St. Mary’s Nursery School is in Kiyunga, Uganda. Uganda, according to Father Joy Joseph, the administrator, is the pearl of Africa. It is naturally so beautiful and fertile. Although geographically a small country, Uganda’s population growth is high. The national newspaper New Vision of 9th November reports that at present “Uganda has the third highest population growth rate in the world, estimated at 3.2%. The high population growth is partly attributed to Uganda’s high fertility rate of 6.9 children per woman, again one of the highest in the world.” (http://www.newvision.co.ug/D/8/12/700530).
Kiyunga, in the civil district of Iganga, is not an exception for the population growth. In fact, there are reports that the Basoga tribe, one of the leading tribes in Uganda, has the highest number of children. Polygamy is also very prevalent in Uganda.
Almost 95 percent of the people depend on subsistence farming for their livelihood and they survive on less than a dollar a day. The education of the children is a nightmare for them not only because education is very costly in Uganda but also they have many children – an average of 5 to 8 children in each family. Universal primary education (UPE), a program that is aimed at providing primary education to every Ugandan child was introduced in 1997 by the Ugandan government. This program resulted in a large inflow of children to the primary schools. (Primary schools are like the Elementary schools we have in Canada.) So, the average number of students in a primary class is between 100 and 150, but the existing schools are not able to cope with the increasing number of students in each class. Since they do not receive any personal attention in the class, most of these children perform badly in their exams. Their parents who are uneducated are not in a position to help these little children either. Hence many of them drop out even before they advance to Grade 4 or 5. Therefore, Father Joy started St.Mary‘s Nursery school in 2005 mainly to introduce the little children from the age of 3 and half to 5 years into a learning environment. Kindergarten and nursery schools are not common in the villages.
At the same time there are some children whose parents have died of HIV/Aids. These children are looked after by their grand parents and relatives. In most cases the girl children are left out because their education is not considered as important as that of the boys. Now, with the assistance received from JMJ Children’s Fund, Father Joy will be able to help all these various unfortunate groups of children adequately.
Finally, JMJ Children’s Fund of Canada helps to support the nutrition, medical expenses and few study items for all of these children. Father Joy wrote that he is very grateful for that help, and will continue to pray to God to bless all JMJ members and their benefactors.