St Katherine’s is St Swithun's partner school near Lira in the region called Lango in Uganda. This is an area that has, until recent times, suffered at the hands of the Lord’s Resistance Army. The school buildings were badly vandalised during this period and local people have been left bearing the physical, emotional and mental scars of child abduction and physical violence. Despite this, St Katherine’s is an incredibly happy and positive place where music and sport play an important role alongside academic studies and preparation for adult life.
The link between the two schools began in 1995 through a chance meeting between Dr Christopher Brill, the then Chair of Council (visiting Uganda with the Bishop of Winchester), and the chaplain of St Katherine’s, Rev'd Max Ameri Olet.
Over the years, St Swithun’s girls have corresponded with girls in Uganda, we have assisted with funding for building projects and we have gradually built up a scholarship fund, which now pays fees for 23 girls to attend St Katherine's who would otherwise not be able to receive such an education.
Rev'd Katrina Dykes in St Katherine's classroom
Local Hampshire girl, Jane Austen said, “Give a girl an education and introduce her properly into the world, and ten to one but she has the means of settling well, without further expense to anybody.” Today it is widely recognised that the education of girls has a positive effect on the society as a whole, improving health and nutrition, encouraging peace, development and economic stability. The education of girls at St Katherine’s is not only a gift to the individual, but to their families and their nation.
In July 2009 Rev'd Katrina Dykes and teacher Jo Cox visited Uganda and spent 10 days at St Katherine's for the first time. This was followed in December 2010 by a visit from Rev'd Max Olet and Madam Connie to St Swithun's in the midst of the winter snow.
In July 2012 a group of 27 St Swithun's students and staff travelled to Uganda. Here they not only spent three days with their peers at St Katherine's but they also climbed Mount Elgon, took part in a rhino conservation project, visited Murchison Falls and helped build a village school classroom.
We hope to continue growing the links between the two schools, sharing awareness and understanding of each other's cultures.
In 2015 it was the twentieth anniversary of the school partnership. A further school trip took place with St Swithun's and St Katherine's students joining to spend ten days together at the Jane Goodall Field Centre at Budongo.
Legging it for Lira
In September 2013 over 450 pupils, parents, staff, family and friends of St Swithun’s successfully completed their Legging it for Lira challenge. They walked, ran, rowed, swam, cycled and rode on horseback to cover a distance of 6,000 miles in 12 hours raising £20,000 for St Katherine’s School. The funds raised will be used to fund places for girls to attend St Katherine’s who would not otherwise receive an education.
To cover the 6,000 miles, which is the distance between Winchester and Lira, other sponsored activities included two hours of non-stop drumming, sailing and busking in Winchester High Street and there were many impressive physical feats of endurance throughout the day, including seven year old Hannah Batten who swam one mile for the first time. Although initially thwarted by stubborn cloud cover on the challenge day, French teacher Caro Bewes jumped a tandem parachute jump from 12,000 feet.
Reverend Katrina Dykes, chaplain, said “This was a real team effort and through the determination of all who took part, we completed the 6,000 miles one minute before the deadline. What is even more impressive is the fundraising total and the difference that this will make to girls in Uganda who would not otherwise go to school”
A total amount raised was over £20,000