Uganda is among the poorest nations in the world. More than half of the population survives on less than $2 a day, and 90% of the country lives without electricity or running water. Officially, primary education in Uganda is free, but students must pay an annual fee to cover the cost of books, uniforms and classroom supplies. Children who cannot pay are not allowed in school. Only 20% of male children and 17% of female children are educated past the seventh grade. Child labor and exploitation are common.
At Circle of Peace School in Makindye (a suburb of Uganda's capital city) about 300 boys and girls from preschool through grade seven receive the education that they would otherwise be denied because they are unable to pay the required public school fees. Students live in a safe and nurturing environment where they can realize their full potential and develop as people who experience human rights and fundamental freedoms. The school is run by its founders, the Bbaale family. Classes are taught in English. The School serves children of all faiths; both Christian and Muslim students attend.
Forty orphans and underprivileged students reside in a boys' dormitory and a girls' dormitory. The school provides for all their needs: housing, food, clothing, medical care and emotional support. Approximately one-third of the pupils have at least one parent who is deceased or ill from HIV or AIDS. Without COPI, they would have no home, food or education. Most of the school's students commute from home.
Circle of Peace School is governed by a board of directors which reports to the Ugandan Ministry of Education. Despite meager conditions, the school's students do very well on required national tests and also are extremely well-behaved.
Circle of Peace School receives no government funding. It is primarily supported by the selfless commitment of the Bbaale family, headed by Amina Bbaale, the family matriarch. Five of her daughters and three of her sons, as well as other relatives, either work at the school or provide for it financially. Families of the students contribute what they can toward their child's education, and the school generates operating income from a poultry farm.
Most importantly, the school relies on the generous donations of international supporters. All donations, cash and in-kind, are greatly appreciated. No gift is too small.
In 1991, Uganda native Joanita Bbaale earned a degree in Education from Kibuli Teachers College. As a public school teacher, she was troubled by the fact that underprivileged students were denied an education because their families were too poor to pay school fees. Joanita often found herself teaching basic reading to her Sunday school pupils.
History and founding of the School
A national effort to enroll Uganda's children in nursery schools was initiated in the early 1990s. Because there were no nursery schools in her area, Joanita left her paid teaching position to establish a local school for the children in her neighborhood. There were initially eight students who met on the porch of her parents' home that first year. Soon more students began coming.
At the end of the 1994 term, parents pleaded with Joanita to continue teaching their children. She and her family responded by renting land, erecting temporary classrooms, and adding teachers. Higher grades were added each year until the school was offering nursery through seventh grade classes.
The Ugandan Ministry of Education licensed Circle of Peace School in 1997 and a new Circle of Peace campus was established at the Bbaale family compound to serve grades four through seven. The first project made possible by US supporters was completed in 2007. Dick Leatherman provided funds to construct latrines at the school. In 2010 the original lower school campus was abandoned and all classrooms were consolidated on the Bbaale family compound.