Planting the seeds of success
Tender Talents Magnet School, Kampala, Uganda
Tender Talents is a school for children aged 12 to 18 in Kasangati, near Kampala. Set up in 1999 by Frank and Brenda Katoola, it offers a rigorous academic curriculum along with special arts training in cultural dance, music, drama, visual art and sculpting. The music programme was the first major project to be supported by Musequality.
The school’s pupils come from the poorest section of the community. A high proportion have lost parents and other family members to AIDS, some come from single-parent families, others are refugees from the Northern Conflict (a regional war that has rumbled on for over a decade). The school receives no direct state funding but relies on donations, bartering and fees from the few parents who can afford to pay.
Musequality provided significant start-up funding to transform a dilapidated hut into a music room. This also paid for a piano, keyboards, guitars, recorders, drums, several endingidis (traditional Ugandan one-string fiddles), books, and staff training. Later we started to fund a choral training programme, the Tender Talents Chorus, under which children receive vocal coaching and instrumental tuition on piano, recorder and guitar, and learn music theory. Teachers come from nearby Kampala Music School.
Progress has been impressive and high standards are being achieved; for example, 14 children passed Grade 4 or 5 ABRSM exams in 2010. In 2012, the first group of children to take part in the Musequality project all the way through their secondary education achieved straight As in their final exams. This fantastic performance propelled the school up the Ugandan league tables to 250th out of over 5,000 schools.
Supporters of the music programme include the North London Collegiate Junior and Portsmouth Grammar schools, which have raised money, and Stentor Violins who donated 14 instruments. Jane Ingamells, head of strings at Portsmouth Grammar School, went out to set up a strings programme using the Stentor violins.
Tender Talents twins with north London schoolA ground-breaking partnership was sealed in 2012 between Henrietta Barnett School in north London and Tender Talents, brokered by Musequality. The partnership aims to provide bursaries for four Tender Talents pupils over five years, support an annual project, and enable staff and student exchanges between the two schools.
The partnership was celebrated at an official event at Tender Talents school, where a brass plaque presented by HBS was unveiled by the Ugandan Minister for Education.
Frank Katoola visits UK
The Tender Talents director visited the UK in May 2012 with the help of a generous donation of flight tickets from British Airways. Frank used the opportunity to meet friends and supporters, discuss Musequality’s work in Uganda, and promote new projects. He also visited Henrietta Barnett School to seal the new partnership between the north London school and Tender Talents.
Frank enjoyed musical performances by many Musequality friends, including the Silver Screen Show Band and Singers who performed two fundraising shows in Wokingham on the theme ‘A Night at the Movies’. He also attended a performance of Tosca by Kensington Symphony Orchestra in London, and was guest of honour at an assembly held at Portsmouth Cathedral as part of Portsmouth Grammar Junior School’s Music Week.
ABRSM grant for Tender TalentsThe school received a £2,000 grant from ABRSM in 2012 to fund its special music programme for disadvantaged girls and boys. Tender Talents is one of the first projects to receive this grant, which is a new incentive introduced by ABRSM for overseas music projects.
Frank Katoola commented: ‘The entire school environment has changed for the better due to this project. There is no doubt there is a direct link to good academic achievement, and the children who get involved learn so much about self-worth.’
Tender Talents listed in top 5% of league tablesIf we needed confirmation of the value of music projects to the young people who participate, the children of Tender Talents Magnet School in Kampala have triumphantly provided it. The first group of children to take part in the Musequality project at the school all the way through their secondary education have achieved straight As in their final exams.
This fantastic performance means that the school, which receives no direct government funding, has shot up the Ugandan league tables to 250th out of over 5,000 schools.