Like illustrated in a previous article, education in Uganda is considered a human right and the Government of Uganda aim for free education up to secondary school. Education is viewed as a part of the solution to reducing poverty. According to the Borgen Project, the education system in Uganda struggles with many challenges unfortunately. For instance, there are still a major problem with the school fees that many families struggle with. Another problem is the absent of qualified teachers. Two of the solutions is education and sponsorship. Through sponsorship, children would be able to go to school and as well be given an opportunity to continue to the university. This would also result in more qualified teachers.
Godfrey Habumuremyi is one of the 180 beneficiaries of Mgahinga Community Development Organization (MCDO) sponsorship scheme. Godfrey grew up in Mgahinga area with his family. Before 1991, the forest in the national park was a settlement for local people. After 1991, when Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (MGNP) was founded, the people were forced to move from their land outside the park. The Government offered some little compensation for some family, but only in a small scale which forced many families to buy their own land, including Godfrey’s family. A result from this was that many households struggled to provide their children with an education. Also, during that time there were culture beliefs that education doesn’t have any value, but today education is viewed as the key for a better life.
When Godfrey’s family moved, they had a hard time to balance all the children. Godfrey sold sugarcane to be able to buy his school books and for a long time his family wanted him to leave the school so he could help out at home. One of Godfrey’s teachers in primary school saw the potential in Godfrey and offered him to pay for the school fees in senior one (S.1) to motivate Godfrey and his parents.
You could say that your teacher in primary school is the main reason on why you continued your studies in the first place, what happened after finishing primary school?
I studied really hard and I was the best in the class, which my teacher noticed. He also knew that my parents wanted me to leave school so I could help them out at home. To motivate them and to help me, he paid for my schools fees in senior 1. But my family still wanted me to leave the school, because they could not value my studying. When I was planning to leave school, there were children who got sponsored that told me about the MCDO sponsorship project. So I wrote them a letter. The first time I applied, they told me there was no opportunity for me to get sponsored. But in senior 2, I applied once again and was offered an opportunity to be sponsored from 2005 up to the university.
After the university, I started volunteering at MCDO, from October 2013 to March 2014. From there, I participated in community based tourism network (Uganda Community Tourism Association) in Kampala. I passed the course, so I was sponsored to go South Africa where I spent one month. After that training, we went to work in different countries, so I went to Kenya. There I was working for Kenya Community Based Tourism Network for 14 months. I came back to MCDO in August 2015 and started to work as a program officer which I’m working with now. I participated in different programs, like Global Environment Facility and enrolled in an agricultural training from Netherlands in 2016.
How has the sponsorship affected you and your family?
Of course it has affected me in a great way! Both at individual level and my family. In the long run, they have supported me to get new experiences. It has given me pride to my family but it was also a surprise to my family because they didn’t think that one of their children would be able to go the university. With education I’ve been able to be exposed to other countries and meeting new people. And above all, I have gained financially through employment.
How do you think your life would be if you wouldn’t have the opportunity to get the sponsorship?
For me, I think I would have a big family and be poor because I wouldn’t be able to find a good job. Maybe I would join some bad company or have a bad habit like drinking much alcohol. I don’t think I would be happy with that life. In this world, you can’t compete with educated people. If I wouldn’t have an education I don’t think I would be able to speak English and be a part of the world outside Uganda. With my education, I have accessed many opportunities.
What do you think need to change so everyone can get a good education and have an opportunity to go to university?
I think at some levels, school fees need to be paid by our government, and it should ensure access to education to everyone. From primary to secondary it is free, but in university it’s not. To make an impact, government would give school loans where students can pay fees upon starting to work for a while. The responsibility is on the Government because it needs a big political change so everyone can be able to get an education. I know the government has talked about giving loans to students, but I’m not sure how and when to do so. But it’s only for university students. So if you don’t have an opportunity to go to primary or secondary school, it’s no use to you.
What do you dream about?
With my education, I see myself establishing an agricultural value addition firm here in Kisoro. Am developing a business plan for that and I think I can be able to do that in 5 or 10 years. Out from this, I would like to build a homestay in Kisoro. It’s an idea I have learned from Kenya.
Would you like to donate and contribute to a better future of young children in Uganda? Please contact us at email@example.com
If you want more information about the MCDO sponsorship scheme and and how you can get involved, check the following pages:
In January, three social works students from Sweden arrived to Kisoro to join the MCDO’s team until May 2018. They are from Mid Sweden University, located in Östersund. We thought it was a good idea to introduce you to them to get to know them a little bit.
Who are you and why did you choose MCDO for your internship?
I’m Alex, and I love to travel and experience new countries, that’s why I choose to do my internship abroad. I heard about MCDO through my teacher and I’ve been in Africa before, and I loved it, so I found this was a good opportunity to go back. MCDO have a lot of different projects, which caught my interest and I think I will learn a lot from them. I’m really excited to be once again in a different country in Africa.
Did you have any expectations before you came here?
Yes, of course, I expected a well-functional organization and I definitely think they are! I was excited to see how social work world looks like here in Uganda. I also have an expectation of learning more about their different projects. I will learn a lot from them!
Is there any project that you are working on more at MCDO?
No, I’m a little bit everywhere. I want to get an overview about the different projects so I get a wide perspective and experiences and really understand MCDO impact and work around the Mgahinga community.
What’s your dream?
I have a dream to work international, but I don’t know where exactly yet. And someday I want to build on my education so I can become a psychotherapist. And of course continuing to travel a lot!
Final question, what’s your first impression of Mgahinga?
Oh, so many nice people, beautiful nature and landscape! And a lot of hills, haha.
Tells us a little bit about yourself and why you did choose MCDO for your internship!
I’m Lisa and I’m 26 years old student from Uppsala, south Sweden. My family and boyfriend live in Uppsala, but I study in Östersund. I choose MCDO because of teacher at my school, Charlotte. She talked about MCDO and the work they have done. And I thought it sounded really interesting with the different projects that they had, and a good experience for me.
What do you want to learn from MCDO?
I want to learn to see things from different perspectives and get new insights. I wanted to see how change is possible with small tools. I like the challenge and I thought MCDO had a lot to give me. I have actually already noticed that MCDO and people around Mgahinga and Kisoro have taught me more than I could have imagined. And I hope that I can lead own project at MCDO.
Have you found any difficulties so far?
I thought it would be easier to adapt to the new environment, so I wasn’t prepared that it would be this different from home with the poverty and especially the children who aren’t at school. The work with MCDO have really opened my eyes.
What do you want to work with after your education?
I want to help people. One dream I have is to work with different projects and directions in social work in Sweden.
Finally, what do you think of Mgahinga?
So much fresh air! And an incredible amazing atmosphere!
Who are you and have did you found out about our organization?
My name is Tove, and I like also to experience new things and travel to new places. That’s why I wanted to do my internship abroad as well. I found out about MCDO through my university. One of my teacher was here as a student, Charlotte, and she was one of those who started MbiriMbiri Association, MCDO’s partner organization in Sweden. She told me about the different projects at MCDO, like handicraft, education program, environment etc. I thought it sounded really interesting and a good opportunity to see how social work may look like in Uganda.
Did you have any fears and expectations before you arrive?
Oh yes, on both! I think my biggest fear was that MCDO wouldn’t live up to my expectations, that I wouldn’t like it here or feel like this was totally wrong for me. But it’s better than I expected. I’ve learnt so much about MCDO’s work, from the people who live here and about Uganda. I don’t think I could choose a better internship actually. I already feel like I want to come back and work here! Even if I’m aware of different culture and lifestyles, it has really given me new perspective on many things, like for example I’m very grateful that I can sleep in a bed and have an opportunity to study at university for free.
Where do you see yourself after you graduation?
I see myself working international, maybe at some Non-governmental organization like Amnesty or Socionomer utan Gränser. I have a passion for human rights and justice, so I see myself working with those subjects. I also have a dream to start my own business, but that’s another story.
Final question, how do you like Mgahinga so far?
I really like it here, people are so friendly and the nature is magical! It will be hard to leave this place.
Welcome Lisa, Alex and Tove to our team!
Follow their journey @trefotter
For updates @mcdo_uganda
Mgahinga Community Development Organization has had an exciting start of 2018! In the beginning of January, one volunteer from Sweden joined our team, Magnus Åhlin. He will be here until end of March and is working with different projects at the Mgahinga Community Nursery and Primary School (MCNPS). One of the projects Magnus is working on is the construction of the new school building. The construction hasn’t been able to get completed because of limited financial resources. Through collecting donations, Magnus has been able to hire construction workers and procure materials to continuing the work of the new building, and also provide the students new footballs and sports clothing. Thanks to his initiative the new school building is estimated to be finished this year! Follow Magnus work on instagram @sweganda
On the 5th of February, the students at MCNPS started a new semester. We welcome the new students and wish them a good start of the semester!
In the beginning of February, two others volunteers joined our team, Maria Svensson and Daniel Gustafsson. They stayed with us for two weeks and worked at the school as teachers. They also have donated money to finish the staircase at the new building. Many thanks to your good work and contribution! We are very grateful for that. You can follow Daniel and Maria on instagram @dege78 @miaswensson
At the same time, we had our annual visit of students and teachers from Nicolai High School in Helsingborg, Sweden. During their time in Kisoro, the students visited Kisoro Vision Secondary School to exchange knowledges and interview the students and teachers of Vision School. The students also interacted with MCDO staff to get better understanding of MCDO impact and work. The MCDO Student Exchange Program have made it possible for students from Sweden to visit Kisoro district which has promoted cross-cultural experiences and learning between the Swedish Community and the people in Kisoro District. Some of the well-wishers that support our Sponsorship Program are among the students who have visited MCDO in the past. We are happy to once again to host Nicolai students!
MCDO is looking into possibilities of expanding the exchange program to other countries in Europe and North America. With more than 10 years running the education program, we are open to other new partnerships both in high schools and institutions of higher learning. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information! Read more about the Student Exchange Program HERE
School fees are a common obstacle for many families to provide their children and youths an education. Even if it’s mandatory for children to go to school and the public schools are free of charge, there is it still some difficulties for youths to undertake a university graduation. The lack of resources in the school is a big problem, especially in the public schools because of priorities. Private schools are more common, so many families have to turn to these schools. One of the main focus of Mgahinga Community Development Organisation (MCDO)’s work is availing education opportunities for children in the communities adjacent to Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (MGNP) in Kisoro district, southwestern Uganda.
The collaboration with MbiriMbiri Association in Sweden and other partners have done that possibility through the sponsorship program, which has provided many children better education. One of the beneficiaries of the sponsorship program is Edison Ndayambaje, who also is a team member of MCDO. When MGNP was created in the early 1990s, Edison and his family lost their land and were pushed to farm outside the park. Today he lives in Boston, USA, has a Master’s Degree in Sustainable International Development and works for World Education, Inc. Edison’s journey to where he is now hasn’t been straight forward. Part of his success is attributed to the sponsorship program and ultimately hard work. We meet Edison when he was in Kisoro for an interview about how the sponsorship has affected his life.
In Uganda education is free of charge until high school but still it’s not so common that children and youth doesn’t finished these years, why do you think that depends on?
Most of it depends on financial resources. Public school doesn’t usually have enough funds because of so many priorities. The lack of teachers is another problem, especially in rural schools. However, there are more private schools in the towns and they usually take a school fee but they tend to perform generally better. And even if it’s mandatory here in Uganda to go to school, we don’t have anyone running after kids to go to school. It’s the parent’s duty to bring their children to school. And many families don’t have the money to bring their kid to a private school, unfortunately.
So, how common is it for young people to go to the university?
Almost every child goes to primary school in Uganda. Sadly not every student makes it to the university. Since university entrance solely depends on high grades, the quality of education one gets in high schools determines who joins the university.
Another problem is that it’s so expensive to go to the university. Even if more young people are willing to go to the university today, high tuition fees deters many from attaining university education. Without a university education, chances of getting a better paying job, and ultimately a better life, are very minimal. So I think the problem lies in quality of education in the early years of education, and the limited financial resources for parents to meet university fees.
You got sponsored when you were quite young, can you tell us about how you got sponsored?
I was sponsored from secondary school up to University. The sponsorship selection was both merit and need based. To be selected, I had to fill an application that was scored based on criteria.
Education is right for all people and not just for those who can afford it. How has the sponsorship affected you and your family?
I wouldn’t have done what I’m doing today without an education. Education availed more opportunities, and the sponsorship made that possible because it paid some of my school fees. I was able go to the university in Kampala and for further studies in Denmark. Education is the key to a better life. Thanks to the MCDO sponsorship program. I can now support others, including my family. Education has also given me international opportunities. MbiriMbiri supported me to enroll into a winter course in Denmark. It would be fair to say that studying in Denmark contributed immensely in securing the Global Health Corps Fellowship in the USA. Thanks to MCDO’s initiative, I’ve been able to get an education and experience the world. I’ve always pushed myself forward and focus on studying hard. My family has always supported me and they are very proud of me.
And now I’m able to give something back to them, which underscores what the sponsorship has given me.
Would you like to donate and contribute to a better future of young people? Click here!
If you want more information about the sponsorship program and MbirMbiri Association, please visit http://www.mcdou.org/education-and-sponsorship-programs.html or https://web.facebook.com/mbirimbiri/
Interviewed by: Tove Egelrudh, Lisa Nordh Hedenskog & Alex Johannesson, Social Work Students at Mid Sweden University
The conservation project being implemented by MCDO at Mgahinga Nursery and Primary School in Kisoro started from September 2017 and ends February 2018. The project is being supported by Daktari Andorra, the Association for improving the health and welfare of African livestock. The project focuses on the integration of conservation education in preserving both the environment and wildlife. The project encompasses all possible strategies on community to promote environmental sustainability and resiliency to climate change through engaging community members and school children in tree planting, proper sanitation and hygiene.
Through the CEEP project, children and community members have been introduced to environmental conservation strategies by engaging in the following activities:
MCDO is among the selected Civil Society organizations who attended the Post COP 23 feedback Workshop and Roadmap in Kampala, Uganda. The workshop intended to discuss the results from twenty third Conference of Parties (COP23) that took place in Bonn Germany (6th -17th November). The workshop took place on 5th-6th December 2017 at Silver Springs Hotel in Bugolobi-Kampala.
As a follow up action, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) in collaboration with the Climate Change Department-Ministry of Water and Environment (CCD/MWE), ACODE, EMLI Bwaise Facility, Climate Action Network-Uganda (CAN-U) & ENR CSO Network convened the Post COP23 feedback workshop.
The workshop intended to bring together all stakeholders to discuss and reflect on the outcomes of the COP23 in the context of Uganda's needs and aspirations. Various stakeholders, including commissioners, various CSOs and members of parliament in-charge of climate change were involved to create awareness on the ongoing strategies towards climate change concerns.
A paper detailing key actions to be addressed by government and other stakeholders was generated. The paper was submitted to the Climate Change Department in the Ministry of Water and Environment, which informed the Government position for COP 23 discussions in Bonn, Germany.
KAMPALA, 18th September, 2017 - On 12th September 2017, Mgahinga Community Development Organization (MCDO) participated in the national Global Environment Facility Civil Society Organizations (GEF-CSO) Network meeting that was held at Kampala Kolping Hotel. MCDO was represented by Program Officer, Godfrey Habumuremyi. The meeting was hosted by the RFP for East Africa, Environmental Management for Livelihood Improvement Bwaise Facility (EMLI) and the GEF-CSO Network Uganda Chapter supported by the Government of Uganda, GEF Small Grants Programme and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) under the CSO-Government Dialogue Project.
The capacity building meeting was organized to update members on a number of GEF related matters aimed at building member capacity and also identify needs for further capacity development. Among other issues, members were informed that there is need to update the network membership and the minimum requirements for updating membership are; an annual report and an audited report.
In recommendation, members found a need for GEF-CSO government Dialogue project to facilitate exchange visits and experience sharing amongst GEF members to enhance capacity on how to implement successful GEF projects.
Kisoro, Uganda – Mgahinga Community Development Organization (MCDO) will join MbiriMbiri Association (MMA) On 12th August 2017 to celebrate 20 years of partnership. The much anticipated ceremony which will be gloried by friends and supporters for MCDO and MMA, will be held in Helsingborg, Sweden. Three staff members from MCDO will attend the festivities on behalf of the communities in Kisoro.
The collaboration between MCDO and MMA dates back to the early 1990s at the time when Amajambere Iwacu Community Camp was the only project run by the communities in Mgahinga. MbiriMbiri Association was founded by students from Osterlen Folk High School who picked interest in development work during their research studies in Kisoro. MCDO and MMA have worked closely for more than a decade to advance education and conservation efforts.
MMA has invested heavily in supporting education sponsorships for young men and women in Kisoro district. As we celebrate this important milestone, more than 150 students have benefited from this flagship sponsorship program. Additionally, MMA has facilitated establishment of new partnerships between MCDO and institutional partners across Sweden such as Nicolai High School, Volunteer Travels, Hallands 4H, and many others. As we plan to prioritize education as the best investment to empower communities, fight poverty, and promote self-reliance, we appeal to our partners to walk this path with us.
Happy 20th Anniversary MbiriMbiri! Looking forward to more years of collaboration.
Are you in Sweden and interested in joining MbiriMbiri’s 20th Anniversary celebrations on August 12th, check MbiriMbiri Association Facebook page for details.
Over the last 10 years, Mgahinga Community Development Organization (MCDO) has worked closely with education institutions in Sweden to promote cross cultural learning. MCDO hosts groups of students every year who come to Uganda to learn about different issues ranging from public health, education and environmental justice. Majority of the students come from three high schools in the Swedish southern county of Skane. As of 2017, the high schools are Nicolai, Olympia and Tycho. We are so glad to have students from Skolstaden - Helsingborgs visiting Kisoro, Uganda this time again. Read more about this collaboration here.
Mgahinga Community Development Organization climate change impact mitigation strategy is centered on tree planting as means to combat deforestation and the rising CO2. Since 2011, MCDO has planted 800 indigenous trees and 2,200 agro-forestry fruit trees around Mgahinga Gorilla National Park (MGNP) and Lake Mutanda in Kisoro, Uganda. The tree planting campaign is projected to not only reduce human encroachment on MGNP and Lake Mutanda wetland in search of firewood and construction materials, but will also help in carbon sequestration. With uninterrupted growing forest cover, MGNP and Lake Mutanda will continue to play a critical role in regulating the local climate and water catchment for the neighboring communities where only 7% of the population has access to piped water.