Good morning, 30 March, 2012
I am Rodger Qualls a civilian engineer for the Army in Huntsville, Alabama. I traveled to Uganda right after 9/11 to design a lay minister’s conference center and had lunch with some school children. Talking to their teachers I found that the children’s needs were great and I thought I could do something about it. I went back to Uganda weeks at a time for several years to teach in the classrooms and observe/listen to what was needed.
The challenges were too great. I needed others help. In 2006 I formed ACEII and received 501(c)3 status. Starting with one school, then three, then five and now 30 we support. Or more importantly started with 300 children, then 900, then 1500 and now 9000.
With a little help from us the children can succeed. Most Ugandan children drop out of school by 4th grade and less than 20% ever go to high school. They drop out because most teachers only have one year of college education, schools have little to no teacher resources, almost no books and certainly none for the children to read. Undertrained teachers have never been taught how to teach reading. The school buildings are dirty and run down. Most schools do not have clean water to drink. And on and on.
So it will take a holistic approach to teach children to read. If a child can not read and comprehend then there is little hope for success in any of the other subjects and so they drop out. Our efforts are to train teachers, collect/ship and stock reading books, encyclopedia and National Geographic magazines to each school. Not any school has a library so we are with parents/students/teachers help physically improving a classroom to be the school’s reading center. We also work with the teachers on a weekly schedule to teach them how to teach and then we mentor them to continue their learning.
Although school is FREE for a child to attend. IT really is not. A parent has to pay for a uniform, and scholastic supplies. And so a typical family with 7 school age children can not afford this basic of cost. So ACEII provides small scholarships so the children can attend school.
TO complete the holistic approach we must help the schools provide clean drinking water to the children by repairing or installing gutters to catch rainwater. We also provide limited health care to students when there is no other alternative. We provide bedding and clothing to the most needy children.
Few children ever go on to high school but instead go back home to absolute poverty. Most of the children are raised by grandma or a sick parent. Almost all children have had one or both parents die of AIDS. The government built few high schools and the few are overcrowded and have extremely poor academics. “If you continue promoting a child who can not read then how will they perform in high school?” So we are building a high school that will have good academics. Sixty of the poorest girl children from the 30 schools we support in Nakasongola School District that have good school performance will begin high school in Jan 2013. Almost all of these girls have lost one or both parents to AIDS or TB. For the high school we are collecting rainwater already for clean drinking water. We use local men to build the school. We train them to give them a skill and then pay them a salary to help the local economy. We use mostly clay from the site to make bricks for the building. We have started laying out agricultural fields so the girls will be taught improved agricultural skills. Thus the school will be nearly self-sufficient.