Rwenzori is a remote region in Western Uganda that’s home to nearly 1.2 million children. War and intense violent and political unrest has resulted in an entire generation has missed out on education. Add to this the mountainous terrain means it is challenging to even get to the few rural schools. Once there, children are faced with 60+ children per class, teacher shortages, limited school books or materials, poor sanitation and makeshift classrooms. Since 2008, we’ve partnered with Save the Children to try and change this in 12 Rwenzori communities, improving access to a quality basic education that empowers children and their communities. We’ve done this as part of our commitment to helping vulnerable children and young people achieve their potential both at home and from where we source our goods.
Thanks to associate and customer fundraising, the partnership with Save the Children made it possible to build a relationship with each of these 12 Rwenzori communities where we’ve built classrooms and toilet blocks, provided textbooks and solar lamps, helped recruit teachers, to name just a few activities.
Over time however, we’ve realised that the challenge once there is a school is to also ensure the children remain in school. A lot of children drop out to help their parents earn a much needed income. To respond to this we’ve started to search for new approaches: providing more materials, teacher training, community engagement and creating trading opportunities [hyperlink to trading pages] enabling families to increase their incomes and keep their children in school.
Our efforts have ensured over 10,000 children in 12 Rwenzori communities have access to primary school where they didn’t before, with enrolment rising from 53% to an commendable 90%.
Our fundraising has provided 20 new classrooms, 500+ desks, 3,000 textbooks, box loads of solar lamps, materials, water taps, latrines and teacher housing and training.
And most surprising of all: our amazing associates generously donated over 175,000 books and items of stationery against a clearly ridiculously low target of 10,000! This allowed us to create libraries and stock stationery cupboards in all 12 schools. Together, we are giving children in the Rwenzori region the opportunity to achieve their potential.
David’s story: David is a typical local school boy. He lives with his parents and seven brothers and sisters. Every day he walks 10km to school. As the eldest, David often missed school to help out at home. When he did go, he struggled to learn in a makeshift classroom with logs instead of desks. Today, things for David are very different. Thanks to TJX Europe, David is now learning in a safe and clean classroom, at a brand new desk, with all the textbooks and materials he needs for a good education. He no longer misses school and as a result, David is top of his class.
“I am able to learn very well. After completing my studies in the future, I want to become a District Education Officer.”
We also ran an associate book and stationery collection campaign in 2012 to form libraries and stationery cupboards in our 12 school communities. (We collected so many it was enough for another 18 save the children schools )