Can you believe that in the history of our village, there have only been three college graduates out of a community of 2,000?
When I was young, I had a dream of becoming a doctor. I believe many people in my village had such a dream, but failed to implement it because of financial costs and life challenges.
I came to realize that my people did want to study, because some have studied up to high school. But the higher you go with education, the more expensive it becomes. Our grandparents, brothers, and sisters ended up becoming peasants, fisherman and laborers at the construction sites.
Being an African community where polygamy is common, producing children could be another reason why education fails in our villages. I know for myself, when the time comes, I want only one wife and three children. But my father, for example, has three wives and seventeen children. He takes care of everyone in the family. There has been much struggle in terms of which child goes to school first, who goes to a good school, which wife receives favors and love. I have been seeing this happen since childhood. My dad is just a taxi driver, with all this burden, but he chose this path.
None of his siblings have gone beyond high school. Culturally, in Uganda, it is the responsibility of the siblings to look after one another financially. Because my dad had seventeen children, he was unable to look after his siblings and could barely support us. There is no way families will fulfill their dreams when there is such power always pulling them behind.
S.O.U.L. Foundation is an organization that builds partnership with parents in my community, and as a result of their work in my village, my dad has been chosen by our people to be a leader of the Parent’s Committee. His job is to help other parents learn to invest in education through their children, and to help create a lasting bond between the parents and S.O.U.L. This has been done successfully.
Following in his footsteps, I became the Chairman of the Student’s Committee for S.O.U.L. My work is to organize debates and discussion groups during the holidays, make sure that S.O.U.L. has reading books that students need and act as the messenger for students’ requests.
In only four years in operation, S.O.U.L. has pushed five university students to school: Richard, Sapha, Moses, Fatima, and Dr. Dan. Soon we will add to the village graduates myself, Olivia, and Kaliphan, who will be joining university this year in August. In addition to our university scholars, there are now 220 students in primary and high school with individual sponsors in the United States. These sponsors pay 50% of our tuition, our parents pay the other 50%, which maintains the partnership between S.O.U.L. and the parents. S.O.U.L. works with all kinds of people regardless of religion, social status, whether they are poor or orphans, and they with all vulnerable people in my village and beyond.
I chose to go to school to study agriculture because of the many possibilities to set up fish ponds in the future. I hope this will reduce my village’s over-dependence on the River Nile and Lake Victoria, and provide us with food security in our community, as fish are a quality source of protein.
It is my goal – and I believe the goal of many young people in my village – to help my community grow and thrive. Since S.O.U.L. Foundation began working with our village and supporting my education, I now can see this dream as a real possibility.
During the day there is sun, at night there is the moon and stars. All of these provide light to us. Now, S.O.U.L. is another source of light and positive change for our community, and for myself. The souls within us believe that through education and empowerment which S.O.U.L. has cultivated in our village, Kyabirwa will reach great heights.