May 18, 2024

Aluma Builds School From Scratch

(This article was first published in the New Vision on August 3, 2022)

By Adam Gule

In 2016, the people in Kei sub-county in Yumbe district demanded a seed secondary school. Instead of waiting for the education ministry to establish one, they were advised by the local leaders to start their own as they lobbied the government.

However, the people did not have money to build classroom blocks and hire teachers to run the school. But one teacher, Badru Shiliman Aluma, who was teaching in private schools in Koboko district at the time, responded to an appeal from the community for a volunteer headteacher to help them realise their dream.

What Aluma did not know, however, was that he was the only teacher who had responded to the appeal from the community to help them build a school on their 13 acres of land in Mulemule village.

So, the challenge of looking for teachers fell on his shoulders. But this was not the only challenge. There were no students, too, yet the first academic term had started.

“It was a week into the first term in 2016 and I thought all was set, but I was shocked to see there were neither teachers nor students,” Aluma says.

He says he searched for students in the community to start the school, and on February 22, 2016, a woman showed up at school seeking to register her daughter as a student. The girl had recently completed primary education. For three days, Aluma says this was the only student he taught under a tree.

“She wanted to leave as there seemed to be no future for this school, but I encouraged her to stay on. After three days I got four more students. At this point, I had three students in Senior One and two in Senior Two,” he adds.

As the number of students started growing, Aluma says his teacher friends joined him at the school as volunteers. By the end of 2016, the school had 56 students. The number, which grew to 120 in 2017, is now 536. Of these, only 167 are girls

Motivating Teachers

But how did he keep the teachers motivated since many parents brought to school livestock and fresh food items, such as cassava rather than the sh50,000 each student was expected to pay in fees?

“I basically used my persuasion skills to keep them hopeful that things would get better,” Aluma says.

He explains that allowing the parents to convert fees into cattle, goats, sheep, maize grain, cassava, sorghum and beans has been instrumental in increasing enrolment.

“We now have 11 cows, 10 goats and eight sheep. We sell some animals to meet the school’s requirements. They are also the source of meat for the school,” Aluma says.

He adds that the school is also taking advantage of its livestock farm to teach students agriculture and give them practical skills in animal rearing and farm management.

Fighting Early Marriages

Since the school was established, Aluma says he has saved four girls from early marriages. One of these girls, who is now in Senior Five, according to Aluma, had been married off by her parents while she was in Senior Two.

Aluma says he offered bursaries to this girl and her three peers who had babies during the COVID-19- induced lockdown, as parents refused to continue to finance their education. He says he mobilised teachers to print and distribute learning materials to students across the sub-county during the lockdown.

“We produced 409 learning materials and distributed them. We received support from an international organisation to educate students through local radios,” Aluma adds.

He says he asked teachers to stay at the school during the lockdown to help learners who occasionally went to the institution to seek information on the school reopening dates. When the schools reopened, Aluma says 90% of their students returned in the first week because they kept in touch with the teachers. The rest, including the girls who had babies during the lockdown, returned later.

Aluma (wearing a neck tie) celebrating with staff and students after winning the ball game competition recently

Empowering Girls

In honour of the mother, who gave the school its first student, Aluma designated June 19 as Mother’s Day for the school to celebrate women.

On this day, Aluma says “successful” women are invited to speak to girls and parents about the value of educating girls and the need to end the cultural barriers that still hold women down.

He says he mobilised money from the community to establish “a semi-permanent” dormitory, which currently accommodates 96 girls. Aluma says he also plans to build dormitories for the boys.

As envisaged by the local leadership, the Government took over the school in 2018 and, in the same year, it constructed classroom blocks, two laboratories and an administrative block. The school has converted two of these facilities into a library and ICT centre.

The school has 25 teachers, 21 of whom are now on the government payroll, while the rest are paid by the board of governors.

Aluma, who is the district chairperson for sports in secondary schools, has mobilised the school to participate in a number of sports activities, including ballgame tournaments.

In 2017, just one year after being set up, the school participated in the district inter-school ballgame tournament, but lost at the finals.

In the same year, the school represented the district in the West Nile regional ballgame competition. Recently, the school was crowned 2022 champion for the district inter-school ballgame competitions after beating several schools.

It also represented the district in regional competitions. Aluma says he also facilitates the students to participate in inter-class debate and drama competitions, athletics and scouts and guides activities.

The school produced its first cohort of Uganda Certificate of Education candidates in 2019. Out of 39 students who sat the exams, five passed in Division Two, 25 in Division Three and Seven in Division Four.

There was an improvement in 2020 as out of 49 students, five passed in Division One, 12 in Division Two, 13 in Division Three and the rest in Division Four.

Aluma, a teacher of Geography and Economics, attributes the improvement in academics to his ability to motivate teachers.

“It is also because I teach despite my other duties as the headteacher,” he adds.

Fact File

Badru Shiliman Aluma
  • 1994: Completed primary education at Midigo Primary School, Yumbe
  • 1998: Did O’ level at Nyarilo Secondary School, Koboko
  • 2000: Completed A’ level at Koboko Modern Secondary School, Koboko
  • 2003: Graduated with a diploma in secondary school education from National Teachers College, Muni
  • 2004: Started his teaching career in private schools in Koboko
  • 2014: Completed a bachelor of arts degree in education at Uganda Christian University
  • 2014-2016: Taught at Nyarilo Secondary School
  • 2016 to date: Headteacher at Kei Seed Secondary School

What Others Say

Zubeda Bako, Vice-Chairperson, Board Of Governors

Aluma is an exceptional teacher when it comes to mobilising people around important causes like education. He is empowering girls and keeping them in school.

Christine Pangisa, Senior Woman Teacher

Aluma has simplified my work. He teaches more than we do yet he executes the assignments of his position well. He also motivates us.

Rashid Anule, Prefect

He is a special character. He is friendly to teachers and students, which makes it easy for us to present our issues to him.

Kalsum Ava, Parent

He listens and understands our problems. This has allowed us to keep our children in school despite the challenges

Golden Tips

  • Put God first
  • Develop self-drive and motivate teachers
  • Work hard to get your school to shine n Support school initiatives
  • Listen to parents

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