Margaret is the headteacher of Canaan Primary School with a team of 40 teachers and 12 assistants.
The school now has over 2,000 students and nearly all of them have fled conflict in South Sudan. Many have witnessed the death of their parents and are now living in child-headed households and caring for younger siblings. Despite the pressure Margaret is under, she emanates nothing but warmth and a sense of love for ‘her children’.
“If you don’t love children you can’t work here,” she says. “They have come from violent places and seen things children should never see. It is my job to show them there is another way, a peaceful way.”
Margaret has been a teacher for over 30 years. Although originally from northern Uganda, she had traveled to Kampala, working in a number of very good primary schools in the city. All this changed when she was seriously injured in an accident. As she recovered, she reflected on her life and decided it was time to go home and give back.
“I am sacrificing myself so these children can succeed.”
Sacrifice is the right word. Class sizes are high although they are now much better through a combination of double-shifting and the eight new classrooms CCCC has built. But it isn’t just sheer numbers that create the pressure. The children she and her committed team look after have traveled from one of the toughest places on earth. They’ve witnessed terrible things and some have had terrible things done to them. This pain inevitably sometimes finds its way past the school gates.
“There is sometimes conflict in the community, and in the school. But we are working with the children to show them how to manage their anger and pain. To show them that peace is better than violence. It is hard sometimes, but it is the only way.”
And they do make real progress. Last year saw a 96% pass rate in the government-set final year exams, a stepping stone to secondary education and the opportunity that brings.