Five Pillars of EducationThe Saint Nektarios Education fund seeks to impact five pillars that contribute to education. These include: Facilities, Clean Water & Power, Sanitation, Disease Prevention, and Sustainability. To the extent that our fund can assist in positively impacting these pillars, the likelihood for successful education is increased. All efforts are designed to empower local communities through the utilization of local resources in addressing these pillars.
Facilities and Classrooms
According to local needs and the Ugandan government’s focus on STEM education (science, technology, engineering, and math), the fund has built science and computer labs as well as traditional classrooms. Many students must travel long distances to attend school, requiring boys’ and girl’s dormitories, teachers’ quarters, and kitchen and shower facilities. At Holy Archangel Michael schools, the inclusion of recreational grounds on campus allowed students to compete in and advance to the semi-finals of the first Coca Cola Regional Football Competitions, increasing the visibility of the school in the community.
Board member Dr. Bill White noted that by raising money “for an actual structure, a building, a lab, a cafeteria, and a dormitory, we knew tangibly that our money was going to exactly a place where we can follow it, watch it, and we can see the results.”
Clean Water and Power
In order to function, a school community needs working wells, rain filtration, and a reliable power system. The construction of our newest school, Saint Sophia Secondary School in Butembe, Uganda, showed us the critical importance of access to safe water not only for a school but for the entire surrounding community. Although Saint Sophia is on the shores of Lake Victoria, one of the largest fresh water lakes in the world, the water is not drinkable, so the school was constructed with an additional aim to promote safe water for the community and to become a model school. In partnership with the International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) and their Saint Photini water initiative, we completed not only a school building in 2015 but also a solar-powered fresh water filtration and storage system, as well as sanitary facilities through a roof waters harvesting system designed by IOCC.
Proper sanitation is paramount for the health and well-being of the children attending Saint Nektarios sponsored schools. Sanitation projects are designed to construct the physical structures while working hand in hand with fund’s disease prevention efforts to improve the opportunities for our children to attend school. In the past the construction of toilet and latrine blocks was part of our overall school project strategies. A transition is being made to drainable toilets designed to accommodate both male and female students. This design change creates a more sustainable method of addressing the sanitation needs of our schools now and into the future as enrollment increases.
Diarrheal diseases kill close to 2 million children worldwide every year. Students attending our schools may milk cows in the morning, care for sick and injured family members, wash soiled linens, and then play in the dirt all before eating lunch. These activities can spread bacteria and viruses easily. Hand washing and disease prevention awareness is the most effective and cost efficient way to prevent these unnecessary illnesses and death.
Through the formal implementation of a Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene initiative (WASH) we can prevent diseases among the school children and greatly influence the quality of education they receive. These hygiene habits not only have a positive effect on the children themselves, but those they share it with in their communities. The WASH initiative provides a vertical transfer of disease prevention through education and behavioral change that if entrenched as a habit will be sustained for generations. Vaccines can only prevent disease transfer in the current generation.
The Saint Nektarios Education Fund is committed to community empowerment, not projects imposed from abroad. Needs assessment is local, and local school boards oversee construction by local contractors, with a local supervisor. There are no “missionary educators” at our schools; all teachers and administrative staff are trained locals whose salaries come from school income.
In Gulu, Uganda, the community donated the land for the school. In Lwemiyaga, a member of parliament donated bricks and secured the land for school construction. He personally contributed a power station, a laboratory, and a computer section, while International Orthodox Christian Charities (IOCC) provided the girls’ dormitory and two additional high school classes. Our newest school began construction in 2014 with a donation of land and bricks from the people.
As board president Fr. Evan Armatas says, “There is no sense among the local people that this is some project being built by a group overseas and that they have nothing invested in it. This is their school, their project—it’s their community school.”