Although Harriet Gandi found most teachers without accommodation when she became headteacher of Victoria Nile Primary School in Jinja, she has changed the status quo.
JINJA - Every Wednesday and Thursday, New Vision is profiling some of Uganda’s teachers who are making a difference at their work stations, under the Teachers making a Difference project.
The 12 most innovative teachers will share a cash price of sh18m and six most outstanding will go for a week-long,all-expenses-paid study tour to Ireland, courtesy of New Vision, The Irish Embassy in Uganda, Trocaire and Simba Travelcare, one of Uganda’s leading tour and travel management companies. Today, we bring you the story of Harriet Gandi.
Although Harriet Gandi found most teachers without accommodation when she became headteacher of Victoria Nile Primary School in Jinja, she has changed the status quo. Barely five years later, she has seen the construction of an sh500m storeyed staff structure block.
The structure, overlooking the school’s sports field, is among the numerous interventions taken by Gandi to uplift the standard of the school.
According to Michael Kasede, the chairperson of the school management committee, six out of the 49-member teaching staff are accommodated in the new building.
“The proposal to construct this staff house was brought up during a parents’ meeting by Gandi after becoming headteacher in 2014. By the following year, the building had already taken shape,” Kasede says.
He applauds Gandi’s efforts in bringing parents together to fund this noble cause at the school under the Universal Primary Education programme.
Kasede says the housing shortage had made it difficult for teachers to arrive at school on time. The school has over 2,250 pupils who need continuous and tight monitoring.
Gandi says at the time she took over office, the school was using about four to six truckloads of firewood annually.
“That meant spending about sh3.2m on wood fuel per year. To change this, we used sh2m to purchase and assemble two energy-saving stoves and we now use less firewood. The cost of wood fuel has since dropped to sh1.5m per year due to the energy-saving stoves. She says the intervention also saves the environment by having fewer trees cut.
“We last ferried firewood to the kitchen in November 2018. The stoves consume little while ensuring that the pupils’ food gets ready on time,” Kasede discloses.
Gandi explains that although the school has maintained its academic prowess in eastern Uganda, the administration has annexed a place for itself in co-curricular activities.
“The trophies and certificates at school speak volumes about our achievements. We keep winning trophies almost every year and bringing them here for keeps,” Gandi asserts.
She displays the netball trophy won in the 2016 district sports festival that was held at Kakindu Stadium, as well as that of the primary football contest at Bugembe Stadium in 2017.
Raymond Mutale, the sports prefect, says one hour has been reserved on their timetable for sports and games every day.
“That is the time when pupils converge at the sports fields for different activities. It is also an opportunity to identify talent,” Mutale says.
Grace Wamboka, the Parents and Teachers Association chairperson, discloses that parents’ consent has often been sought before their children are taken for sports events outside Jinja.
“Every first term, the school holds a sports day and all learners are encouraged to participate. There is also a music, dance and drama festival in the second term, making our children grow holistically,” Wamboka says.
Gandi explains that using sh3m contributions from parents, the school started a five-acre school farm, to help learners understand the basics of agriculture.
The farm, which started two years ago, so far has two cows.
“We bought the cows at sh1m each and they now provide milk for the pupils’ porridge. We also use cow dung as manure for our gardens,” she says.
The school also has three big fruit gardens from which students get fruits and vegetables. Kasede says the oranges, avocado, and cabbages grown at the garden boost the pupils’ diet.
“This shows that our headteacher is thinking out-of-the-box to ensure that pupils not only achieve academic success but also get other skills for their everyday life,” he says.
The school garden
Gandi says in 2016, she lobbied for a two-classroom block, which now houses Primary Six. It was set up by the Municipal Council.
She adds: “The enrolment was high, so there was a need to have extra classroom space. In fact, last year, we also got another four-classroom block, courtesy of Jinja Municipal Council.”
Amina Mutesi, the municipal principal education officer, lauds the council’s intervention, saying it will go a long way in alleviating congestion at the school.
“We love to associate with Victoria Nile Primary School because it makes us proud every time national examinations results are released. Other schools should borrow a leaf,” Mutesi emphasises.
Gandi's four tips
1 God is the provider of all
2 No gain without sweat
3 Teamwork leads to success
4 Humble beginnings make a great future
1979: Got Primary Leaving Education certificate (PLE) from Kaliro Demonstration School, Kaliro district
1983: Obtained O’level certificate from Budini SS
1986: Attained a Grade III teachers’ certificate from Kaliro Teachers Training College
1996: Earned a diploma in primary education from the National Teachers’ College, Kaliro
1996-2009: Started teaching at Main Street Primary School
2009-2013: Deputy headteacher at Victoria Nile Primary School
2014: Promoted to headteacher at Victoria Nile Primary School
2005: Got a degree in education from Makerere University
Noel Nabukirwa: teacher Gandi has changed the face of our School. As teachers, we are proud of the new staff block.
Christopher Mpango, head boy: We are happy that Madam Gandi has ensured that new classrooms are put in place to avoid congestion.
Manuella A. Wattaba, head girl: Madam Gandi is like our second mother.