Tuesday, November 24, 2009

We Are Wired!

And along the poles they streched a wire. The end of the wire connects to a phone. Soon to a modem as well. Life is good.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Phone / Internets

Today UTL (Uganda Telephone) brought 6 poles to run a hard wire for our Internets connection! This took just under two months.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

What is the 'Donate' button for?

People who are interested in helping to support St. Fausta’s Primary school have requested that I break down the costs of what is needed and how they can help.
Sponsor a student for $150 per term or $450 per year (three terms per year).
To finish the kitchen and bathrooms-including composting toilets and grey water treatment: $2560
Kitchen equipment: $2200
Walls and security: $1660
Classrooms and office including paint and rainwater harvesting: $2375
Like any school, books are precious and necessary.
Connection to the phone line for Internet access is $300, monthly Internet access $100.
And the dream, for the regular power outages, is $10,000 for a solar power system.

Friends visited this summer and are providing us with an avenue for support. If you wish to donate to St. Fausta’s through them you can and will receive tax benefits. Checks, with a note that it is for St. Fausta’s, should be made out and mailed to:
Heritage Foundation
15 Gramercy Park,
Ste. 4D,
NY, NY 10003


Thursday, September 17, 2009

Future plans

Third term is finishing its second week. Most of the student population has returned. The electricity is mostly stable, when it is on and the neighbor welder-man isn't welding. There was some riots in Kampala last week that did not bother us much except for the fact that they occured right at the center for transport into and out of Kampala. And all roads out of Kitinda go to Entebbe, dead end, or Kampala. This prevented me from going to visit Gulu University. I'll go some other time.

In the interest of a sustainable school and bearing in mind that finishing Primary school in Uganda is no guarantee of future education we are starting a new program. Next February begins the new school year and we will have Industrial Arts classes for students in P5-P7 (fifth through seventh graders). The younger classes will still be required to pay tuition. Sale of the products made will go towards paying their tuition and sustaining the school. Along with classes in beading, weaving, sewing, carpentry and small-scale foundry they will have classes in entrepreneurship so they can understand what it means to operate a business. This program is inspired by Berea College in Kentucky (http://www.berea.edu/about/), Teach A Man To Fish (http://www.teachamantofish.org.uk/) and the Fundacion Paraguaya’s Escuela agricola (http://www.fundacionparaguaya.org.py/index.php?c=307). This along with the permaculture garden and green technology incorporated in the rehabilitation of the school will make the school more sustainable in the long term.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Easter Break

All but four children left yesterday for their Easter break. Or as Mable says, "Me! I'm going to eat Easter" followed shortly by "when is my mom coming?". Mable and most of the rest left Monday afternoon/evening. Tuesday morning Colin, Shameem and Hamza were cheerfull. Hamza because he knows he is here until December and the other two eagerly anticipating their mothers arrival to take them home. Brothers Ausman and Sabula were in a funk waiting for their sister. There are three more; Harriet, Esther and Joel. They arrived at the begining of the term from a small village in East Uganda. Their "uncle" dropped them off without sufficient clothes nor a penny for school fees. Of course they also want to go somewhere for Easter but I think they are like Hamza, here until December. They owe school fees but I can't send them home to get them, it is to far and they don't know how to get there.

Colin: a stuborn boy who's mother wants me to beat him for his transgressions (not allowed here). He has no idea of what a trouble maker I was at his age. Slowly we are coming to a plane where he is learning and not trying to challenge authority.

Shameem: a cheerful, precoucious, smart second grader who is always smiling. Always part of what is going on.

Hamza: is inteligent, likes to run with his arms up like he is riding a motorcycle. Yesterday we worked on making a wooden chair copy of one from Northern Uganda. He is a eager and serious student. On our fishing trips he is one of those who has their hook in the water most of the time.

Ausman: Last term went to the police when the previous headmaster didn't feed them for three days. He is in 4th grade, should be with his brother in 3rd. His mother is handicaped and earns money selling charcoal. His father makes bricks of mud. It is his sister who comes with school fees and to take them home.

Sabula: like his brother really wants to challenge authority. And like his brother I hope to see them both graduate from St. Fausta's with above average grades. Since there is now electricity at the school I brought over a laptop with Linux learning games. For Sabula I think learning with educational video games will be part of the solution.

Mable: tiny and vocal. She is not afraid to express here desires/demands. Quick to jump out of her seat if there is something more interesting going on. Very well spoken in English. And her mother brings about seven other students with her to St. Fausta's.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Short stories

I have been asked to post some short vignettes about St Fausta's and the good folks here. 

As teachers come asking for jobs, and they do. I ask a standard question that none have answered correctly... yet. What is the definition of a hypotenuse? Acceptable answers include the long side of a right triangle, the side of a triangle opposite the right angle and my favourite: C squared, because A squared plus B squared equals C squared.

This exposes a more serious problem in that teachers in Uganda are both under educated and under paid. The plan is to address this problem with computers. I am not worried about teaching the children how to use the new technology, rather the teachers will present the most difficulty. Of course a stable source of electricity to power said computers would be nice.

Power check now: 156 volts.


Eh! These kids can stab without even trying. Everyone in my family is musical with one significant exception. And now the students are asking the significant exception to organize a choir. Why can't they ask for something easy like a diesel motorcycle, a Beatles reunion tour or world peace?

Drums we can make... The St Fausta's Drum Choir? Look here for the latest!

Friday, March 20, 2009


Need I say more?

What's this?

Teacher Catherine and her Primary One class. In this photo we see the future of St Fausta's and the future of Uganda.

And here we have Joseph and Jolly wearing current and vintage St Fausta's uniforms.

Both boys are Division I (close to straight A's) Jolly wants to be a pilot but for now is happy with a length of fishing line and hook. Tom and Huck.

More as bandwidth allows

Monday, March 16, 2009

Chicken anyone

Good food makes good minds. Chickens are a good way to to do a number of things in the garden as well as a good source of food for the children. to this end a hundred baby chicks, "broilers", were purchased and placed in a makeshift brooder in the Burser's home. Of course from chicks come chickens and they soon required fancier digs. Built by the secretary, Lovine, and Dr. Imelda the Principal, these are some pretty fancy digs. The roof is made of a layer of papyrus followed with a layer of plastic and another layer of papyrus. The floor is brick with a layer of plastic and wood chips/sawdust. And recycled planks for the walls.
This form of chicken raising is not a sustainable model but it is readily accepted by the people working on the chickens. As with all things ruled by momentum, slow incremental change is most effective.

Friday, February 27, 2009

All Economics are local

Here in Kitinda there is a large fish processing plant. (http://wikimapia.org/1050537/Tampa-Fisheries) On a normal day two or more container loads of Lake Victoria fish would make their way up to Kampala road on their way to foreign customers. Today at St. Fausta's we learned that they are having massive lay-offs as the foreign orders have dried up. Offices with eight people now have one. The trucks aren't rolling out.

This is great news for the fish and fish populations of Lake Victoria that have been threatened by over-fishing. For fishermen, plant workers and others who earn a living from the fish plant is very bad news. Over the next few weeks I'm going to be trying to evaluate haow this turn of events will affect the ability of parents to pay school fees.

Along the same vein; In other St. Fausta's new today I was informed that an organization who sponsors half the school fees for all my boarding students is not going to live up to their end of the deal. For us, the students, parents, teachers, faculty and staff this is a somewhat more perilious development. Still working on that one

Peace, John

Check back for more...

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Last weekend and this the boarding students went fishing. So far the score is rocks 8 hooks, fish unknown, students 0 fish. We are including lessons in our outings. Safety, biology, and fluid dynamics.  

They, the students, started building an oven. The design incorporates both the Cajun microwave and the Rocket stove.

Photos of both events will be uploaded as bandwidth allows.


Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wow what happened

As I was coming back from Entebbe today I found a nice gentleman up the powerpole installing a new wire to the house! Electricity has returned to my house, now to get it to St. Fausta's

More soon

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A little rain is a good thing

Students are arriving; we have enrolled about 44 students thus far. Of these 20 are boarding students. Unfortunately the Ugandan custom is to bring new students over the initial few weeks of a school year and to pay minimum tuition when dropping off the students. This leaves a gap where the school must fend for itself in terms of food, salaries, books and equipment.
There are still beds for another 20 students and space for 85 day students.
And the garden grows. Someone passed by today who had heard that we had extra cabbage and carrot seedlings for sale. We do, why not?
Construction is on pause while we wait for school fees to come in.
My landlord has issues with the Ugandan electric company so today my house was plunged into darkness. And life goes on.

Eventful days, check back soon.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Garden Sprouts!!!

Big things for three weeks:

It has been just three weeks since the go-ahead was given to start physical work on the school and what a difference! The contractor showed up and his electricians went to work installing switches, outlets and “bulb holders” in every room. (no outlets in the dormitories) Outside they installed sockets for security lights. Then concrete guys followed installing doors and windows then finishing the walls and putting in smooth concrete floors over the red dirt. The gate that the founder had constructed has been moved back to its original position and is now supported by two concrete columns. Through all this Fausta has been cooking for the workers and the garden is sprouting with fresh vegetables. One man working tirelessly is digging the cistern/ grey water treatment pond/ fish pond, for a price. Teachers have been coming and helping when and wherever they can until… Last Sunday our first two students arrived for boarding school. Monday a few more came to join. And they tell me that more are coming. The community is supportive, often times stopping me on the road to offer thanks. And fifteen minutes ago water flowed from the newly installed water line.

Then there are the disappointments. The bank takes the ATM card, deducts money from the account and fails to deliver any cash. The next ATM down the line confirms the funds are missing and does not allow further transaction as the limit has been reached.
The former headmaster has leased another school, renaming it St. Fausta. He then goes into the villages and tells people that he is remodeling St. Fausta’s and the other campus is just a temporary arrangement. Parents who are coming expecting him and his school find a pleasant surprise.

What next? It is now time to look for sponsors. People who can help a child by paying their fees, A photovoltaic (solar electric) system as there is no way to run computers on the poor quality electricity that we have now. School and library books are needed. A fresh coat of paint for the outside of the buildings would be nice. In the kitchen we are making a rocket type stove/oven and looking for a gas refrigerator. And the bathroom facilities including showers and composting toilets must be finished. Can’t forget the treated mosquito nets!

The school has come a long way in the past few weeks, but there is much left to do. Soon it will serve as an example of sustainable infrastructure for a healthy learning atmosphere. And of course good grades from healthy students will be the proof.

More updates, keep in touch.

Lower Building

Kitchen electricity

Fixing window openings for windows

The crew rolls in

Electrician making paths through the bricks

Monday, January 12, 2009

Floors, Doors and students

Three rooms are getting floors today and tomorrow, doors and windows have been promised for later today and we have signed our first two paying students.

Stay tuned

Saturday, January 10, 2009

And Life is Good

I have been wanting to post something but without a signed contract there is no security in this venture. Consequently I have been working very hard, keeping silent, waiting to announce that...

On this Wednesday past, the 7th of January 2009, a contract was signed between the Administrator Generals of Uganda (the caretakers of the estate of St Faustas founding father) and my self that allows me to go forward with renovating, recruiting and running operations of the school. This protects all the family members as well as myself.
Today there are electricians running conduit for wires, installing boxes for switches and outlets and making way for the service entrance. Expected voltage levels will range somewhat, between 90 volts in the evening after sunset all the way up to 196 volts. Nominal voltage should be ~230 volts. But that would be to easy. (note to self: alternative/Green power solutions)
The garden is coming along quite well. And on Monday we will start populating the chicken coop with chicks. May they grow fast and lay many eggs, for if they don't their destiny is chicken soup! Diet is so important to learning and health making food a priority for where St Faustas is going.
I'm working on a method to allow people to sponsor a student at St Faustas, or possiply to help with the green goals. Check back soon.