Education, brighter futures, and freedom from the witch doctor

Uganda (MNN) — We know education is about more than learning — it’s a key to a better future, an ingredient to build confidence. But for Set Free Ministries, education is a component of spiritual freedom. Let us explain with a story from Uganda.

Victorious Tata Primary School (VTPS) began in 2009 as an answer to an outcry by the community. Children traveling miles to the nearest school weren’t exactly safe. In fact, one child had gone missing.

(Photo courtesy of Set Free Ministries)

Gospel workers in the area started the school on a small piece of volunteered land. But that was when Set Free Ministries arrived and helped them purchase a larger piece of land to build a school on. In 2012, a temporary building was put up, and today a permanent building is in place. The school body has grown from less than 30 children to over 447.

Francis Ssennyanjo, Executive Director of Set Free Ministries East Africa says, “Right now, the school has become a fully-fledged primary school, recognized and registered by the government of Uganda. Not only has it become a school, but it’s more or less an attraction to the whole community because a lot of influence is coming into the community as a result of this school.”

The background of this community is what reveals the significance of a school like VTPS. Ssennyanjo says the ground the school is built on used to belong to a witch doctor. As we shared last week, many communities in Africa have been ruled by the witch doctors, contributing to deadly cycles of poverty and disease.

“You end up having a community that simply has fear. And they subscribe to the whims and the rituals that are prescribed by the witch doctors. The outcome of that is all their resources in terms of earnings, in terms of what they get elsewhere, is being siphoned by the witch doctors,” Ssennyanjo explains.

In this area, there are a few thousand witch doctors, but few medical physicians. So, real medical help is rarely sought, and education becomes impossible for many children. The education available through Set Free Ministries is provided for free, and it is life-changing.
A symbol of freedom
The very building that makes up the school represents this life change — and freedom. At Set Free Ministries’ banquet last month, Ssennyanjo explained that whenever a new building is raised in communities like this one in Uganda, they have the witch doctor bless it. The belief is that without the witch doctors blessing, it will not stand.

Ssennyanjo says, “The community at large has a belief system that is grounded in the worship of the devil and the worship of evil spirits.”

But this school was built on ground that used to belong to a witch doctor. It still stands today, without any blessing by the witch doctor.
Learning the freedom in Christ
In the school, children are learning that they don’t need to fear the witch doctors. They are learning the truth about God, and the salvation given to them through Jesus.

Ssennyanjo says, “The children who are being taught in that school are able to go back and tell the community and tell their families the difference they experience as a result of being a part of that school.”

All in all, these kids have entered into a world of opportunity.

(Photo courtesy of Set Free Ministries)

“The children out there are enjoying a better life in terms of better health, in terms of being fed, in terms of spending more time out there in school and improving their school performance. Not only that, but [they are] also hearing and listening to the Word of God which is giving them a new understanding of life, new meanings, a sense of hope and ownership to their destiny.”

In addition to this, the children also are helped with other basic needs — like mosquito nets that prevent them from contracting malaria. And if the children do get sick while at the school, it is certain that the teachers there will not send them to a witch doctor.
Excellence in education
Alongside spiritual freedom, practical help is given through this school. Because the children understand the witch doctors hold no sway over them, they can pursue their education without fear. And, they are engaged spiritually and academically rather than loitering around the community day after day.

“The spiritual component is key because it fixes children to see things differently, whereby there’s a greater sense of discipline in terms of their focus. There’s hope [and] there’s the love that the children get from being at school.”

He says there is also a “sense of oneness” the children get in the school environment — they’re able to help each other out and learn what it means to be part of a team.

This team mentality, he shares, has helped the children hold to a sense of solidarity against the attitudes of the community at large. They are building confidence to continue working hard in school.

(Photo courtesy of Set Free Ministries)

And the grades, he says, are astonishing. In fact, marks from 2016 rivaled that of grades from Kampala, something Ssennyanjo says is almost unheard of in rural schools.

“When the children considerately perform better, that is a manifestation of change. That is a manifestation of new things happening in this community.”

If you’d like to support Set Free Ministries, click here. And please, pray for the students of VTPS to be a bright light for the Gospel in their community.

Check back this week as we learn how this school changed the outcome of one girl’s life, and what’s next for this ministry.