In 2016, we helped Robert and Janepher Okwakol launch their vision to build a nursery and primary school in Amoroto Village. Mercy Seat School is currently a thriving school that teaches approximately 250 children!
What makes our school unique?
1. The school has small classrooms where students can receive quality education. We have limited the number of students to thirty per primary classroom. (The nursery classes take more children, because Mercy Seat is the ONLY available nursery school in the area. Several of our nursery students will go to primary schools closer to home, but we've taken in the nursery children who don't have other options at this level.) In government schools in Uganda, you can find up to one hundred students in one classroom, and the students have a very difficult time learning in such a crowded environment. We value quality over quantity and are dedicated to providing quality education and better opportunities for individual attention.
2. The school is also unique in that it has grown with the students. We never wanted to bite off more than we could chew, so we started small. During our humble beginnings, we fought to be faithful in the little and grew gradually. The school launched in 2016 with two nursery levels, a combination class comprised of Primary One and Two students, a Primary Three classroom, a Primary Four classroom, and a "Foundational Class” (more details below in #3). In 2017, we added a third nursery school level as well as Primary Five. In 2018, we added Primary Six, and in 2019, we added Primary Seven. Now we are complete with every nursery and primary level!
3. This school also is unique in how it promotes dignity in our students. Many children in Uganda are not able to start school until they are twelve, thirteen, or even older. These children are usually placed in classrooms based on their size rather than their skill. Without the basics of early childhood education, they are completely lost in class. However, it would be humiliating to place these older kids in nursery school classrooms. Therefore, during our first year, we hired a teacher for what we called our "Foundational Class" for these learners. It was a safe place where they could learn the most basic foundational skills without having to be in class with tiny children. We always want to convey the message that it's never too late to learn.
4. The funding for the school is unique in that it does not feed into a poverty mindset. Unfortunately, there is a prevalent mindset in Africa that Westerners are the givers and Africans are the receivers. This is disempowering and harmful. Child sponsorships for schools can feed into this poverty mindset. However, it's very difficult to fund a remote village school without outside support. Therefore, we fund our school through the unique idea of teacher sponsorships. We have several friends of the ministry who donate $35/month (or a different amount of their choosing) to help pay the staff at our school. All teacher sponsor donations go into one large pool that goes towards paying the school staff. This enables us to lower tuition costs for our students, because only some of their tuition goes to paying staff. (So staff salaries are paid by a combination of sponsor donations and tuition.) The parents experience the dignity of contributing toward their children's quality education without the burden of high school fees. This way, our community members are a part of the transformation in Amoroto.