In early 2005, construction was completed on two classrooms for students in a camp for people displaced by conflict in northern Uganda. Working with AVSI, an international humanitarian organization, and scores of local mothers, fathers, teachers and students,the Harrington Family Foundation provided funding for a desperately needed learning space in a region that has suffered nearly two decades of civil war.
Since the mid-1980s, a rebel insurgency in the northern districts of Uganda (a country about the size of Oregon) has forced thousands of civilians to leave their homes and to relocate into large, congested camps. This massive population movement (approximately 1.4 million displaced by early 2005) has greatly restricted the delivery of basic services such as health and education. Currently most camps in the region, named for the Acholi tribe that lives there, host multiple primary schools in structures meant for one.
Orom Learning Center is located in one of the camps that has been hardest for humanitarian agencies to access with basic relief, including water, food and health assistance. Children are hit hardest by these gaps; they also have lost out on months or sometimes years of education due to the war. Even where teachers are willing to volunteer and continue working with the children, learning centers like Orom have only two classrooms for more than 5,000 students. While most classes can take place under mango trees, Uganda’s approaching rain season (March to July) prevents students from attending classes on a regular basis.
In order to boost the capacity of the learning center in Orom, the Harrington Foundation offered funding for a block of two new classrooms and four blackboards in 2004. The camp community helped gather local materials and participated in the construction–an activity that also offered jobs to young men who are often unable to access their farmland or carry out normal income generating activities for their families. The completed classrooms will host at least 200 students in Orom, helping open safe spaces for children to learn and grow in northern Uganda. (see photo page on this website.)