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Report on the Trustee visit to Jinja April 2024 

This trip marks 10 years of the Jinja Educational Trust so quite a milestone for us, and wonderful that so many trustees could be on the same trip. Jon as our Chairman, Sally as our educationalist, Smita on nutrition, welfare and strategy and me bringing up the rear!

With the upcoming dinner in mind, we had the film crew with us again, they worked tirelessly traipsing through mud, sunburn and lots of very excited children to bring the best out of all the projects. 

On the first morning we met with YouBelong to see how the teams work together to provide mental well-being across all the schools. It was clear the children and teachers were familiar with this program and were pleased to have them in school. We got a typically warm welcome from both Gt Hope and Twinkle. 

Working together to make life at school a happier more positive experience. Working with YouBelong we are able to help the teachers identify children who may be struggling and in need of some extra support. If we get this right in the early years we avoid many problems later on.

Twinkle School continues to amaze us, they are now fully rebuilt and going from strength to strength, taking the lessons learnt in teacher training and from You Belong into the wider community.

The school now has 720 pupils. With its new facilities, good food, excellent education and wellbeing programs the school is very popular with parents. 

After years of struggling to fill the school Elijah is finding it very hard to turn anyone away. Sally had a few sobering words about class sizes, packed dormitories and optimal learning! 

Great Hope School is always such a positive place to be, the children and staff warm and welcoming. Like Twinkle they have excellent exam results, good staff retention and pupil numbers. 

The school planting program is so successful that they have actually been able to reduce the school fees a little. So very happy parents, the children get porridge at breaktime and cooked lunch as well as affordable fees. 

This will transform the school and give them a wonderful new learning space. The headmaster will have a small office at the front and the askari (guard) has his own hut so security will be tightened too. The old headmasters office will be a sickbay which was a requirement after that last school inspection. 

St Patrick School is the home to our resource centre and library. This was built eight years ago with the intention that it would be used by all the schools. At this time, we had not appreciated the time and planning it would take for other schools to visit and use this facility. To improve this, we are building them their own IT rooms and libraries which we hope to connect to the central hub at St Patrick’s. The Resource Centre is used for IT training for St Patrick’s children and teacher training. The library is also in regular use for the children and teacher training. 

St Patrick school are now fully self sufficient on food, growing enough to provide for the children with some surplus to sell. They have had a difficult few years and the facilities are poor. They are working so hard to provide for the children in their care, the boarding house is a converted classroom which is hardly ideal, but the alternative home enviroment for these children is worse. 

However they have embraced the teacher training, the You Belong Program and school exam results are good, so with this in mind we will be able to rebuild the dormitories and restore the classrooms later this year. 

Once rebuilt St Patrick can become a centre of excellent care and education. 

They have all the right staff, ethos and determination to make this work. 

Children’s Homes 

The children’s and baby homes have been at the heart of JET since it was formed. We offer food and educational support even though they have moved away from central Jinja now. To rebuild much bigger and better accommodation where the children have a wonderful quality of life they had to relocate to more rural settings where land is more affordable, and they can farm as well as build their own school. We still keep in touch and visit on every trip is a must! 

Mama Jane Children’s Home remains in Jinja, so we visit often. Most of their work now is an outreach program for children cared for in the community but still they run the infant school, have 30 children resident as well as 120 in the outreach. 

This home never ceases to amaze me how they care for these neglected children and send them out into the world confident, well educated and ready to take their place in the community. 

One of the highlights of this trip was to see Cathy and Junior, the first Son Rise babies I met at the baby home 15 years ago. They are now grown up and in their final years at school. Junior (now Nicholas) wants to be an electrical engineer, Cathy a social worker. We hadn’t seen them for several years as they are at boarding school, but we had special permission for them to be filmed for the dinner. This will follow their story as they have grown up. 

Seeing themselves on an earlier film, they had not seen any photos of themselves before. I will do a photo book for them, so they have a story. 

The film crew were great fun to have around. They really brought out the best in all their subjects, putting everyone at ease and putting up with an ever-changing schedule, rains, Eid, impromptu dancing and mud! 

No, no one had heard of queueing, its every man for himself! It’s a good day if lollies are on offer and if you are quick, you can stuff one in your pocket for later! 

The week soon went by all wonderfully organised by Lorna and her marvellous team. New JET member Maurine has settled in very well and is a valuable member of the team, she worked most of the week with Sally getting things ready for the teachers’ summer visit and ongoing training. The Uganda board as ever offered us full support, and visited the projects with us. Petronella our newest member is a retired headteacher who has already been invaluable. 

For 10 years you have been alongside us as we’ve had our ups and downs, thankfully on balance more ups! We are so grateful for all the support; we couldn’t do any of this without you. 

I do hope those of you who haven’t visited us will come one day and those who have visited will come to see us again. We can promise an amazing experience, the best fresh pineapple ( maybe from Jon’s pineapple garden!), avocados, coffee and a very warm welcome. 

Here’s to the next 10 years! 

Thank you so much from Sue and all of us at JET.