Posted: Tue, November 08, 2016 | By: Humanism
Brighter Brains Institute (BBI) has decided to re-categorize eight of the schools it supports as “interested in humanism” - instead of the current fully-fledged “humanist” appellation they were originally rewarded.
Approximately one year ago, BBI decided to “convert” schools in western Uganda to humanism, by offering them a partnership that included benefits, such as BBI setting up a clinic, or building a classroom, or providing food, or finding sponsors for their orphans, or providing startup funds for school-supporting businesses.
Ten schools approached BBI with high interest, but unfortunately, they were not sure of what exactly humanism is, and they were uninformed about operating within the Ten Humanist Principles.
BBI currently has a volunteer on-the-ground in Uganda, Aaron Silver-Pells, who has been alerting us to behavior at the “new humanist” schools, that deserves serious attention. Aaron’s observations have strongly instigated BBI to re-classify the new schools.
What Aaron has discovered is:
1) In general, the new humanist schools do not know enough about what humanism really is. (There are exceptions—like the women-collective run Garama Secondary School and Mother Givers School - they understand and value the gender equality component in humanism.) Almost all the schools that approached us are very interested and open to the idea of humanism, but teaching them the realities of humanist thinking is going to require considerable education of both the faculty and the students. This will be very enjoyable and interesting, but it will be a longer process than anticipated.
2) One of the new humanist schools - Kasanga-Kaghema Orphanage School - had a sign up saying “Jesus Cares” and several children were wearing school uniforms that said “Jesus Cares” as the slogan. The school administrators said “Jesus Cares” was the previous name of the school, and the children were still wearing those shirts. They also said a pig was tied to the sign, and this pig pulled down the sign. BBI is asking the school to put the sign back up and we will send them money to replace all the “Jesus Cares” shirts.
3) Two of the “new humanist” schools - Rays of Light and Mughete Junior - use what Aaron regards as disturbing corporal punishment against the pupils. At one of these schools, Aaron heard that teachers have thrown rocks at students, to move them from one location to another. Although many of the Ugandans Aaron talked to defended the behavior saying “this is what we do in Africa” - BBI is opposed to corporal punishment against children in general, and in our schools; our view is stated in our lecture on the First Humanist Principle.
Our position is as follows:
“Humanists believe children in school should be treated with love and kindness. Humanists believe children should never be physically hurt, or hit with a stick, at school or at home. At Kyarumba’s… humanist schools, children are to be treated with kindness. Students at these schools should also never be talked to in a rude way by teachers. Students should never be ridiculed or scolded with cruelty. Teachers at the humanist schools need to be examples of humanist kindness. They must treat all the students with great kindness.”
BBI has notified those two schools that violence against the children must cease, or there will be no further funding. Our advice was quickly followed, but we believe that explaining our Humanist Principles more clearly is needed, and a “trial period” should be held, before granting the schools full humanist status.
Hank Pellissier, BBI director, has also had “communication” problems with two of the new humanist schools - Vision Care and Mughete Junior - who have not completely built school classrooms with funds delivered to them by BBI. Pellissier views budgetary honesty, skill, and responsibility, as requirements for BBI partnership. It is impossible to give or loan funds to a school administration, in his opinion, if we cannot be certain that the funds will be complete the projects that the sponsors have supported, with their cash and expectations.
Both schools are working with Pellissier to clear up the problem. It is certain that there was no corruption; there was just a semantic misunderstanding as to what “finishing a classroom” means. Mughete has done everything except the concrete floor; Vision Care needs to do the doors, windows, and flooring.
Another school, Garama Secondary School, made banking errors in receiving funds from a BBI friend, via Humanist Canada. Concerned by this delay, but not knowing the cause of it - the sponsor delivered $500 extra to Garama. Pellissier thought the sponsor should perhaps be refunded, because the banking delay was partly the fault of Garama. This issue was in dispute for 3-4 days, but it is largely resolved, due to fact that part of the delay - perhaps 50% - was indeed the responsibility of Humanist Canada. The donor is also completely sympathetic to Garama, and understands their reluctance to admit an error.
Bwambale Robert Musubaho - director of Kasese Humanist Primary School, BiZoHa Orphanage Humanist School, and the humanist nursery school in Kahendero, has also been very helpful in guiding BBI towards the re-categorization. He has helped in two ways:
1) He discovered that our emails from Mother Givers School, signed by “Victorina Kabugho” were in fact written by a man — Masereka Sebastian — who was employed by the Buhanga Women as their Secretary. BBI was displeased with this “false identity” situation. We were also unhappy discovering we’ve been WorldRemitting funds to this man’s bank account, instead of to the Buhanga Women’s bank account. Further investigation did, however, indicate that Masereka Sebastian was operating as an honest helper - he was not, we believe, skimming any percentage off the top. Luckily for all involved, this situation has been largely resolved; we are content, for the time being, to continue our projects with Mother Givers School, as long as everyone correctly identifies themselves. Ideally, however, we would like there to be women representatives in place for us to communicate with at the women’s collectives we work with.
2) Bwambale Robert Musubaho also visited Mother Givers School. He enjoyed the visit, but he came away with the impression that they didn’t know enough about humanism - especially the children - and the school probably did not meet the minimum academic standards required by the Ugandan government. For example, few, if any, of the teachers had a college education. This concern is highly important to BBI - we want all our schools to be top educational institutions. Unfortunately, all the “new humanist” schools we have recently “converted” are extremely poor; they have difficulty getting parents to pay their children’s tuition, this leaves them with little money to pay the teacher’s salaries, plus classrooms are over-crowded, and there’s a host of other problems.
Brighter Brains Institute has a new approach, a toned-down mission:
Our goal, we have decided, is to sensibly reduce our ambition from “converting” schools to humanism, to the more attainable goal of “identifying schools that are interested in humanism.”
BBI is going to leave the actual education and categorization of an Ugandan school as “humanist” to two other home-grown, long-established organizations.
Kasese United Humanist Association - established by Bwambale Robert Musubaho to attend to humanist interests in Kasese District, where all the BBI projects are located - can register BBI schools as “interested in humanism” and it can deliver humanist educational materials to them, such as the BBI publication of Leo Igwe’s essay collection No God No Saviour and Bwambale Robert Musubaho’s autobiographical Orphans of Ruwenzori; a Humanist Perspective. Bwambale Robert Musubaho can also visit “interested in humanism” schools to ascertain their academic qualifications, awareness of humanism, and ability to complete needed projects.
Uganda Humanist Schools Trust, and the Uganda Humanist Schools Association (UHST) - directed by Steve Hurd - is an nation-wide organization that seeks to “foster collaboration” between the nation’s humanist schools, plus it is connected to international humanist organizations like the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU). The goal of UHST is to establish humanist schools that “aim for an education that respects:
- freedom of thought and expression;
- rational enquiry, science and the need to support argument with evidence;
- human rights, gender and racial equality, and the rights of individuals to choose their personal life stance;
- high levels of achievement and social responsibility.
BBI will defer the ultimate decision of whether the Ugandan schools we help are fully “humanist” to these local, on-the-ground organizations, who have firmly established standards with their own inspectors.
We are currently discussing with Uganda Humanist Schools Association the possibility of them sending over an inspector very soon, to visit all seven of our “interested in humanism” schools, and a Skype meeting is being scheduled between Steve Hurd and Pellissier.
We look forward to working and cooperating with this Ugandan organizations, to guide the “interested in humanism” schools we have located, towards a fully humanist viewpoint, with high academic standards, kindness towards students, and budgetary responsibility.
Above all, we want the term “Humanist School” to represent exemplary educational value in Uganda.