The Louise Charette Classroom Wing

THE LOUISE CHARETTE CLASSROOM WING

A generous gift changed everything for a school across the world.

In May 2013, the Estate of Louise Charette bequeathed $262,500 to Mondetta Charity Foundation. Ms. Charette was a former CBC journalist who was born and raised in Manitoba. When she passed away from cancer, she generously left her her savings to several charities working in Africa.

In a letter written in July 2012, she said,

“I left a substantial portion of my estate to the orphans in Africa because they have not had the advantages each one of us has.”

Louise Charette

This was an unexpected gift for Mondetta Charity Foundation. Our President, Kish Modha, had never met Louise, although he was familiar with her work with the CBC. Through subsequent estate payments, we received an additional $190,000, bringing Louise’s total donation to just over $450,000.

Since partnering with Kamwokya Primary School in 2005, we had watched the school greatly increase in attendance. In Uganda, education is regulated by a policy called Universal Primary Education (UPE). Under UPE guidelines, primary education is meant to be ‘free.’ While schools cannot charge tuition, however, they can charge material fees. Under UPE, schools are also not meant to turn away students. Our school’s location — in the middle of an urban slum — also attracted attention from the residents who noticed our partnership with the facility.

All of these factors culminated in a crowded school! The original capacity of the school was 1,000 students, but by 2013, over 1,700 students were attending. On average, 90-120 students were crammed into classrooms that are a similar size to those in North America. They sat on narrow benches, often squeezing 5 or 6 bodies into a bench made for 4. Children also stood and worked on the narrow windowsills. The teachers moved their desks outside the classrooms in the walkways to maximize on available space.

Witnessing this rapid growth was both an encouragement and a source of stress. As soon as we received word of Ms. Charette’s generous gift, we began planning an ambitious campus expansion construction project that would add 6 classrooms in a new wing. With our pledge in hand, we were able to strike a partnership with Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA), the City Council body, who agreed to contribute significant funding to the project. At this time, we decided to add an extra floor to the planned wing, allowing 9 classrooms to be built in total.

Construction of the new classroom wing began in early 2014.
Construction of the new classroom wing began in early 2014.
Work progressed quickly. This new building drew a lot of attention from the surrounding community.
Work progressed quickly. This new building drew a lot of attention from the surrounding community.
By May 2015, the construction was complete!
By May 2015, the construction was complete!

In June 2015, Kamwokya Primary School held an opening ceremony with KCCA to officially open the new wing. We were also planning  a second ‘official’ opening for March 2016 when we could be in attendance, but wanted the school to begin using the new wing immediately!

This classroom wing, located in the midst of an urban slum, is truly an anomaly. The wing has both a staircase and ramps, ensuring it is accessible for all. The classrooms were furnished with high-quality tables and benches, and look very sharp.

In March 2016, a delegation of 14 from Canada traveled to Uganda to have a second dedication ceremony, as well as complete our shoe project! After observing the construction from Winnipeg, it was an absolute delight to visit the new facilities in person.

On March 23rd, we were treated to a fabulous dedication ceremony and celebration! Ms. Jennifer Musisi, the Executive Director of KCCA, was the Chief Guest at the event. We were joined by KCCA staff, teachers and parents. The children entertained us with songs, dances and a moving poem about the work of Mondetta in the school. Remarks were given by Kish, Headmistress Jane Kansiime and Ms. Musisi, amongst others. At the ceremony, Ms. Musisi also received the donation of shoes on behalf of the school. As always, the event ended with a big group dance!

This new classroom wing greatly reduces overcrowding at the school. Primary 5, 6 and 7 classes were moved to this new wing, allowing the existing building to house Primary 1-4 classes, as well as the pre-primary class.

Jennifer Musisi Kish Modha Classroom Ceremony
Jennifer Musisi, Executive Director of KCCA, and MCF President Kish Modha cut the ribbon to dedicate the new classroom wing!

It was so exciting to see these new classrooms filled with children. We have no doubt that the school will continue to grow; we know at some point in the future we may need to expand further in order to avoid overcrowded conditions once again. But what a good problem to have!  🙂

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