Religious of the Sacred Heart gathered with freshmen in the Mother Williams Library to speak about the importance of education for girls in Uganda and express gratitude toward contributions made through Walk for Uganda.
Sister Noellina Namusisi, RSCJ, and Sister Irene Culllen, RSCJ, are meeting with students at all four schools to inform them about their sister schools in Uganda and stress the impact and continued need for support.
“I’m here today to say thank you for supporting many of our young women who are in school,” Namusisi, who is the former head of St. Charles Lwanga Secondary School for Girls at Kalungu, Uganda, said to the freshmen. “What you contribute makes a difference in creating a future for our young women. Many girls who don’t get an education have arranged marriages or unwanted pregnancies and die young.”
Currently training young women who have decided to enter the Religious of the Sacred Heart, Namusisi is the only child of nine to attend school and says that she would not be where she is today had it not been for her education.
“My story is very common among young girls, and growing up you don’t expect to got to school,” Namusisi, who used to walk six miles to school, said. “For girls in poor conditions, the only thing that can pull them up is education.”
The annual Walk for Uganda, which raises money for Sacred Heart schools in Uganda, contributes to this education, according to Namusisi. Last year alone, the walk raised $4,000.
“Your four schools are major supporters of building the Sacred Heart Primary School in Kyamusansala and providing financial aid,” Cullen, who is working with Helping Education in Africa – Reaching Out, which connects Sacred Heart schools with those in Uganda, said. “You’ve supported girls in high school since primary school who otherwise would not have a chance to get an education.”
Although primary education is required in Uganda, children do not attend school if their families cannot afford it. Tuition for the primary school, which includes uniform and boarding, costs around $700.
Financial contributions are also used to support a food program that gives children, many of whom come to school without breakfast, a lunch for $60 a year.
“Another program, thanks to financial aid, allows us to take girls from the primary school to the high school, so they can continue education in a loving Sacred Heart environment,” Cullen said.
High school girls are taught 21 different subjects throughout four years, all of which are tested in Uganda’s final examination to enter college.
Students wake up at 4 a.m. every week day to complete homework and continue with classes as well as chores and activities until their bedtime at 11 p.m. Classes continue on Saturday, and although Sunday is their only free day, students are always found studying after church, according to Namusisi.
“Our girls really work very hard because the competition is very high,” Namusisi said. “If you don’t pass the exam, you cannot continue. We tell our girls on tuition aid, ‘If you don’t work hard, there are many others waiting in line.’”
With seven secondary school teachers and four primary school teachers who are alumnae, tuition aid also creates a tradition of positive change, according to Namusisi.
“Our girls are learning about leadership and empowerment, so they believe in themselves and their ability to go out and create a better world,” Cullen said. “That’s the biggest gift you have given to the girls, telling them ‘don’t give up.’”
Freshmen learned more about the disadvantages girls face in developing countries and plan to participate in Walk for Uganda, according to freshman Isis Boivin. She says that she feels she has taken her education for granted.
“I feel so grateful for what I have,” freshman Kiki Apple said. “Sometimes I complain about teachers and workload, and now I feel disappointed in myself because some people don’t even have teachers, and they have so much more work.”
Namusisi and Cullen have also attended chapel with Stuart Hall for boys and told stories and taught dances to Convent Elementary kindergartners. Tomorrow, Namusisi will be teaching a drumming class to the elementary students in the drumming elective.
Their mission is to raise and deepen a social awareness surrounding the difficulties that children in other countries face and the importance of education, according to Cullen.
“Education is a powerful tool that can enable us to be confident and grow up with opportunities,” Namusisi said. “Many of our young girls grew up saying, ‘Yes, I can. Yes, I can overcome poverty. Yes, I can have a future with hope.’ They have meaning in life, and you have contributed to that meaning and hope.”
Walk for Uganda across the Golden Gate Bridge will take place Saturday, October 24 at 10 a.m. for $20, which will be used for tuition scholarships. Breakfast is offered at 9 a.m. for an additional $5. Participants will meet at Crissy Field Amphitheater and can register at sacredsf.org.