What's in a Name?
NOTDEC Uganda’s name is clear: it is not an orphanage. NO: it’s a “Talent Development Centre” – for orphans.
So what's the difference?
NOTDEC Uganda is a life-saving child rescue organisation. But it's also much more. We don't just save destitute babies by feeding them — then rush them back to their wider families asap as per Goverment policy. We also strive to nurture and develop each child's talents and abilities by catering for their individual educational and spiritual needs. Together, life-saving and nurture are what NOTDEC Uganda and NOTDEC UK are all about. Some of the challenges we face make us wonder whether we can continue to provide more than "bread alone".
What then is the distinctive NOTDEC Uganda upbringing about whose future we feel compelled to pray?
NOTDEC Uganda provides a Christian upbringing for all its children — including Sunday school for tots, and Bible teaching for the older ones.
It exists because the Lord called Dorothy to care for a helpless baby. And its ethos today is rooted in the Christian faith and family values of Dorothy, Milly and Tom, and the good news that they want to share.
Their Christian family values are reflected by the house-mothers, each responsible for bringing up the "family" of children in their house and care.
NOTDEC Uganda children are given 3 years of nursery education taught on-site. Once they've passed the entrance examination, they go into Primary 1 – usually at Kagando Primary School.
A few children struggle, and have to repeat years even to get the end of Primary (P7) so their education typically goes no further. For the more able, NOTDEC Uganda provides an education appropriate to their ability - supporting many into secondary education. This is often followed by vocational training or, for several current students, University.
Hopefully, this will benefit each child, their family, the local area, and the Ugandan economy.
The Challenges of "Repatriation"
Sending children back to their families is a major concern.
As a minimum, NOTDEC UK pays all Primary school fees. Secondary Education is dearer due to the boarding costs. But, so far, sponsors have always been happy to continue funding for resettled children bright enough to benefit.
However, NOTDEC Uganda's Christian upbringing and teaching will come to an end for those children going back to non-Christian families. We pray about this, and hope that NOTDEC Uganda will build up its role in providing Christian teaching to the surrounding area. Canon Andrew Dow's 5-day Bible Course at the orphanage in 2015, for example, attracted many from the wider community.
There is no quick fix, however. For any more complete solution, we must look to others to develop Christian outreach to local families.
Funding University Places
Also of concern is the future cost of University education.
So far, the fees of those who have made it to University have been met by a group of Canadian supporters and second-hand computers provided by UK donors. However, it seems unlikely that the Canadians can continue to cover all college fees, so we must think this through.
At present, a child must get Div 1 (out of 4) at S4 level to go onto S5 & S6 and may then qualify for University. Longer term. we may not be able to provide a University education for every child meeting these criteria. Instead, we might have to offer a limited number of scholarships for the highest flyers only. That may seem unfair to anyone who just misses out in a “good” year, out-competed by several of their peers. But that’s life.
Jobs for the Boys — and Girls!
More worrying is the developing shortage of worthwhile job opportunities once they've completed their education. It is already a problem for those with only Primary education and — increasingly — for those finishing some University degree courses; but even those with certain vocational qualifications are now finding it harder to find suitable jobs. And rural SW Uganda has yet to wake up to the need for a full range of job opportunities for aspiring young women. NOTDEC Uganda and NOTDEC UK alone are powerless to change any of this.
What Can We Do?
In considering what NOTDEC Uganda and NOTDEC UK can do to help, we inevitably ask ourselves whether we need to do things differenty. If our kids are to resist the siren calls of Europe by finding rewarding jobs in Uganda, they need faster economic growth at home. And, acting alone, we simply cannot deliver that. But unless somebody does something ...
Thirty plus years ago, Dorothy faced this situation: unless someone did something, a tiny baby would die. What she did then saved that baby's life. And it gave rise to NOTDEC Uganda, which — with God's help — has saved dozens more.
The big question is what — if anything — we can do now. There are no easy answers.
Sometimes prayer isn't easy either.
But it's all we've got.