Teaching is one of the most acclaimed profession not only locally, but internationally. Despite the many challenges the profession faces, they are still the producers of the country’s man power.
However, over the years, the remuneration of teachers have not matched the changing economic times. Like in every other profession, salaries have never been able to meet every employees demands.
This calls for innovative ways to ‘make ends meet’ without necessarily compromising one’s professional duty.
Beginning this week, Mwalimu will take you through experiences of schools and teachers on how they have managed to outplay low salary payments, to turn themselves into financial giants.
In our first edition of the series, WATUWA TIMBITI takes us through Busoga College Mwiri teachers’ financial power, grounded in the school’s farming activities.
At Busoga College Mwiri, teachers are starting their small farms with calves they get from the school farm on credit or subsidized price. They are also given milk and chicken on credit. Teachers are given food from the farm and are set to start rearing goats.
What is being done at Busoga College Mwiri was a replication of what used to happen years back, in several missionary and rural top schools. Apart from being part of the learning avenues for students, they would also provide food to the staff and students in respective schools.
Sadly, the emergence of competition to have students excel, especially with so many private schools on board; farming has been abandoned in many schools.
But it is all not lost. Notably, few of the traditional schools such as Busoga College Mwiri, still have functional farms worth talking about.
Status of the farm
Currently, Mwiri as it is commonly referred to, boasts of 28 Jersey and Friesian cows; according to Juma Mulekezi, the school farm manager and a veterinary officer.
“Out of these, four are lactating and six will give birth in March. We get an average of 15 litres of milk a day from each lactating cow, meaning we get 60 litres per day. The lowest we get from a single cow is about 13 litres and the highest is 20 litres,” he explains.
Apart from grazing freely on the school compound, Mulekezi says, the cows have the capacity to produce more milk, for instance 16 litres as the lowest and 30 litres as the highest from one cow, if they fed on supplements such as maize bran.
Of the 60 litres produced, about 40 litres are sold to the teachers on a credit and at a subsidized fee of sh800 per litre and sh700 compared to the price on the open market. The teachers pay the debt through PTA monthly deductions, in the bursar’s office.
In 2010, the farm produced an average of 220 litres a day from 15 to 18 animals. “Some of the milk was sold to the school for students’ daily porridge, teacher’s breakfast and on the weekends, the students would take milk tea.”
The school has the capacity to keep 40 cows — excess to this would exert pressure on the pasture.
How teachers reap
To support individual teachers’ development and farming projects, bulls and calves are sold to them to improve animal breeds on teachers’ farms.
In the villages, a six-month-bull costs between sh300,000 and sh400,000, and calves of six to eight months cost between sh400,000 and sh500,000.
Currently, there are 500 layers and 15 trays are collected daily. The eggs are sold to the school at sh8,000 per tray for students’ consumption, once a week.
“We have 1,000 broilers and each costs between sh7,000 and sh40,000, depending on the size. The broilers, too, are sold to the school for students’ meals. We have already booked 500 layers to meet our capacity of 1,000. We plan to have 2,000 broilers,” Mulekezi explains.
According to Henry Mwondah, the deputy head teacher in charge of the farm, the school poultry farm has greatly benefited individual teachers with poultry projects in terms of technical services from the school farm manager.
Millions from Sugarcanes
Apart from animal and bird rearing, the school has committed 11 acres of land to sugarcane growing. It harvests between 400 to 600 tonnes of sugarcane every season and sells to Kakira Sugar Factory. A tonne of sugarcanes costs about sh70,000, meaning the school can get about sh30m per season.
Mwiri has 500 more acres of land, which they would have wanted to turn into plantations, but are under squatters who are not cooperative.
“With the help of the church, we have started the process of reclaiming that land. We have started marking our boundaries,” says the headmaster, George Wamala. Once the land is reclaimed, more and bigger feeding paddocks for the cows will also be established.
Part of the land, according to the administration, will be used for building a housing estate for the school’s casual labourers. The rest will be used for cassava, potatoes, vegetables and fruit growing to supplement the students and teachers’ feeding needs.
There are also plans, he notes, of establishing a teachers’ goat farm on the reclaimed land. “Some teachers have goats. The idea is to have the goats tagged and put on thefarm, where they are properly catered for instead of having goats in different homes,” Mwondah suggests.
The farm used to sell calves to teachers to help them start their own farms. However, this process has been temporarily halted to help restock the farm.
“Following the 2011 June-July dry spell, the grass in the night paddocks dried up. Since the cows were used to grazing in the night, they always broke through the barbed wire fence into gardens of the neighbouring communities, attracting compensation claims from garden owners,” Mulekezi explains.
As a measure, he adds, they started tethering some of the cows, a move that became counter-productive. “Since the animals were not used to ropes, others sustained broken limbs and some died from strangulation,” Mulekezi notes.
Similarly, an outbreak of swine fever in Kakira sub-county in 2010 did not spare the piggery All the pigs died. “We had about 70 pigs. We have the capacity to handle 150 to 200 pigs,” Mulekezi explains. He adds that there are plans to repair the pigsty and restock it.
Why school farms collapse
Unlike the Mwiri farm, which is financially autonomous, most schools, according to Mulekezi, have funding problems.
“For instance, the finances generated from the farms are not ploughed back. So when an animal falls sick, there is no ready money to buy medicine for treatment. Here at Mwiri, at least there is petty cash in the bursar’s office for handling farm emergencies,” he states.
Most school farms, he adds, are managed by agriculture teachers who have no adequate technical knowledge on the life and needs of the animals.
Similarly, he notes that most school farms depend on veterinary services from the district instead of employing permanent veterinary officers.
The success of any farm, just like Mwiri’s, according to Mulekezi; depends largely on accountable management. Mwiri has a functioning farm management committee, comprising the headmaster as the patron, a deputy in charge of the farm and the farmer manager, who is the technical person and supervises the daily running of the farm.
When did the farm start?
The farm, according to Mwondah, started in 1986 following a food crisis in the country. The World Food Programme started supplying schools with food on condition that they start up their own farms. Since then, the Mwiri school farm has sailed on even in the face of challenges.
The farm is financially self-sustaining. The money generated is reinvested into the farm in terms of buying drugs for the animals and birds, restocking, paying salaries of farm workers and preparing sugarcane gardens for replanting.
The school land overall, according to Mwondah, is about 560 acres and the school, which sits on top of the hill, occupies between 20-23 acres. The rest of the land is downhill and in the valley part of it is now used for sugarcane growing and the rest is occupied by squatters.