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Mengo SS students roll out fund to bail out colleagues

In a touching show of compassion, students of Mengo Senior School have launched a fund to support needy and poor students in the school continue with their education, writes DAVID LUMU.

Ordinarily, annual school meetings for parents and teachers (PTA) address issues like fees, academic performance, students’ behaviour and how to build relations between the three stakeholders.

Mengo SS acting head teacher Mary Kalyango (2nd L) and beneficiary Arnold Mudegi (checked shirt) with the team behind the fund. (L-R) Ben Bwanga, Tonny Ibanda, John Kigongo, Robert Kyomuhendo, Jemimah Atahigwa, Martin Lubowa and Leah Namutebi

It was a similar theme when I attended the Mengo SS PTA meeting on May 5 until I learnt about how some students had devised means of helping disadvantaged schoolmates. I was pleasantly surprised when Mary Kalyango, the acting school head teacher, announced that the initiative started on July 5, 2017 when seven students, concerned with the financial struggles of a colleague, pulled together resources to start a fund and bailed him out.

Incidentally, the school’s PTA already runs a needy scheme but it is exclusive to ‘bright students’ who have acute financial challenges. Last year, seven students benefitted from this scheme at a cost of Shs 10m. Parents contribute Shs 500 each from their PTA fees. 

However, what makes the students’ initiative special is that it is all-inclusive and everyone contributes at will. In less than a year, the fund has benefitted four students who would otherwise have dropped out of the school because of lack of money to pay school fees and other requirements.

Some of the seven members completed their secondary school education last year but the membership of the group has since grown.

Besides the support they provide to the beneficiaries at school, Tonny Brian Ibanda, the chairperson of the founding partners, says they also follow up on the families to provide both financial and counselling support.

“I lost my dad when I was eight years and people took everything we owned,” says Martin Joseph Lubowa, one of the founding partners. “Friends, however, supported my mother and she has been able to see me through school. That love they showed her is what I want to show to other people. I made a vow to myself to help others.”

It is this help the group is offering that, Ibanda says, the community both in the school and outside can build on for a much bigger fund. He says the team draws inspiration from the MasterCard Foundation scholars program.

“I grew up in the village but a relative brought me to this school [Mengo SS]. In senior six, I saw a friend’s dreams almost shattered because he lacked fees,” says Robert Kyomuhendo, another of the seven founding partners. “He had been raising his fees since O-level and in holidays, he could come here at school and work to raise the money. He would also work after school. We said; ‘why shouldn’t we start something to help people like him?’”

Raising the funds

The network depends on donations from students, teachers, parents and other well-wishers attached to the school. The group conducts classroom-based fundraising from which students contribute anything from Shs 50. The teachers have also come in handy and, lately, the parents.

The group also actively participates in the school events such as the Annual General Meeting (AGM) and takes advantage of other groups such as Mengo Old Students Association to raise funds to support network activities.

However, it has not been an easy ride for the group but Ibanda and company are hopeful.  From April 11 to April 13, for example, the group collected Shs 1,290,750.

Indeed, the founders have big dreams and are eyeing to build a network of such groups on the continent under the name Africa Students Support Network (ASSN).

dlumu@observer.ug

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