Humanism and Humanist Schools

Saturday 1134 – 4th November 2018

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For years I considered myself to be an Atheist and knew very little about Humanism but a couple of years ago I did some research around the subject and discovered that I had really been a Humanist all along but just didn’t realise it.  I didn’t like calling myself an Atheist because I think that is quite a negative term. Atheism is a lack of belief or a disbelief in Gods or supernatural beings whereas Humanism is a more positive choice;  a philosophical stance that focuses on the value and agency of human beings.

Here’s a definition of what a Humanist is, from the Humanist Uk website:-

Roughly speaking, the word humanist has come to mean someone who:

  • trusts to the scientific method when it comes to understanding how the universe works and rejects the idea of the supernatural (and is therefore an atheist or agnostic)
  • makes their ethical decisions based on reason, empathy, and a concern for human beings and other sentient animals
  • believes that, in the absence of an afterlife and any discernible purpose to the universe, human beings can act to give their own lives meaning by seeking happiness in this life and helping others to do the same.

Any of you that have followed this blog for some time, (when I was posting a lot !!)  will understand how I think that fits my philosophy on life.  I still have much to learn about Humanism and I’m currently doing an online course which is organised by Humanists UK.  It’s a 6 week course which is run at regular intervals and open to anyone around the world, it’s also free.  You can find out more about the course by clicking HERE

So about 2 years ago I joined Humanist Uk and have attended 2 of their yearly conventions which have both been brilliant.  More recently I joined a local Humanist group that has monthly meetings and the speaker on this Saturday was Paul Ewans who came to speak to us about the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust, of which he is a Trustee. It was something I had never heard of before and it was a really interesting presentation.  

Uganda

From the website :- 

The Uganda Humanist Schools Trust was established in November 2008 as a charity to raise funds to support the efforts of Ugandan Humanists, who have founded schools which offer students the alternative of liberal secular-humanist education: 

  • Isaac Newton High School, Katera, Masaka – founded by Peter Kisirinya in 2004
  • Mustard Seed School, Busota, Kamule – founded by Moses Kamya in 2005
  • Kasese Humanist Primary School, Kasese – founded by Robert Bwambale in 2011

Humanist Schools’ Mission

UHST works with the Uganda Humanist Schools Association (UHSA) to help member schools become high achieving by embracing humanist values.

Working together we design materials that schools can use to promote a Positive Humanist Ethos. The following PowerPoint presentations are examples of the materials which have been used to induct staff in the schools:

Some of the key principles are set out below.

The Humanist Schools believe they have a duty of care to every student, who has the right to expect:

  1. The highest standard of education providing knowledge, skills and attitudes needed for success in the modern world.
  2. A happy and purposeful schooling with abundant opportunities for personal development.
  3. Teachers who strive hard to develop the capabilities of every student.
  4. A safe, disciplined and caring environment, which is free from physical and verbal abuse.
  5. Teachers and students who work together in mutual respect.

SCHOOL VALUES

Every Humanist school aims to promote the following values: 

  1. DIGNITY: Proclaim the natural dignity and worth of all human beings
  2. RESPECT: Respect the life and property of others
  3. TOLERANCE: Be tolerant of others beliefs and life styles
  4. SHARING: Share with those less fortunate and assist those in need
  5. COLLABORATION: Work cooperatively with others to achieve shared goals
  6. RATIONALITY: Use Reason, Logic and Science to solve life’s problems.
  7. CONSERVATION: Conserve and improve the Earth’s natural environment.
  8. NON-VIOLENCE: Resolve differences and conflicts peacefully
  9. DEMOCRACY: Respect democracy and human rights
  10. EDUCATION: Use every opportunity to develop ones knowledge and talents

Each school has appointed a Humanist counsellor whose task is to encourage students to become active citizens by:

  • Organising weekly debates on issues of human interest.
  • Running a club for children to promote humanist activities.
  • Promoting the celebration of important days in human achievement.
  • Arranging charitable activities in the local community.
  • Mobilising students and staff to protect the local environment.

The Humanist Counsellor is a member of the school’s disciplinary committee.

I just love this teachers pledge don’t you?

All schools require their teaching staff to sign the following:

TEACHERS’ PLEDGE

In accepting a teaching position at this Humanist school I agree to uphold the school’s aims and agree that, at all times, I will:

  • Work to create a tolerant, caring community based on mutual respect.
  • Refrain from all forms of physical and verbal violence towards students.

I will strive to:

  • Teach with creativity and variety
  • Understand that students learn through enquiry and action
  • Use only positive discipline
  • Promote student self-esteem and pride in their school and community
  • Recognise that every child matters

Signed by Teacher:

Date:

You can read lots about the Uganda Humanist Schools Trust by clicking HERE  and I hope you will take some time to look over it because there is so much more I could say about the good that the schools are doing, without god. 

What to us would be a few pounds goes a very long way in Uganda and if you would like to make a donation to the trust you can do so by clicking HERE  UHST trustees cover all costs, including visits to Uganda, so every £1 donated goes to supporting the Humanist schools.

These schools are notable and important because Uganda is predominately Christian, approx 84% according to the 2014 census, with about 14% adhering to Islam.  This is not Sunday faith but lived experience for most Ugandans.  Witchcraft though publicly frowned upon, is still rife in the country.   Uganda is theoretically a secular state but the sheer number of believers means that religiously motivated legislation is the norm. For example. as in most African states same sex relationships are criminalised. The Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Act was passed in 2014 with a penalty of life imprisonment ; an amendment from the originally proposed death penalty !  The schools values are very much needed in Uganda it seems and more than worthy of being supported.

In fact you may not be aware,  I certainly wasn’t, that a 2017 Freedom of Thought Report published  by the International Humanist and Ethical Union, of which Humanist UK is a member, reported that :

“85 countries around the globe ‘exhibit severe discrimination against non-religious individuals’, with several having seen humanists and atheists murdered for their beliefs over the past year” (…) “This past year has seen humanists murdered by mobs in Pakistan, the Maldives, and India. In Pakistan, multiple humanists have been sentenced to death for blasphemy, and a number of bloggers were ‘forcibly disappeared’ by the state. In Saudi Arabia, a man was sentenced to death ‘for atheism’ over a Facebook post, while others remain on death row. In Malaysia, the Government has been ‘hunting down’ atheists, after a photo of a gathering gained publicity. More generally, thirteen countries have laws on the statute books punishing apostasy or blasphemy with death.”

You can read more about this by clicking HERE

You can read more about Kasese school by clicking HERE

To end on a lighter note you may remember that back in March 2015 I gatecrashed, only photographically you understand, a Humanist wedding in a supermarket.  No really I did ! you can read about it by clicking HERE 

Your thoughts are very welcome as ever.

Saturday Girl signing off. 

You can find my photography blog Photomania here 

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A Memorable Day

Saturday 1143  1st September 2018

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Yes indeed here I am again 1 yr and 8 months since my past post, which I can barely believe!  Unfortunately the Saturdays did not stand still during my absence; they just kept on disappearing.  Of course the fact that I haven’t been writing my blog doesn’t mean I haven’t been doing anything or that nothing has been happening in the world. We’ve had Trump and the Brexit vote – least said about both of those the better!

Anyway here I am again.

This Saturday was the 1st September and that is a memorable day for me for 2 reasons and I wanted to record it in some way.

The first is that my father Albert, known as Bert, would have been 116 on this day. He was born on the 1st September 1902.  Seems amazing to me when I write that but then I remember that he was 23 years older than my mum and was already 51 when I was born. He always seemed old to me, hardly surprising as I believe he had been raised by his grandparents.

This is one of only 2 photos I have of me with him.  I don’t know who took this photo but I’m pretty sure the camera didn’t belong to us. There was no money for such luxuries in our poor , working class household.

It makes me happy that he seems so delighted.

20180902_151607

My father died a couple of months after my 17th birthday when he was just 68 and had only recently retired.  I went off to school as normal that morning and it was Home Economics day. I made a pineapple upside down cake which was one of my dad’s favourites.  When I got home later that afternoon he was gone.

He had died that morning of a massive heart attack whilst getting up out of his chair to get his cigarettes from the mantelpiece. He was a heavy smoker as was my mum then. In those days there were no warnings about the dangers of smoking and almost everyone seemed to smoke. I don’t remember anyone saying how young he was because 68 wasn’t considered young in the early 70’s. He’d already had a couple of minor heart attacks and I am very mindful that if that had happened today he would probably have had his coronary arteries stented ,just as I have had done, and would likely have lived much longer.

I am grateful that my mother made me go and see him, at the chapel of rest, as she wisely said if I didn’t see him I might not believe he had actually died.  Mum never married again even though she was only 44 when she was widowed. I don’t think it was a particularly happy marriage. 

It has been a sadness throughout my life that I never really knew my father and have hardly any memories of him, as he worked very long hours. Anyway I think you only really get to know your parents as you move into adulthood.  

The 2nd reason the 1st September is a memorable day for me is because 39 years ago I got married. It was a beautiful sunny day, just like it was here on this 1st September, and indeed seems to be so almost every year.  We got married in church because that was what you did then and my husband’s family were very religious. I felt pretty hypocritical because I didn’t then, and don’t now, believe in God. My mother gave me away in the absence of my dad.

Here is photo of me on my wedding day. I went from being a very chubby baby to a very slender 25 year old. Let’s not discuss where I am now 😉 

20180902_151802

Sadly the marriage ended after 20 years but we had 2 children that we both adored and, again sadly, my ex-husband died 10 years ago.  I am glad my children had time to get to know their father.

Life goes on.

I hope you were able to get to know and have a good relationship with your father. If you didn’t, and he’s still alive, maybe it’s not too late to change that? 

Your thoughts are very welcome as ever.

Saturday Girl signing off. I’m sure it won’t be so long before I write again ! 

You can find my photography blog Photomania here 

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