The conference hall at Ankrah Foundation in Uganda buzzed with activity as 15 teams were given the challenge of building bridges using only paper, within a set time frame. There was a lot of excitement as the ten completed bridges were presented before the panel of judges. Would the best bridge be the pink and white one, the one that could be built within three months or perhaps the one that could also act as a fishing ground? Finally, it was team Ebenezer that sang the popular hymn “Across the bridge there’s no more sorrow” as they collected their winning prize.
What do bridges have to do with schools? In opening the 10th annual conference that ran from 18th – 20th January 2017, Ms. Ednar Nyakaisiki, the Executive Director of Fields of Life East Africa, indicated that schools must become all-round model centres of excellence in the midst of storms, such as limited finances, human resource challenges, stringent Government requirements and endless stakeholder expectations.
Since challenges always exist, schools must creatively build strong blocks of enterprise, solid financial management and a Christian ethos; each block closely interlocked with the next to build a bridge that eventually leads to excellence.
The presentations throughout the conference tackled the key elements to achieving this end goal including: Vision Sustainability; Strategic Partnerships; Managing School Finances; Growing the Family; Enterprise in Schools; and Government Requirements.
A resounding theme throughout all presentations was the personal responsibility that each person has in fulfilling the overall vision of the organisation: with God all things are possible.
The importance of strategic partnerships was highlighted throughout the conference with representatives from Stranmillis College highlighting the partnership that is being sought with Ugandan educational institutions for teacher training. Additionally, representatives from Drumbeg Parish, Northern Ireland, shared their heart for supporting Fields of Life programmes in Northern Uganda.
Indeed the Guest of Honour, Dr. Edward Sebukyu, Deputy Commissioner for Private Schools at the Ministry of Education, reiterated the Government’s willingness to partner with like-minded institutions in delivering quality education in the country.
Fields of Life founder, Reverend Trevor Stevenson, issued a clear challenge at the conference: “If you could build strong bridges in 24 hours, out of nothing but paper and working with strangers, then surely you can build your schools into model centres of excellence”.