The Friends of the Margaret Junior School was established as a registered charity in May 2006. The original objects of the Association were to “advance the education of the pupils at the Margaret Junior School, Masaka District, Uganda, by providing and assisting in the provision of facilities for education at the school.” In 2011 the Charity Commission agreed to an amendment to the constitution to include support towards ex-pupils, who were successful in gaining a place at secondary school or further education. The main activities of the Association are the raising of funds from individuals and other bodies, which are then transferred to the School Committee in Masaka, Uganda, in pursuit of the charity’s objectives and for the benefit of the school’s pupils and ex-pupils. Decisions as to expenditure are taken by the school committee after discussion with the Trustees.
Trustees are elected annually by the members of the Association at an Annual General Meeting. The present Trustees are: Freda Bass, Roger Ford, Richard Macpherson, Hilary Procter, Nicholas Stokes and Margaret West (Chair). In undertaking their duties, the Trustees have taken due regard to the guidance on public benefit published by the Charity Commission.
Membership is open to anyone willing to pay a minimum of £10:00 per annum. At the end of 2020 the Association had 31 paid-up members, a slight increase from the previous year. The Trustees have been very encouraged by the support from members, supporters and sponsors during this difficult year, and would particularly like to thank all who regularly contribute through standing orders and who use the Gift Aid facility.
The solid support and regular contributions provide the Friends with a firm financial base, which allows the Head-teacher and Committee to plan for a more confident future, rather than cope on a day-to-day basis. The economic situation in Uganda remains parlous and we continue to receive reports of high prices for basic commodities, fuel and transport. Many parents and guardians struggle to meet the payment of school fees, no matter how modest these may seem. The effects of climate change are also noticeable and the Masaka area continues to suffer from unpredictable seasonal variations. Few people have any reserves to call upon when crops fail.
On top of this, 2020 saw the Coronavirus pandemic hit the country. Although official figures would indicate that cases are not as high as in the UK, the ability to provide accurate figures and to introduce “Track & Trace” is limited and the number of cases is likely to be higher. In addition the country’s medical facilities are poor and few families can afford to obtain clinical assistance. Schools were closed during the early days of the pandemic and attendance has been spasmodic since the school re-opened. This has contributed to a significant reduction in the numbers on roll, compared to 12 months ago. Towards the end of the year, the government inspected all schools against a new set of operating criteria, designed to make them as secure as possible against Covid-19. We are grateful for the donations made by supporters and can confirm that the school met the required regulations.
This underlines the importance of the sponsorship scheme and the Trustees are grateful to those who support the school in this way. The Pupil Sponsorship Scheme currently embraces 50 children: twenty-nine primary, fifteen secondary and six former pupils, who are now at university. One of the school’s original students, having qualified as a nurse, continues to help as school nurse on a pro-bono basis. The Trustees would like to thank the individual sponsors and the local Lions Clubs in Shropshire, Cheshire and Staffordshire, who have supported this scheme. There are many more children who would still qualify, there being 284 pupils on roll at the end of 2020. The Trustees feel that the present scheme may not operate on an equitable basis and are currently reviewing it. Views have been sought from present and past sponsors and any new arrangements will be confirmed during the coming year. In the meantime all current sponsorships will continue as before.
The charity’s main income continues to come from donations and fund-raising events. The latter were severely curtailed during the year and our main event was the Summer Raffle, which raised over £2800 in ticket sales and associated donations. The Trustees would like to thank all our regular donors and will review future events in the light of developments. Imaginative ideas for fund-raising would be welcome.
Exam results in the Primary Leaving Examinations were positive, with a large number of our students being successful in obtaining the top two grades. These grades are important but we shouldn’t overlook the value that basic education has for all our pupils. The ability to read, write and to master basic numeracy is crucial, as a first step towards eradicating poverty.
Despite the pandemic, it has been a busy and successful year at the school. The new latrines were finished and open at the beginning of the year. The school was then successful in being awarded a grant by the local District Council to build a new centre for vocational training. The Friends provided some money towards the contribution required from the school, and the local community helped with the project by making the bricks and providing some of the labour. Work on the building was slow but was eventually completed by the year’s end, and the school is now awaiting the result of a grant application for equipment. Also during the year, a new well was sunk, thanks to another local grant, and this is now being used. It is encouraging to see the school committee looking for opportunities within the country.
The purpose of the charity is to support pupils and ex-pupils of the Margaret Junior School and in 2020 expenditure amounted to just under £44,000. This was a significant increase over previous years, largely owing to an increase in fees at secondary and university level. In addition to paying sponsorships, the money was spent on general funds and teachers’ salaries, as well as the funding towards the new vocational centre and Covid measures. Administrative costs for the year were less than £25, allowing all the money raised to be spent on the school and its pupils. Supporters can remain confident that the Trustees will continue to strive to ensure that money donated goes directly to support the school and its pupils. The Trustees do not have any plans to build up reserves but to ensure that monies raised are spent wisely and effectively, in liaison with the School Committee in Uganda.
Since the “Friends of the Margaret Junior School” was first incorporated as a charity in 2006, priority has been given to building up the infrastructure of the school. This has resulted in the purchase of the land; the installation of a supply of clean water; the building of pit latrines and two four-classroom blocks; the provision of basic hostel accommodation and a multi-purpose examination room. Additionally, other buildings have been erected by the parents and local community to enhance the educational, washing and cooking facilities. These are significant achievements. More recently, solar panels have been installed, and during 2019 electricity reached the school and the surrounding area. This will allow the school to enter the world of information technology and provide new opportunities for the children.
The long-term future will require a more sustainable arrangement, wherein “The Friends” would continue to support the school through a revised sponsorship scheme, and other funding, but would relinquish the “responsibility” of paying teachers’ salaries. One way may be to encourage the District Education Office to take a larger role in running the school; supporting it beyond the present arrangement of paying the salaries of the Head-teacher and one other member of staff. Any decisions, however, will need to be taken in concert with the School committee and will require the support of the local community.
The Trustees would like to thank all our donors, sponsors and members for their loyal support of the school.
Chair of Trustees.
Opening Balances 01/01/2020 £16,635.31
Donations £32,934.40 23526
General £ 8,991.34
Fundraising £ 3,063.95 4639
Membership Fees £ 275.00 250
Bank Interest £ 2.56 3
Gift Aid £ 6,356.93 4416
Total Income £42,632.84
Transfer to MJS £43,948.00 27798
Postage £ 22.92 14
Printing £ - 12
Website £ - 95
Fundraising £ 360.00 891
Miscellaneous £ 50.00 -
Total Expenditure £44,380.92
Closing Balances 31/12/2020
General £ 3,352.94