From the government to the rural areas
This is the political structure for the districts in Uganda. The names to the right is the corresponding areas in which the St Catherine project are positioned. St Catherine is working in all of the Bukinda Subcounty, but the site for the Resource Centre, and our main site, is positioned in the village of Kafuka, outside Muhanga.
Many people who are aware of their civic rights in Uganda, feel that the government is not delivering public services efficiently. As a consequence they avoid paying governmental tax. Instead people invest their money in projects in projects of their own, which the community can benefit from. Many projects are making big differences everyday, but it is also important to realise that in some cases there might be some personal gain for the person running the project. Corruption is also the reason why many countries have decided to stop giving money to the Ugandan government, instead donations are spread to non-governmental organisations, NGOs.
The school system in Uganda consists of Primary School, 7 years, secondary school 4 or 6 years and after that 2,3 or 5 years of studies on University-level. Vocational schools are not a part of the public school system, instead they are tought in separate vocational schools or arranged by people with vocational skills.
All children are required by law to attend Primary school, however in reality this does not always happen. Public school does not have tuition fees, however children are often required to buy all materials required in class such as books, paper and pens. In the governmental schools the teachers are paid from the government, no matter the amount of kids paying school fees. However, many public schools does only have one teacher paid for by the government, regardless of the size of the class. In private schools the head teachers make their own budget for salaries and material and takes a school fee according to that. It means some teachers barely have no income at all when school fees are missing. Thus private school tend to require fairly high tuition fees. In vulnerable families this sometimes results in sending children into primary school too early, in order to share books with a sibling and save money.In worst case, the child may not be sent to school at all, and rather put to work.
Teaching is done differently than in many Swedish schools. It is common to learn by repeating what the teacher says many times; singing or dancing is used since it doesn’t demand paper and pens. Possibilities for the children to be creative or formulate their own opinions is usually not encouraged in class.
Culture and attitudes
Uganda has had many projects providing money, food and goods to improve the community. It’s not until later the impact of unilateral charity has been investigated, but it has established a dependency problem. Some people in Uganda have realised that gifts are only short term solutions, and decrease the country’s independence. Nevertheless, in many situations people will expect gifts from western visitors. Moreover, these expectations can lead to a lack of determination or strength to change their own lives, a situation which may lead to frustration and disappointment for visitors.
Evaluating what to give is very important. Our philosophy is that helping should mostly be about encouraging and bringing out belief in own abilities. It means creating successes which at the first point might depend on support in many ways, but it should also mean that next step demands less support.
Sharing is an attitude spread everywhere in Uganda. You share everything from food, problems you experience and advice. Compared to our independent Swedish lifestyles, people in Uganda and Africa faces realities together and solve problems in groups. Sometimes the brainstorming and unstructured way of finishing tasks seems to be very ineffective, but it is important to know what the purpose of ones actions really is and evaluate in which way they are best achieved.
This way of sharing; from food to problems and advice, has been the most valuable thing in the African culture experienced by us when visiting Uganda. From this sharing everyone gets opportunities to learn all the time, which makes every challenge worth accepting. We realised that to be as independent as possible doesn’t necessarily lead to the largest improvements. Brainstorming and doing things many people at a time are common, as far from western culture it is it can be something to value.
Religion plays many different roles to a lot of people in Uganda. Christianity is the most common religion in Uganda, both the Catholic church and many Protestant churches are present, but there are also a vibrant Muslim community. Most people are actively going to church and call themselves believers. The main focus of going to church can sometime seem less on the spiritual experience and more about taking part and be respected in a group. Church activities are also very much about sharing.