Advancing the Mission: New A-level School Completed in Uganda

Posted on: June 28, 2019 9:30 am
Tags: Uganda, East africa, Education,

The first A-level class of Notre Dame Academy in Buseesa, Uganda with Sr. Mary Ethel Parrott, Sr. Mary Rita Geoppinger (center), and Sr. Anita Marie Stacy.

by Sister Mary Rita Geoppinger, SND

Sr. Rita served at St. Julie Mission in Uganda from 2002-2014. She helped establish the all-girls Notre Dame Academy O-level in 2003, where she was head teacher for 11 years. Sr. Rita currently serves as SND Associate Co-Director and Justice, Peace, and Integrity of Creation Coordinator at the Covington Province. 

February 27, 2019 marked a day to remember and a dream come true: the dedication and blessing of the A-level at Notre Dame Academy (NDA) in Buseesa, Uganda. 

A-level, or Advanced Level, is the second of two stages in the Ugandan high school system. The first is Ordinary or O-level. A-level is highly specialized and requires intense independent study. Such a program is comparable to a junior college in the United States. It is required to progress to university studies.

Initially, the SNDs decided to focus only on O-level. We hoped girls continuing their education after NDA would obtain scores good enough to qualify for any A-level school. This proved true in the first seven years of national testing. NDA consistently ranked in the top 100 out of approximately 3,000 testing centers nationally. However, we soon learned that even some of the better A-level schools were not offering education comparable to the girls’ NDA education. The parents and teachers began clamoring for the A-level at NDA. In 2014, I realized that it was time for the younger teachers, most especially Sr. Anita Marie Stacy, the Assistant Principal, to continue the dream and the journey of establishing A-level. In five short years, Sr. Anita Marie and her very dedicated staff have made this dream come true.

The A-level at NDA consists of two new buildings and 21 students. Sixteen years ago, NDA’s O-level began with 22 students. Now every year, 75-100 girls apply for 50 available positions. Without doubt this will be the pattern for the A-level, as well. Most of the girls are majoring in the sciences: chemistry, physics, biology, and math.

The A-level dedication day was celebrated with a beautiful and inspiring liturgy offered by the Diocesan Director of Education, Father Patrick, and a very thorough and prayerful blessing of each part of the new facilities. These ceremonies were followed by delightful entertainment! Former students who currently work for or with us in Buseesa attended and facilitated the program presented by our secondary and primary students. This is the vision and the dream come true: Our graduates have completed their education and have now returned to the Kibaale district to help raise the standard of living for this very impoverished area.

We are proud of all our children and rejoice in their successes. Many have gone on in various professions and we have many success stories to share regarding their accomplishments. However, I want to highlight one young woman who, to me, could be the poster child for our mission in Uganda.

Mary, as I will call her, struggled to complete the O-level at NDA because her primary school background in English was very poor, but she worked so hard. Her family couldn’t afford our tuition, which is relatively inexpensive and heavily subsidized by our donors. Mary came during the holidays to work off her school fees. This provided us with the opportunity to give her extra tutoring in English and in the subjects that were so difficult for her. Still it was doubtful that she would pass the national exams. But she did pass with a level 3 and we rejoiced with her. To date almost 100% of NDA students pass with Level 1 or 2.

Obviously, Mary was not going to continue her education, but instead would be pulled back into the village. This is precisely what happened, but with a twist. Mary is now married. She is the first wife and only wife of her husband in a culture that permits a man to have as many wives as he wishes. Mary is determined that each of their four children will receive a St. Julie education. This requires a lot of hard work and many sacrifices on the part of these parents. Two of her children are already enrolled at St. Julie. Her twins will also go to Notre Dame schools if at all possible. This type of progress through empowerment is what Notre Dame education strives to achieve in places all over the world.

We are very grateful to God and to each of our generous benefactors who give us the energy, the enthusiasm, and the resources to achieve this goal.

Sr. Regina Alfonso, SND
Date: on August 11, 2019

What a story of success! Since 2000, the first year of my Bussesa Ministry until now, the N.D. Education has grown from a seed to a towering tree! Congratulations to every SND who contnributed to that blessed growth.

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