Listen: Paul Fyfe speaks about helping Ugandan students finish school.
It was a church missions trip to Uganda in 2008 that opened Paul and Sue Fyfe’s eyes to the plight of Ugandan school aged children.
The Our Lady of the Way Catholic Church in Petrie have been well known within the Catholic community for their support of the East African nation. Two years later Paul and Sue returned to Uganda and it was during this time that they decided to really invest in the country’s children and students.
The charity Uganda Kids was born with a vision to ensure that ‘kids finish school’, and this grass roots charity is supported by the Petrie Catholic Community in Brisbane’s north.
Paul told 96five that kids in Uganda face an uphill battle in accessing an education, and the poorer you are the harder it is.
“Education is supposed to be free, but (in most cases) it’s not. Schools will charge fees and those that can’t pay don’t go.”
Those fees are out of reach for most families but by Australian standards they are minuscule.
“Our main catch cry is that $5 a fortnight puts a kid through school, that pays the $130 yearly school fee in the two schools that we support.”
The schools that Uganda Kids supports are both found in the city of Masaka in the countries south – St Joseph’s Primary and St Bruno’s Secondary School.
Apart from inequality in accessing education, there are a number of other issues facing Ugandan students.
“One of the problems in Uganda is that 50 per cent of the population are under the age of 14. There’s still the impact of HIV and AIDS on the country, there have been outbreaks of the Ebola virus over the past few years, and now of course we have the problem of COVID-19.”
With fears that coronavirus would decimate already overcrowded refugee camps, the governments response was swift, with nationwide shutdowns that included the school system. Paul said that it is still unknown when school will return, and the shutdowns have affected the poor dramatically.
“There hasn’t been any school for months, and the principal of one of our schools thinks maybe September for back to school. There isn’t any government stimulus in Uganda – a high percentage of the population live hand to mouth day to day. They use the money they earn that day to buy the food that goes onto the table at night, so if they can’t work they don’t eat.”
Uganda Kids has also branched out into other ways to support the students of Masaka. Through fundraising and donations they were able to purchase a farm which grows food for the student’s lunches. The farm has also recently expanded into coffee as an enterprise to further assist students in the region.
Another area that Uganda Kids has begun to work in is the area of micro finance; that is by by providing the poor with access to small loans that they would otherwise not be able to access through traditional banks. This works in two ways – helping people become self sufficient by starting their own business, or expanding their current enterprise.
“Essentially we’re running that as a business, and as that grows the profits will be able to support more kids. We need to help them because if nobody does they’re not going to have a chance in life.”
To find out more about the work of Uganda Kids you an visit their website.