This week Amber and I would like to share an interview that we conducted with Sister Lucy, the Catholic Sister in charge of running St. Anthony’s nursery school. Although she faces many challenges, Sister Lucy’s work has helped St. Anthony’s to grow each year to benefit more and more children in Nkokonjeru.
Q: Sister Lucy, tell me about yourself!
A: I am Sister Lucy Mueni. I come from Kenya, and I am working in Uganda as a Sister of Little Sisters of St. Francis of Assissi. I joined the congregation in 1997 and became a Sister in 2000.
Q: What is your area of work, Sister?
A: For my first mission, I was posted in Uganda to work as a nursery teacher. Since then, I have been able to start 2 schools in Uganda: Iganga and Nangongera Nursery School. Now I am working in St. Anthony’s Nursery School in Nkokonjeru, which I started in 2011. At first, I was only able to get 6 children, but now the number has increased to 30. The aim of starting this nursery school was to help the children who were less privileged financially. Unfortunately, we are only able to help a small number of children because we don’t have enough finances to cater to many. In the locality there are so many children who do not go to school because they cannot afford our tuition.
Q: Tell me about the financial situation that you face here at St. Anthony’s.
A: St. Anthony’s has a big problem with finances because we are forced to rely on what the parents pay for tuition. Often the parents cannot afford the full tuition, and most do not pay on time. Some parents pay, others don’t. But we utilize the little we have to make sure the school runs smoothly. We are able to use that little to pay teachers, try to obtain materials, and provide the children with porridge. Because many of the children come from poor families, they do not get enough food at home. By providing porridge (without raising tuition), we can help ease some of the hunger of the children and create a better learning environment.
Q: If money were not an issue, what would you like to do for St. Anthony’s?
A: I would like to have more qualified teachers, play materials and some funds to repair the place because the buildings are not up-to-date. It would also be nice to have some technology to help teach the students. A water filter would benefit us, because the nearest water filter is not near, and it is not easy to transport the water. There are so many children around here who cannot reach the school because of the lack of transport. If we had a school vehicle, we could help the children from far away (deep in the bush) to get to school.
Q: What do you want the children to take away from their time at St. Anthony’s?
A: We want to give the children who are here a firm foundation, so that when they leave St. Anthony’s they will be able to handle primary school education. We want them to leave with a passion for learning and the want to continue their education. Through the work of Caritas For Children, we would love to have sponsored children attending St. Anthony’s. This investment would give a child a good education from day one of their schooling. We want our children to be prepared well so that they are bright enough to go to Stella Maris boarding school where they will get a great education.
Q: What are your goals for St. Anthony’s?
A: My goal for St. Anthony’s Nursery School is to be able to cater to more of the less fortunate and marginalized children around the Nkokonjeru area. I would like to give the young ones a firm foundation, so that they can have a bright future. It is also important to me to encourage the parents to realize the importance of taking their children to nursery school so that they can get a firm foundation. Finally, I want to make sure that all the children who pass in St. Anthony’s can be God-fearing people who can grow both spiritually and academically.
Amber and I have had the privilege to work and talk with Sister Lucy every day that we teach. She is one of the most genuine and compassionate women that we have ever met, and she follows through on what she promises and gets things done. Even though finances are tight, Sister Lucy does not turn children away just because their parents struggle financially. She works with the parents to create a payment plan that will not leave the family without a means of support. It is only through her great sacrifice that the school can run because it is the unfortunate truth that most parents (and guardians) cannot afford the full tuition. Sister Lucy also works tirelessly to continually improve St. Anthony’s. Her passion for the school and the children is immediately evident when you meet her, and every day we get to hear her ideas to make St. Anthony’s into a nursery school that can be used as a model for other schools. Thank you Sister Lucy and St. Anthony’s for being a true blessing to the families and children in Nkokonjeru, and please keep the children, school and Catholic Sisters in your thoughts and prayers as they continue to do God’s work here in Uganda!