Access to education in Uganda and the benefits of having a tertiary education.
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.
“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..”
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
Interview by Tove Egelrudh