uganda is free, although parents have to provide uniforms, books and lunch. However, unfortunately, this policy of inclusion is not always implemented.

In 2019, UNICEF carried out a ‘Knowledge, Attitude & Practice’ research survey in Mubende District and found that disabled children attending school represented only 0.34% ie 319 children, out of the total primary school population in Mubende of 94,000 children

UNICEF found various reasons for this very low number, including: unfriendly school environments and inadequate facilities in schools; inadequate numbers of Special Needs teachers; inadequate capacity of parents to provide scholastic materials (due to poverty); negative attitudes of parents and peers to the disabled children. A significant proportion of parents when interviewed thought: children with disabilities should be confined at home and not seen in public (19% of interviewees); children have disabilities as a result of a curse or bad past deeds of the family (32%); a disability cannot be treated or corrected (59%).

We have been connected to this school for several years, because of it encourages VI and special needs children to attend school. This is the result of the commitment of the current and recent head teachers – and also the Special Needs Teacher, Mr Vincent Ssendikwanawa, who is himself VI. Mr Sedrack Ighangura, the Inspector for Special Needs Education for Mubende District, is also very important in developing the school’s work

Mr Ssendikwanawa visits families in the local area to identify VI children who are not attending school, aiming to persuade parents to bring them to Katente West School. He has identified children who would benefit, but for many blind and VI children, they cannot walk safely to and from school every day – so the concept of building a residential hostel emerged.

Since 2014 we have worked together with the local community, the school and the Catholic Parish, to build this residential hostel. All of us have carried out fundraising activities in Uganda and UK. A group of British and Ugandan volunteers worked with the builders in 2016. It has taken several years to build the hostel. It was opened, by Mr and Mrs  Ravi Nathwani and family, visiting from Exeter*, ready for pupils in the new school year, February 2018.

The hostel is a spacious building and can accommodate 12 girls and 12 boys. In March 2020 (when Uganda went into lock-down due to the pandemic) there were 6 residents. It has a common room, 2 dormitories (for girls and boys), 2 indoor wash rooms, its own block of latrines, 2 clean-water tanks, a matron’s room and an office for the Special Needs Teacher.

The whole community and district education authorities are immensely proud of the hostel and the school’s commitment to special needs children.

There are 3 final pieces of building work that need to be completed, as shown in the photos.

Donations for the hostel are invited: for the building work (total cost of £4,800); food and living costs of the pupils, whose parents sometimes are unable or unwilling to contribute; equipment for VI pupils; the monthly payment to the hostel matron.

 ** The Nathwani family grew up in Kampala but left in the early 1970s. Ravi used to sell insurance in Mubende Town. 2018 was their first return visit to Uganda – and they opened the hostel.

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