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.
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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