In the 1980s, Christopher Kigongo, a Ugandan doctor, was working to combat the spread of Malaria, poor maternal health, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and general healthcare for rural residents in the area now known as Mityana District. He started satellite clinics to address the growing problem of AIDS, persistently poor sanitation, and maternal health issues. In one village, the leaders were especially eager to increase medical treatment for their people. Christopher, along with some friends, provided funding for a resident midwife to help alleviate their greatest maternal health needs. Monitoring the changes in the village led him back continually to a related issue. The young were being born healthier, but they still faced too high a risk of disease due to lack of information about infections and treatment. “You need a school, not a clinic,” Christopher told the village chief. He envisioned the day when bright, energetic young Ugandans would run home from school and tell their parents how they had learned the importance of washing one’s hands in addition to reading, writing, and arithmetic. Christopher's dream was realized in 2001, when the Naama Millennium Preparatory School opened its doors.
That could have been the end of a terrific story. A village transformed; a young generation born into health and hope; and the chance for a group of isolated peasant farmers to become professionals spreading the values of diligence, openness, and progress in their wake. Instead, Naama Millennium School was the beginning of a movement for education that had been bubbling just below the surface of traditional Ugandan society. Throughout the countryside, even in very remote places, people are waking up to the importance of education. They see farms broken up, crop yields diminished, electricity spreading, cell phones proliferating, and the path being broken for new industries.
Gradually, news spread that the Naama Millennium School was a successful private elementary school for a poor community. Attendance and test scores were up, the teachers were loyal, and parents were committing to send their children to school instead of having them work on the farm. "How can we do this at our school?" some wanted to know. "How can we start a school like this here in our village?" was another question from the education desert.
Today, Connect Abaana Network Schools (CANS) supports five primary schools in Uganda by providing teacher training, networking opportunities, business skills, sustainability skills, emergency support, and funding for special projects. The teacher training in July 2015 included three members of our steering committee Dr. Christopher Kigongo, Winkie LaForce and Laura McPherson as well as an assistant to Dr. Kigongo at Duke Hospital Tyler Thrasher who taught computers. Dr. Kigongo plans to go back in September 2016 for a couple weeks.