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 firstname.lastname@example.org
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