Honoured for empowering girls in Uganda

5th June 2024

Vicki Beach, Sister Judith and Ruth Sara (also from St Luke's who received an MBE in 2018)

A member of St Luke’s Church community in Bath, honoured by His Majesty King Charles for ‘empowering girls in Uganda’, has been sharing the story of the work she does to support girls in rural schools in Uganda. 

Fifteen years ago, Vicki Beach set up Friends of St Michael’s Girls School, in Uganda. The registered charity, supports rural primary schools and is building a secondary school in the village of Namunyumya , providing impactful and sustainable support for the whole community. Working closely with school management committees, they fund a diverse range of projects including school lunches, malaria testing/treatment also building classrooms, hostels, washrooms, kitchens toilet blocks, fencing and funding teaching and educational resources particularly in the nursery section

Driven by her passion for supporting girls’ education, Vicki shared, “It isn't rocket science, to be honest with you, it's simple, give the children the opportunity to learn properly and to read, in a safe environment and give the staff the tools and the resources to be able to achieve this goal. . Ensuring the children are well fed and have at school healthcare with a qualified resident nurse makes all the difference to their future.”

Central to Vicki and her team’s efforts are school lunches, healthcare and literacy. They began by funding school lunches for the girls and have since built a school medical centre and a library/literacy hub. They fund a full-time librarian and literacy teacher and have been teaching reading phonetically for 10 years – still almost unheard of in Uganda.
In a district with 68 primary schools, Vicki proudly notes, “We're top in the national exams again this year , which if you bear in  mind, we're right in the middle of the bush is a great achievement. Most of our girls are from local subsistence farming families. The staff are doing some really great work and I’m super proud of what has been  achieved over the last 15 years.” Nearly all our girls are fluent readers – a huge achievement when there is proven data that 9 in 10 children in Sub-Saharan Africa are unable to read and understand a simple text by the age of 10 – a shocking statistic.  

Later this year the charity is renaming to RedEarth Village Schools to reflect the scaling up that they want to try to do – reaching more primary schools many with classes under trees and no schooling when it rains – at one school there are only 4 toilets for over 1,000 pupils. Vicki says her faith is central to her mission, “I'm completely mission driven on this, it is now absolutely in my core and what I feel I'm called to do. I feel prayer gets me through and gives me the belief that I can do it and I can make a difference, and if not me who?” 

Receiving the news of her MBE was a complete shock to Vicki. She felt overjoyed and insisted the headteacher at St Michael’s in Uganda, accompany her to the investiture ceremony at Windsor Castle in May “It’s a team effort. I couldn’t do it without her. We have the money and the ideas she and her staff do the empowering of the girls Having her with me, representing all the staff and girls was very important.”

During her last visit in May Vicki noticed that many pupils just saw schools holidays as the time to be at home doing housework and gardening  They have just set up a brass band group with three volunteer music teachers using donated instruments, which is already good enough to play at church services and parties The group’s popularity has led Vicki to appeal for more donations of brass instruments. If you can help, please email Vicki st.michaels@live.co.uk


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