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Gulu College is a private secondary school located in the Layibi Division of Gulu Town in northern Uganda. This school was the first private secondary school in the Gulu District, established by five teachers who had a vision to improve academic standards in this war-torn region of Uganda. The current enrollment is 857 students, with about 2/3 of the students being boys. The staff includes 45 teachers for O and A level and 24 support staff. The school operates on a modest budget collected from student fees, and teachers’ salaries are lower than regional government schools. This situation is in contrast to private schools in central and southern Uganda where student fees are higher and teachers’ salaries at private schools may actually exceed those paid in government schools. Therefore, a number of the teachers only teach part-time at Gulu College, and then also teach in government schools.
There was a time when schools in northern Uganda were excellent by national standards, but during the long period of insurgency and unrest in the region, the quality of the schools deteriorated. For more than twenty years, rebels, called the Lords Resistance Army, terrorized the local villages with violence and incomprehensible torture and death. People fled the villages to Gulu Town for safety of government camps. Families were disrupted by death and separated for years in camps. Many children were orphaned and came to the schools in Gulu Town for safety from abduction. Schools such as Gulu College absorbed these students from the camps. During the period from 1993-2000, the student population at Gulu College swelled to 1300 students, and the school acquired more land in the Laliya District. In 2000, the school was registered and licensed with the Ministry of Education. Near the end of the insurgency, as students began to return to their homes, the number of students declined and funds from student fees declined. At that time the head teacher Mr. Patrick Loum revived the school, consolidated the students to a single campus, and built the school into an educational institution that is popular among local residents because of low fees and strong academic potential. There are five classrooms, a boys dormitory and latrine and modest administrative offices located on one acre of land.
Gulu College has developed a five year plan for development during 2010-2014. The current Director of Studies, Mr. Innocent Achaye, and Head Teacher Mr. James Abola, are leading the next phase of growth, including an effort to improve the academic achievement of the students. Some of the students at this school are older than they might be in other schools because of the disruption in their education that was caused by civil unrest. And in general, the schools in northern Uganda are still struggling to get to optimal performance. In addition to the academic goals, plans include construction of one or more classrooms, a library, and a school transport vehicle.
Currently, students take water for drinking from a single government water pipe on the campus, for which the school pays to have water service. This source of water is sporadic, and many days the water faucet is dry. In addition, the water is contaminated and must be boiled before drinking. This is essentially impossible for nearly 900 students. When the water pipe is dry, a truck, which suffers from much mechanical difficulty, is used to transport two large plastic tanks (~100 gallon) into Gulu Town to collect water at a common-use borehole water well. A fee (US$100/month) is charged for collecting this water. There is great need at Gulu College for a borehole water well (US$8,000) on the campus to provide a reliable, dependable source of clean water for the students to drink.
Other needs at Gulu College include textbooks, library reference books and a library that can serve as a study room for students. The school has no textbooks, and teachers dictate or write the text book content on the board, and students must essentially copy the textbook by longhand. The school has a science lab but needs stored running water for experiments. Ten computers have been donated to the school, but they are not in use because there is no classroom to house the computers. There is no internet access on campus. The cost to add new classroom buildings to the campus is ~US$17,000 per floor. There is also great need for a small mini-bus or truck to transport students to field trips, or staff (~US$7,000).