Children in Uganda’s Nakivale refugee camp have been displaced from school and detached from their dreams. The world’s eighth largest refugee settlement stretches out across 78 villages, blooming for half a century in the dusty earth 200 km from Kampala, near the Tanzanian border.
Last summer, an NGO called Now and Tomorrow requested our help in transforming life for the refugee families, and especially for 345 displaced primary school aged students. Soon after embracing the Full-Circle Learning (FCL) philosophy, the camp’s Soma! Soma! (school-readiness) teachers rallied discouraged parents and instilled in children a renewed desire to learn, along with tangible skills in character, conflict resolution, art, and applied service learning that would transform the camp. Teachers at a dozen schools surrounding the camp received the same FCL training and mentorship, to better welcome the refugee children.
One of the schools, Arise, soon presented a unit on the habit-of-heart Love. Children mastered it as they applied permaculture techniques to feed a community of 50. They learned to construct sack mounds filled with topsoil and stones to ease the watering of plants, pictured above.
Today, just six months after the first Full-Circle Learning workshops began, the 345 primary students “are fully motivated to pursue their educational careers and their dreams in life, as some of them aspire to be doctors, lawyers, teachers, law makers, social workers and more,” wrote FCL Ugandan facilitator Fiston Muganda. He continued:
The elements of joy and unity have been observed as children arrange to go to school. Since schools that they enrolled into after graduating from Soma! Soma! are a bit distant, the children have organized various teams, staying in the same neighborhood to assist in mobilizing the rest of the children as they go to school early in the morning, in these teams.
They go sharing stories and singing while holding the youngest kids’ hands. Such a mechanism has brought about joy and has definitely enhanced the bonds among the pupils... Community members feel so indebted and appreciate the work of Full Circle Leaning in their community, especially the concept of Art as a service and the habits of heart in conflict resolution.
[Below, students display artwork and Soma! Soma! teachers gather at a workshop.]