Building a Sacred Heart education in Uganda


Religious of the Sacred Heart Sister Hilda Bamwine danced onto the Sacred Heart Greenwich campus January 23, spreading her message of gratitude and her value of women’s education with her singing voice.  Sr. Bamwine is the Principal of the Sacred Heart Primary School in Uganda, which opened in 2003 with the support of the Sacred Heart Greenwich community.  Religious of the Sacred Heart Sister Joan Magnetti, former Head of School at Sacred Heart Greenwich, visited with Sr. Bamwine and helped her tell the story of Sacred Heart education in Uganda.

Sr. Bamwine began her primary school education when she was 13 years old with support from her uncle.  Her immediate family was poor, and her parents did not receive an education of their own.  Sr. Bamwine feels that her story is not uncommon and believes women’s education is not strongly supported in Africa. 

“In Uganda and in Africa, a woman’s role is to have children, to look after their husbands,” Sr. Bamwine said.  “But a woman’s role is beyond that.  When they are educated, their eyes are opened to look at other possibilities.”

Sr. Hilda Bamwine taught the students a traditional Ugandan song and dance. Daisy Steinthal ’19

Sr. Bamwine discovered her love for learning during her time at school and chose to pursue her educational career.  In the 1990s, she received her Bachelor of Arts and Master of Religious Education degrees from Loyola University in New Orleans, Louisiana, according to  

Before she became the Principal of the Sacred Heart school in Uganda, Sr. Bamwine was the Provincial Superior of the Uganda/Kenya Province, a position naming her the religious leader of the aforementioned province.

During her visit, Sr. Bamwine spoke to the senior class in the Senior Seminar morning forum.  She and Sr. Magnetti also spoke to all Upper School students and faculty during a Chapel service.  Sr. Bamwine shared her story, thanked the students and faculty for their support, and taught the students to sing and dance to a traditional Ugandan song.

“I would like to take this opportunity to thank you so much for the wonderful work you have done,” Sr. Bamwine said.  “You have no idea [of] the Sacred Heart school you built. I say you built it because we had the dream, [and] you joined us in the dream.”

Today, 762 young girls are enrolled in the Sacred Heart school in Uganda.  Each of these 762 students board at the school.  They study English, science, history, geography, mathematics, and religion.  They also participate in many activities such as dancing, singing, acting, gardening, drumming, cooking, and sewing.

“The girls [at our school], they’ve really picked up what it means to be loving education.  What will they be in the future? I bet they will change Uganda,” Sr. Bamwine said.

Each year, Lower School students at Sacred Heart Greenwich participate in “Jump Rope for Uganda,” an event that raises money for the Sacred Heart school in Uganda and brings awareness to women’s education in Africa.  Upper School students also support the sister school with fundraisers organized by the African Task Force club, a group that Sr. Magnetti founded.  

Sr. Magnetti’s attention was first drawn to Africa at a general chapter meeting while she was the Head of School at Sacred Heart Greenwich.

Sr. Joan Magnetti spoke to the Upper School students during a chapel service January 23.  Courtesy of Ms. Rachel Zurheide

“We got a letter at the time from the superior general to all the [Sacred Heart] nuns in the world saying that they really didn’t get the chance to discuss ‘the Africa issue,’” Sr. Magnetti said.

After copying and distributing the letter to Sacred Heart Greenwich faculty, Sr. Magnetti decided to take action to make a change.  Through her efforts, she found out that Uganda was planning to build an all-girls school with the help of Sr. Bamwine.

“We decided we needed to educate ourselves, so we got together this Africa Task Force made up of fourth-graders to twelfth-graders, parents, alumnae, [and] faculty,” Sr. Magnetti said.

Throughout her visit, Sr. Bamwine emphasized the value of education.  She left the students and faculty with messages to be thankful for what they have and to take action to better the world.  These sentiments align directly with Goal Three of Sacred Heart’s Goals and Criteria, “a social awareness which impels to action.”

“If we educate one woman, it is like planting one seed, a mustard seed.  [That seed] becomes a tree, and the tree has many buds,” Sr. Bamwine said.  “I have touched many lives, and I think if we educate many women, we will touch more lives.  I believe in that.”

Featured Image by Sydney Kim ’20