Margaret West, aged 88, receives British Empire Medal for her services to education in Uganda, where the Margaret Junior School is named after her.
A woman who inspired a Junior School in Uganda has received the British Empire Medal from His Majesty’s Lord Lieutenant of Shropshire. Margaret West, aged 88, was awarded the medal back in June last year for her services to education in Uganda but chose to wait and receive it locally at a ceremony at Shrewsbury Museum and Art Gallery.
Margaret has a fascinating story. Twenty-one years ago, Margaret travelled to Uganda to visit friends who were on a VSO placement. During her visit she met Danny Mutebi a 20-year-old student with a physical disability who had a wish to go to university but whose family could not afford the fees. Margaret funded his university education and he now has his own law firm. His mother Kasujje Sarah, a retired Headteacher, wanted to repay in some way and with the help of family built two small classrooms onto her house. The first day of opening in 2004 over 90 children turned up of all ages! This was the start of Margaret Junior School.
The school serves a rural area outside of Masaka City. All the children come from local villages and many are orphans or have a physical disability, living with grandparents or other members of their extended family. Most families are subsistence farmers, with little money for “luxuries” like education or health care. There are now 326 pupils.
The Friends of the Margaret Junior School was established as a registered charity in 2006 with its registered address being in Shrewsbury and Margaret West as the Chair. Since then, new school buildings have been erected. The school benefits from a supply of clean drinking water, solar panels providing electricity, latrines and washrooms. There are two dormitories for children who live too far away to walk daily to school. A dining room/ examination room has also been built.
These achievements have been made possible by fundraising, regular donations from individual supporters in the UK, Europe and Australia, and with financial support from Lions International Clubs in Shropshire, Staffordshire & Cheshire. It has also involved support from the community in Uganda, where the local parents and residents have made bricks and contributed timber and labour. The school PTA has also been successful in obtaining grants.
A vocational training centre has recently been built at the school, funded by the local Government in Uganda who are also funding the trainers. Sewing & metal work classes have commenced with sewing machines and tables being provided by The Friends.
A child sponsorship scheme has recently been replaced by pupil bursaries. Since the school opened several pupils have gone on to Secondary school and University, qualifying and working locally as teachers, nurses and engineers. The school nurse was a previous pupil at the school and provides her services pro bona.
Margaret has visited the school many times and is in regular contact with Danny, who to her delight phoned to congratulate her on her award of the BEM.
The Friends of the Margaret Junior School are seeking new Trustees. If you are interested in knowing more about the role or more about the charity please visit margaretjuniorschool-uganda.com. There are contact details on the website.