Letter from Busota
New Humanist readers have raised £2,698 for the Mustard Seed school in Uganda. Headmaster Moses Kamya tells us what the money means
In the face of your selfless gestures of help we are almost beyond words. Given the modest origins of our quest to propagate free inquiry in Uganda, we are overwhelmed by the amazing response from New Humanist readers.
When we started with only two students, meagre resources and a seemingly deviant humanist ideology, Mustard Seed was a byword for preposterous. “How could a school founded on such obtuse beliefs even merit a license?” many asked.
Now we are only two years old with 157 students, 42 per cent of whom are members of the Students Skeptical Union (SSU); we are in for the long haul. We think that next year, with your help, we can have an impact on the whole area – spreading the word of free thought and humanism.
The ubiquity of irrationalism here is incredible. When people see our school they seldom omit the question “But where do you pray?” Ever since Christianity was introduced here in 1877 as a precursor to colonialism, all schools have been founded on religious principles – Christian or Islamic. We are changing that.
Although we have only two small classrooms at the moment, we have plans to expand. We want to construct our own campus on the two-acre piece of prime land we have acquired in Busota. The money you have raised for us so far will allow us to start work on an initial four-classroom block, which will lay the foundation for a school with a humanist vision (the total cost of that will be £6,668, so we still require more donations to complete it). We then want to invest in computers, so we can connect our students with the world of ideas through the Internet.
We currently support 19 of our financially disadvantaged students with full bursaries. The names of these students are: Alex Tabusibwa, Herbert Buyinza, Rose Nakitto, Elizabeth Namukose, Salim Kudaaga, Samuel Mugeere, Jamila Timugibwa, Sophia Kampi, Azed Kalera, Emmanuel Longa, Daudi Nalubanga, Asia Nakibuuka, Nelson Balya, Joweria Takwogeza, Bashir Mugabi, Tolophina Namugeere , Ivan Mirimo, Godfrey Mugokya and Juliet Namwebya.
Your kind donations have already meant that at least seven of them will receive a full year’s education in 2007. We will still need to raise the money for the rest to ensure they get the education they are entitled to (at £71 a year each this makes a total of £852 still outstanding).
For those of you who have already contributed a bursary, and others who are interested, you will be able to keep up with us and who is receiving bursaries on our new website which will be up at the beginning of the school year.
For 2007 we plan to hold a humanist jamboree, to rival the frequent religious festivals that happen around here. The idea is to harness the joyful spirit of free thought and invite some guests – hopefully international – to try and spread the word about humanism here. Already in a small way we have started the work of educating our community that there are options other than religion: Mustard Seed students have developed the habit of free debate to challenge previously sacrosanct practices without fear of sacrilege. Terms like agnostic, atheist, humanist, freethinker or skeptic are fast becoming household jargon in our region. People here are born and bred under the blinkers of religion without exposure to alternative perspectives at all. But not for long!
Thank you once again for your support. All your financial donations will be acknowledged on our coming website. May we end by extending an invitation to you all to visit Busota some day: come and share humanist experiences. You can get our contact details from New Humanist magazine. The life we’re interested in is here, we are not greedy for eternal life.
Help us discard all irrational blinkers.
Mustard Seed School, Busota