In an art room of a school perched on the shores of Lake Victoria in central Uganda, Jerusha Okedi, 11, carefully knits a table mat under the close supervision of her teacher Jackie Kazalwa. In the room, there are several pupils that Kazalwa is supervising.
The Entebbe-Changsha Model Primary School was founded on the basis of skills development of youngsters beyond the normal school curriculum. China’s Changsha municipal government donated money to build the school which was unveiled by Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni after its completion in 2009. As requested by Entebbe, Changsha, also the capital of China’s Hunan Province, further funded a renovation project of the school in 2019.
“They came in to help the girl and boy child of Uganda so that they can have education and skills that are needed today,” Robinah Nakamya, the headmistress of the school, told Xinhua in a recent interview.
Nakamya said the skills include art and design, computer studies, home economics and sports. Her office is donned with several trophies that the school has won in different sports competitions.
She described the school as a blessing to the community of Entebbe and said the school is getting overwhelmed by the number of pupils who want to join.
Nakamya said after renovations were carried out in 2019, the number of pupils increased to 850 unlike before when there were 250 pupils.
John Bosco Izachary, a parent who has three children at the school, told Xinhua that he chose to take them to the school because of its increased academic performance. “It has improved a lot, in Entebbe here, it is one of the best schools academically,” Izakary said.
The lake breeze cools what could have been a hot day as pupils take their mid-morning classes. Next to the art room is the computer laboratory where pupils are gaining computer skills.
Kazalwa said the skills gained through extracurricular activities are important to the children even when they unfortunately drop out of school.
The school marks one of the many achievements resulting from the decades-long diplomatic ties between China and Uganda. The two countries will next month commemorate 60 years of diplomatic ties.
Besides support in elementary schools, China is deepening cooperation with Uganda in different education and skills development sectors.
A Confucius Institute was established at Makerere University, Uganda’s top university. The university is now teaching the Chinese language to its students and those from outside the campus.
The Confucius Institute was also responsible for teaching the Chinese language to Ugandan language teachers. As a result of the efforts, Uganda included the teaching of the Chinese language in the secondary school curriculum. Every year a batch of language teachers are taught the Chinese language before they are deployed to different schools across the country.
At Makerere University, there is the “Chinese Ambassador Scholarship of Excellence and Friendship.” The scholarship, financed by the Chinese Embassy in Uganda, is awarded to students who are economically underprivileged but are outstanding academically and of good character. Over the last five years, nearly 100 students have received financial support to fulfill their dreams through the Chinese ambassador’s scholarship.
“Our education pursuits would not be possible without your generous support from the scholarships,” said Daphine Naudho, one of the 24 beneficiaries for this year, at the scholarship award ceremony held in July at the university.
According to the Chinese Embassy, by the end of 2021, China had also provided scores of degree scholarships and over 5,000 short-term training opportunities covering fields like agriculture, medical care, public administration, computer science and infrastructure.
China in 2020 also established a Luban workshop in Uganda with the aim of providing high-quality technical skill training to help youth meet the requirements of the job market. The workshop is part of the capacity-building initiatives that China made during the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation Beijing Summit held in 2018, according to the Chinese Embassy.
The Asian country has also financed the construction of a 30-million-U.S.-dollar vocational training institute. Uganda sees the Uganda Industrial Research Institute Namanve campus playing a pivotal role in skilling up Ugandan youth as the country pursues industry-led economic growth.