Posted: Sat, September 20, 2014 | By: Uganda
by Hank Pellissier
Last night online I stumbled upon an institution that shocked me, pleased me, gave me delirious hope for the future. In western Uganda, near Ruwenzori National Park (the “Mountains of the Moon”) - just 22 miles from the Congo border - there’s a recently established ”humanist” school, called Kasese Humanist Primary School.
How did this bright light happen? To find out, I emailed the director (Bwambale M Robert) with pestering questions; he immediately responded, with the inspiring info below.
If you’re an agnostic, secularist, humanist, free-thinker who is inclined to be charitable, this tiny outpost of rationality is a magnificent place to plop down your dollars. Many kids here - over 50 - are also orphans… That’s right - atheists are now taking care of the poorest children in a far-away Third World impoverished nation, and providing them with secular educations. (Brighter Brains Institute is sponsoring a 4-year-old girl, named “Tuisime Precious”)
Brighter Brains Institute: Are you the founder? When did you get the idea to start the school? How did you get the initial funding?
Bwambale M Robert: Yes, I am the founder of Kasese Humanist Primary School. I first founded Kasese United Humanist Association in the year 2009 with a vision to spread free thought in my area.
The idea to start a school began in 2010 when I looked at better ways to promote my organization to the public, in my journey to promote free thought philosophy. I figured if we opened up a school based on science and humanist values that would take our organization to another level.
I received the initial funding from local and international sources. Locally, as a biological science graduate I had accumulated some capital. I also was invested in farming - this gave me a good start. After creating our organization I asked for free thought literature from around the world - this appeal to the international community helped people and organizations link up with me with a willingness to donate to my cause.
Atheist Alliance International was the first organization to send a team of 4 volunteers - they came to a pilot school we opened in Kilembe under the name Kilembe Valley Humanist School. This school was relocated to Kasese a year later (in 2011) to serve a wider semi-urban population. We renamed the school to be Kasese Humanist Primary School.
After their volunteers served the 3 months, Atheist Alliance International members and officers gave us start up capital to renovate the rented building properties of the railroad company where we are presently, and they provided funds to purchase classroom furniture.
The AAI Volunteers also donated funds as we were initially starting KHPS. They sponsored a number of children at the Kilembe school. One volunteer - Edan Kurzweil - remained behind after the others left, to witness the opening of Kasese Humanist Primary School.
Brighter Brains Institute: Is there a big need for Humanist schools in Uganda? Is religion in the schools there a distraction?
Bwambale M Robert: Yes, there is much need for Humanist Schools in Uganda. Most schools don’t offer evidence-based learning, and there is limited critical and rational thinking among the pupils at those schools. Religion in the Ugandan schools is a distraction; children are only taught to believe and not allowed to question, in most cases some of their questions are not answered and even when answered they have loopholes. This is very dangerous as it leaves them “half-baked” in their level of thinking.
At Kasese Humanist Primary School we teach Religious Education - both Christianity and Islam are examined by the Education department but other religions are examined as well. We prefer teaching our children about all religions so that they know that this world has a variety of religions and beliefs.
Brighter Brains Institute: How many children in the school? How many are orphans?
Bwambale M Robert: The school now has an enrollment of 384 pupils, 56 are orphans, and 5 disabled.
Brighter Brains Institute: What is the reaction of the local community? Do the religious people approve of your school?
Bwambale M Robert: The local community has no problem with us. The top religious zealots sometimes do raise eyebrows on who we are. The religious who know what we stand for… when they come and share with us they realize that we are not bad people… People respect science and know that science is incompatible with religion but we stress hard that Science and Humanism is the way for a better future and… some religious people somehow agree with this.
The fact that our enrollment since 2011 has increased from 89 to 384 is an indication that people truly appreciate to educate their children with us.
Brighter Brains Institute: What are your goals? How many children do you want to eventually have?
Bwambale M Robert: My goals are:
- To create more humanist schools so that we have a network of nursery schools, primary schools, secondary schools and a University.
- Open up more libraries
- More ventures in the medical field to treat diseases
- I am looking at investing a lot in Agriculture & Eco tourism
- I have an interest in opening up an FM Radio Station which can air information on Science, Humanism, current affairs and advancement in science and technology. This can be an alternate to the religious run & owned stations we have in Kasese.
I am interested in having as many children our classrooms can accommodate. The one we are building in Rukoki can accommodate more than 900 students.
Brighter Brains Institute: How much of your support is from USA and Canada humanists?
Bwambale M Robert: It is in thousands of $$$. Most support comes in as Child Sponsorship fees from generous individuals - other funds are in response to our ongoing classroom construction building going on at our land in Rukoki. Other help comes from all corners of the globe. I am so thankful that this support has helped our school go to another level.