By Abdulkarim Ssengendo
Edward Agaba comes across as an intelligent but humble man. Having been raised in a poor home, Agaba learnt from a tender age to sacrifice luxury to acquire an education.
When he graduated with a bachelor of arts with education (economics) from Makerere University, he began helping the unprivileged in Rwerere community, Agaba believed he had a great contribution to make towards a lasting change.
It is from this village where he emerged with triple “As” and joined Makerere University on a government scholarship.
With time, Agaba realised that the quality of education in his community had sunk so low that the schools he went to were no longer producing even a second grade. He felt a moral duty to change this.
In 2009, he came up with the idea of starting a secondary school named Rwerere Standard High School.
He began by mobilising support from the community before going to the local churches. Agaba used local council leadership to build a strong network and sold the idea of opening up a school to support vulnerable children.
“There were many orphans who did not have an opportunity to get an education. That is why I set up this school,” he says.
In 2010, Rwerere Standard High School opened its gates. The school began with 70 children, out of which 30 were orphans. These children are sponsored by Compassion International through Church of Uganda.
Last year, the school had a population of about 100 students. Of these, 54 are orphans and vulnerable children. Thirty-seven children come from single-parent homes, 17 orphans and 13 have learning disabilities. There are three blind children, three deaf ones, seven suffer mental retardation and 35 are school dependants.
What makes the school stand out?
The school serves children from two sub-counties of Bugangari and Nyakagyeme.
“What makes Rwerere Standard High School different from other schools, is that we target students from low-income families,” Agaba says.
The school established a partnership with Compassion International through which it sponsors the vulnerable children. Students pay a subsidised tuition fee of sh77,000.
Students whose parents cannot afford to pay the fees are given alternatives like bringing beans, maize and firewood to the school. Sometimes, the school asks parents or guardians to offer labour, in exchange for the education of their children.
“The government-aided schools where these students could have accessed education are over 10km away. So, if there are any disabled children within the community, Rwerere Standard gives them an opportunity to access education near home,” Agaba says.
The school has a staff of 22, which includes teachers who sacrifice a lot since they get a small salary. Most of them are recruited from the community.
Why Agaba started the school
“I am an orphan and I managed to get an education because I was helped. I don’t know how many people helped me, so I feel obliged to help the entire community because they helped me. My mother never paid my schools fees because she could not afford it. I was helped by relatives and the communities so, I had to pay back by starting up the school,” Agaba explains.
After graduating from Makerere, Agaba taught at Namirembe Hillside in Kampala before he chose to return to his roots.
Agaba has managed to get a UNEB centre number for his school.
Last year, about 18 students sat for Senior Four exams, and they performed well.
The school continues to rely heavily on its founder. The money parents contribute is not enough.
They need to establish boarding facilities to help disabled children, who do not have parents or guardians to look after them at home. They also want to get bigger space to put up more facilities.
Agaba wants to see the school extend more of its services to the community.
Government sponsorship at university has become extremely competitive, so they want to offer vocational studies for students, who complete Senior Four and cannot proceed with formal education.
Agaba wants to continue working with other partners who are involved in promoting education including the Government. They want to introduce computer studies and extra curriculum studies like sports and music.