3 February Feb 2012 1527 03 February 2012

A new school in Uganda, a dream for mothers with AIDS who helped build it

Luigi Giussani High School in Kampala, Uganda celebrated its inauguration on February 3, 2012. A high school for 400 boys and girls from Kireka, made possible thanks to 32,000 necklaces made of colorful recycled paper by the women of Meeting Point International and sold by over 1,300 volunteers of AVSI Point, a network of supporters, at booths, involving entire companies as well as single colleagues, family and friends. A sign of a friendship that is beyond all borders and which continues to grow.
The over 350 participants, including 150 of the 400 students of the school and many mothers from Meeting Point International, were shielded from the sun by an expansive white tent for the ribbon-cutting, Mass with the Apostolic Nuncio of Kampala and a lively celebration with singing.
Among the significant spoken contributions were those of Rose Busingye who directs Meeting Point International, Alberto Piatti the Secretary General of AVSI Foundation, and AVSI Uganda Country representative John Makoha.
Piatti highlighted a key factor of the day, saying: "The initiative of the school is not of one person, but of a people. The making and sale of over 35,000 necklaces, 1,500 donors and many events both large and small made the building of this school possible."
Another affirmation of the ideal behind the school came from the Uganda representative from UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization), who found the educational method proposed by AVSI and the Permanent Centre for Education very close to their 'Pillars of Education': learning to know, learning to do, learning to live together and learning to be.

The story of a school: one step in the story of a people
"Everything stems from the desire that these children [the sons and daughters of women affected by HIV/AIDS who are served at Meeting Point International (MPI)] can be looked at as I have been looked at." So begins Rose Busingye, President of MPI-Kampala, when asked about Luigi Giussani High School. "I want these kids to discover a relationship that recognizes the value of others, in which another person does not become the slave of your ideas, but where an educator’s task is to accompany you to your destiny. This is not always the case, however, in the schools here in Uganda and, more generally, in Africa, where often the teacher is your boss and you're a slave to what he says. What I learned from Msgr. [Luigi] Giussani is that education means a person who takes your hand and says, ‘Come, let’s walk together, going towards Truth, which is not defined by me, but is an Other." In fact, the mission of the new school reads "with our hands, but with Your strength," recalling the monastic tradition of the Benedictines.
From this insight, a people tied together by friendships set themselves into motion in Kampala as in Italy, the Americas, Europe and even in Asia. The request for support went out all over the world, including through AVSI’s annual campaign in 2009-2010, to meet the need for a secondary school for the children of Kireka, a neighborhood of capital of Uganda and home to a center of Meeting Point International. The request went out from Rose and the hundreds of women affected by HIV/AIDS served by the center themselves, asking for a place to send their children to school and contributing the easily-recognized bright recycled-paper necklaces made with their own hands. These are the same women who left us in awe with their understanding of solidarity back in 2005, when they raised over $1,000 for the victims of Hurricane Katrina through their working breaking stones.
And now, the fruit of these contributions from those all over the world who exchanged their donation for a necklace can be seen in the new beautiful school, at first with an enrollment of 400 students, which will quickly grow to 600 in the coming years.
Luigi Giussani High School makes it possible to ensure that students can continue their studies beyond the low bar of compulsory education which ends after primary school. It means giving young people the opportunity to grow and opens possibilities for their future, for example to attend university. The adventure of the new school came about through and continues to be supported by the extraordinary friendship of the Distance Support Program, which links individuals from other countries who donate to support individual children. "When my father died I had no hope. Before meeting Rose, did not think I could go on to study, but she looked at me and said: "Dennis, you know that you have value? You can do anything that you want." Not even my father had spoken to me so; he had never said that I have value, that my life has meaning. One thing I really appreciated was that Rose didn’t just give me money to study, leaving me on my own, but she always stopped by to see me and talk. Once I asked her what she meant by the question, ‘Do you believe that your happiness is in going to college?’ She responded that what we want, our desires, are infinite. This phrase has opened up my eyes." Dennis was 7 months old when his mother died. He grew up in a polygamous family, his father died of AIDS when he was 12 years, and has since been helped by the MPI in Kampala, with a sponsorship through AVSI Italy that has opened the road for him to go to college. Stories such as this show the fruits and the importance of accepting the great challenge of secondary education now present in Africa and in all developing countries.
The desire for the new school is that it act as a point of reference: a place where teachers along with students set off along on a path of educational and personal growth, in which the family and the community to which each student belongs are equal partners. "The need to provide a holistic approach to education grows more and more urgent,” insists John Makoha, head of AVSI in Uganda. This is especially evident in Kireka, a neighborhood inhabited by people from all over Uganda, representing different tribes, a large number of whom are victims of war or of the social ostricization resulting from he spread of AIDS.”
"The idea of ​​building a new school stemmed from the fact that no one in Uganda teaches children to recognize their worth and their dignity,” stress Chiara Broggi and Mauro Giacomazzi of the Permanent Centre for Education in Kampala. “In schools this usually does not happen: the kids are treated badly, even beaten, and in the end of their schooling are often even worse off than when they started."
The Permanent Center for Education provides training and professional development for the 20 teachers at the school, which is in fact directed by principal Ngabirano Biniconcilii Sr., who worked for many years at the PCE as a facilitator and has remained in contact since.  The PCE, which was founded in 2002, has already trained more than 15,000 individuals including students, university professors, teachers, school managers, social workers and prison guards all over Uganda, in Kenya, in South Sudan, in Rwanda and Burundi, and other countries using a unique and successful method of education which focuses on the value of every human being.
The high school in Kireka first organized two years ago in a temporary building. The first stone of the new structure was laid May 21, 2010, celebrated with the Hon. Mario Mauro of the European Parliament and Rose Busingye. 95% of the students are referred by Meeting Point International; many are supported by AVSI Distance Support and Support International - the German partner of the AVSI network, which guarantees the continuation of the education of the high school students. These are the children of the women, friends of Rose, who were present at the Meeting of Rimini in Italy in August 2010; the same women who overwhelmed everyone they met bringing their witness, their thousands of necklaces, dancing and singing with a contagious joy.
These mothers, nearly all of them sick, usually with HIV, in whom was awakened the strength to rediscover their lives, have asked tirelessly from the beginning for help to ensure a future for their children. "Who will help them when we will no longer be here? How can they become adults able to make their own decisions if they can not go to school?" And now a dream has been realized, through the work of their hands with the help of thousands of friends. But the work has not ended. A group of mothers has now formed an association to provide meals for the school and to clean part of the building.
The event on February 3, 2012, included the ribbon-cutting ceremony with the participation of Apostolic Nuncio, Archbishop Paul Tschang In Nam, local authorities, AVSI staff with its partners and many international guests, as well as the parents and partners from the Meeting Point. Those who really ‘stole the show,’ however, were the students. They have organized song and dance performances for the occasion. The new school is not only a new building in which to learn, but a beautiful and safe place where the children of these mothers have the opportunity to discover who they are, building upon this to live a future as protagonists of their own lives and in the community.”
Read an interview with Rose Busingye on