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IEET > Rights > FreeThought > Vision > Sociology > Bioculture > Staff > Hank Pellissier

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“Humanist Missionaries” aim to secularize Africa via Children’s Education


Hank Pellissier
By Hank Pellissier
Brighter Brains

Posted: Mar 22, 2016

Africa is the world’s most religious continent.

Brighter Brains Institute (BBI) - a San Francisco Bay Area think-and-do-tank - seeks to counter that, by establishing and supporting secular “humanist” schools in the region.

What is BBI’s motivation?

BBI believes humanist, rationalist thinking can save thousands of lives in the Subsaharan. Proof of this contention can be found in the religious condemnation of condom use that contributes to the HIV/AIDS epidemic that kills 1,200,000 Africans annually. Religious sanctions against condoms also results in unprotected sex that causes unplanned pregnancies, leading to thousands of unwanted African newborns abandoned in orphanages or trash bins. Additionally, the ten nations with the highest fertility rates are Subsaharan, an impoverished area with the world’s highest fertility rate that expects a potentially-catastrophic population explosion from today’s 1.1 billion to 2.4 billion by 2050.

Religious conflict has also killed thousands of Africans. Strife in the Sudan between religious groups has led to the death of 2.8 million inhabitants in the last seventy years. In Nigeria, the extremist group Boko Haram has killed 20,000 and displaced 2.3 million. Religious battles in the Central African Republic have recently displaced 20% of the population. In western Uganda, where Brighter Brains Institute primarily works, two terrorist groups contained religious extremists - The Lord’s Resistance Army (Christian) and the Alllied Democratic Forces (Muslim). These militias ravaged the Ruwenzori region, leaving destruction, AIDS, and orphans in their wake.

A third reason to promote secular thought in Africa is to encourage rational thought and efficient problem-solving. Many Africans believe success is attained through prayer and divine intervention. The President of Malawi, Peter Mutharikia, recently urged the citizenry to pray for rain and a good harvest, urged on by the governmental “advisor on religious affairs, Apostle Timothy Khoviwa.” BBI believes African devotion to superstitious beliefs is prevents national leaders and the average citizen from sensibly solving complex problems.

Brighter Brains Institute is secularizing Africa through children’s education

BBI initiated its secularization strategy by assisting Kasese Humanist Primary School (KHPS) in western Uganda. BBI initially helped KHPS by gifting them with a medical clinic that provides free health care to the school’s students. Next, it established scholarships and sponsorships to needy students (especially orphans), it funded an after-school Creativity Lab that teaches singing, dancing, and filmmaking, and it purchased sports equipment for KHPS teams.

Children at BiZoHa Humanist Orphanage School

Following that, BBI raised $40,000 to build and launch BiZoHa Orphanage Humanist School, in the nearby town of Muhokya. The funds were sufficient to build “from the ground up” 10 classrooms, plus a kitchen, dining room, solar panels, a roadside stand where agricultural produce from the property’s 7 acres is sold, and a medical clinic that provides medicine to all students, plus free AfriPads to the older girls, and sex education. BiZoHa opened its doors for school enrollment on February 22, 2016. Attendance is already 168 pupils.

A third BBI project - Kahendero Humanist Nursery School - launched its campaign just six weeks ago. 75% of funds have already been raised.

BBI owes its success to over 250 humanist / atheist contributors. Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) has aided in advertising its activities, and many contributions have poured in from postings on reddit/atheism. Humanist Canada and Humanists, Atheists, and Agnostics of Manitoba (HAAM) have been exceptionally helpful.

Future strategy BBI will attempt is bolder but cheaper - its goal is to persuade existing Ugandan schools to adopt humanist principles.

In Uganda there are hundreds of private religious schools, primarily Anglican and Catholic. Additionally, there are many that are non-denominational.

BBI has convinced four schools in the latter category to adopt a humanist curriculum. Rays of Light Orphanage School, Vision Care School, Mughete Junior School, and Mother Givers School, are all in or near Kyarumba, a small village in the Ruwenzori Mountain foothills of western Uganda.

The four schools have been offered a wide variety of “perks” for accepting a humanist curriculum. The benefits include:

1) BBI installs a clinic - paying for medicines, the medic’s salary - that gives free health care to the students ($1,500 value)

2) BBI provides a free school lunch program ($1,200 value)

3) BBI provides funds to build, rebuild, or remodel one classroom per year, for three years ($1,100 value)

4) BBI provides science education materials ($300 value)

5) BBI provides a humanist teacher and pay his or her salary ($600 value)

6) BBI provides free AfriPads to the older girls ($300 value)

 

Total cost = $5,000 per year.

In exchange for these benefits, the newly-humanist schools will:

1) Discontinue prayer and religious indoctrination at the school

2) Post the “Ten Humanist School Values” in every classroom (see below)

3) Provide sex education to older children

4) Encourage students to understand and appreciate humanist ideas

5) Add the word “Humanist” to the name of the school, e.g., “Vision Care Humanist School”

 

Brighter Brains will work with Ugandan Humanist Schools Trust, to ensure that students in the new schools properly comprehend the concepts of humanism. Ugandan Humanist Schools Trust will also help BBI find additional schools.

BBI is also looking at other possible locations, in Madagascar, and Kenya.

The $20,000 in funds needed to “convert” the Rays of Light, Vision Care, Mughete Junior and Mother Givers schools will be raised via contributions to its social media platforms. The four clinics are already 100% funded.

The next step is to raise $4,800 for the free lunch programs to provide the religion-escaping youngsters with a nourishing mid-day meal, and to raise $4,400 for the three classrooms BBI promises to build.

To donate, click on the appropriate tabs here. All USA donations receive tax deductible receipts.


Hank Pellissier serves as IEET Managing Director and is an IEET Affiliate Scholar.
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