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Forbes Africa: Spotlight on Africa: Helping Uganda in its time of need

The Nick Maughan Foundation is proud to support Spotlight on Africa to improve access to education and healthcare in Uganda.

Nowhere in the world have children waited longer to return to school than in Uganda, where schools remained closed for 83 consecutive weeks as a precaution against Covid-19. However, there is now hope on the horizon, with Uganda’s pupils returning to the classroom last week.

Uganda’s leaders maintain this policy of school closure was the safest choice during the pandemic, insofar that it reduced the risk of parents contracting Covid-19 through their children. Nonetheless, on the ground, the effects of the closures are stark.

A report released in August by the National Planning Authority found that nearly a third of Uganda’s students may never return to school when they reopen, and that 3507 primary and 832 secondary schools are likely to close.

This is because many of Uganda’s young people had abandoned hopes of going back to school, and disillusioned students started taking menial jobs like fruit selling or gold mining, while many young women began getting married and starting families instead. As a result, many school buildings were converted into businesses or health clinics, and many teachers found themselves out of work.

It is clear Uganda’s education system is in need of serious investment, and fast, to ensure the next generation do not fall behind.

Fortunately, organisations such as Harpenden Spotlight on Africa, are stepping up to make a difference. Operating in Eastern Uganda for over 14 years, Spotlight on Africa has built two primary schools in the poorest areas, serving a total of 1400 students. Now, Spotlight on Africa plans to build a secondary school in Namatala, one of the largest slums in Uganda.

There is a desperate need for a secondary school in Namatala. Indeed, most of its residents are internally displaced people who have fled from conflict and civil unrest in Northern Uganda and South Sudan. Providing an education for over 1250 vulnerable pupils, this secondary school will equip young people with essential skills and learning, whom otherwise would be forced to go without.

I am incredibly proud that the Nick Maughan Foundation could support this project, pledging £80,000 towards the costs of building the secondary school. Part of our work at the Nick Maughan Foundation is to improve the quality of teaching by widening access to technology.

In this vein, the donation will be used to build a state-of-the-art computer lab, which will give young people in the area the chance to develop the IT skills necessary to meet the challenges of the modern world. The new school will also help children learn practical science and mathematics, software engineering, and problem solving, among other subject areas. It is my hope that with the support of the Nick Maughan Foundation, this secondary school in Namatala will be hugely innovative and give children in the local area hope for a better life.

In the words of Bim Afolami, MP for Hitchin & Harpenden, ‘I had the pleasure of visiting Harpenden Spotlight on Africa’s projects in Uganda in 2019, where I saw first-hand the tremendous impact the charity has on the local community. On this visit, I also saw the extreme difficulties facing many in Mbale, Eastern Uganda. It is within this context that the generous donation from The Nick Maughan Foundation is very welcome news, serving to accelerate the charity’s invaluable work in Uganda.’

Access to high-quality education is not the only challenge facing Uganda. Indeed, Uganda’s healthcare system also continues to face a number of obstacles, with the sector remaining underfunded, under resourced, and understaffed.

With hospitals under increasing strain, maternal mortality is as high as 336 deaths per 100,000 live births in Uganda, while infant mortality is sadly recorded as 43 deaths per 1000 live births. This means that a woman is nearly 50 times more likely to die in childbirth in Uganda than the UK, with their child more than 10 times more likely to die in their first month.

These shocking statistics reflect the tragic reality facing many pregnant women and young children in Uganda today, one that Spotlight on Africa is working hard to tackle by building a new Maternity Centre in Mbale, eastern Uganda. This centre, which the Nick Maughan Foundation is proud to pledge £20,000 towards its construction, will provide dedicated pre, post and neo-natal healthcare to help deliver safely over 2000 babies a year.

In helping Spotlight on Africa bring this project to reality, we hope that it will inspire other organisations across the country to deliver projects that have a long-lasting and positive impact on the future of Uganda’s healthcare system.

Supporting Uganda to develop its educational and healthcare infrastructure are the most important causes to back if we are to help developing countries lay the foundations for a brighter future. It is for this reason I hope this initial collaboration will be the first of many between the Nick Maughan Foundation and Spotlight on Africa, with the organisations celebrating the completion of these vital projects at a launch event in Uganda in March.


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