Education is expensive. But ignorance and illiteracy are much more expensive. That is why we invest in education. We promote practical skills and critical thinking. The focus is on the whole person, self-confidence, personal strengths and talents. In this context, 2022 created major challenges. After two years of lockdowns, many schools are finally closed and many families impoverished. So we started a scholarship programme for about 1000 scholarship holders. It was central for them, their families and teachers. We report and send you a Matura thesis analysing the scholarship programme.
- Education creates opportunities
- The whole person at the centre
- What we have learned
Education creates opportunities
We believe that going to school is the best way out of poverty.
That is why every child has a right to education. But in practice, this does not apply everywhere. 15 million Ugandan pupils have not been able to attend school for the last two years. When many of them wanted to return to school this year, many things went wrong. A third of all Ugandan schools have closed for good. Many families are too poor to pay school fees. National teacher strikes exacerbated the emergency.
Perhaps a third, or five million students, will never return to school. Even more: the lack of education and increasing illiteracy create vicious circles. They are personal and social vicious circles. But the sooner we act, the better we break it. It’s worth it, no matter how small our impact. That is why we launched a scholarship programme this year.
Almost 1000 scholarship holders received education, board and lodging for one year at one of a total of 61 selected partner schools. A big undertaking for a small organisation like us. But it was worth it. Because if you develop practical skills and self-confidence, everything is easier for you later on. Because although Uganda’s economy is poor, its opportunities are great and diverse.
Norah, for example, is a very talented nurse. Besides that, she is a wonderful person. Warm-hearted, helpful and focused, she has successfully trained as a nurse. No doubt, many opportunities will be open to her in Uganda.
Joseph has a wide range of interests. For example, he likes working with bees and beekeeping. At our forest farm in Buhweju, you see him here with an experienced beekeeper, from whom he learns a lot. But Joseph is also a sensitive artist who likes to sing, play music and also create graphics. No doubt, many opportunities are open to him as well.
The whole person at the centre
Education is more than encyclopaedic knowledge. For education to have an impact, it must speak to the heart. Good education is as individual as the people. Is that also possible in large classes? You bet! All the partner schools we have chosen put students at the centre – not books or rules.
We strive to promote not only language, science and general education, but also sports, music and critical thinking. Of course, no one is top in all subjects. But everyone has skills and talents. Good teachers can help to discover them. If our scholarships then also help to promote curiosity, ambition and school conditions, then a lot has already been gained.
Sport, play and music are important
Good school conditions are important
What we have learned
Three lessons remain for us from an eventful year:
- Skills are more important than degrees. Don’t get me wrong: certificates are important too. But skills learned with your heart, head and hands are more important. They are the best basis for a self-determined life.
- The early school years are the most important. Of course, academic education is also valuable. But the most important things are learned in the early years. Social skills, learning, writing, networking and critical thinking. If this basis is missing, the damage is great – both for the individual and for society.
- Success is contagious. We learn an astonishing amount by imitating others. This is another reason why a good school community is a powerful source of strength.
My son Valentin spent a few weeks in Uganda this year to study the effectiveness of our scholarship programme on the ground. With great support from social worker Ahmed Sulyman, he wrote a detailed evaluation which I am happy to attach here.
Click here to read the Matura paper.
I wish you a very happy Advent holiday!