By Margarita Rose
Entebbe, Uganda– The decision to return to Entebbe (via Kampala) a day earlier than originally scheduled offered opportunities to attend to tasks and meet with people we wanted to see before we headed home. So, some of our group made the drive to Kampala on Sunday to visit the bountiful craft market to pick up additional artifacts and make a return visit to FEMRITE, the Uganda Women Writers Association. Others used the afternoon to visit Malayka House, an orphanage in Entebbe started by an American, which provides a loving home for dozens of HIV-infected and -affected children and the aunties who care for them. Some of the home’s income-generating activities include sales of Bobo’s Coffee and Pizza Night each Tuesday, catering to ex-pats looking for a little taste of home, themselves.
For me, the afternoon in Kampala was a chance to catch up with a former student of mine, Joseph Rwabuhinga–the first King’s College graduate from Uganda. Joseph’s story is one that would make any teacher proud, and illustrates how abundantly an investment in people can pay off. Through scholarships and hard work, Joseph completed his undergraduate studies at Stonehill College in Massachusetts, another Holy Cross institution, and received his Masters of Science degree in Finance from King’s in 1995. After his return to Uganda, Joseph had stints in various government positions, including with the Uganda Wildlife Authority, where he helped transition the authority to a self-supporting entity, rather than one that relies on annual government budgets.
Now a successful partner in the private sector with DAJ Communications, Ltd.(an MTN franchise offering telecommunications equipment, and cell phone and mobile money services), Joseph also serves on the board of a tea growers cooperative and supports youth empowerment initiatives. His efforts even caught the attention of Uganda’s First Lady, who invited him to the State House for a Youth Forum dinner, organized to bolster support for this critical venture that engages young Ugandans in thought-provoking conversations about avoiding early pregnancy, avoiding drug abuse, staying in school, and serving the community.
Monday, our final day in Uganda, presented another venue for discussing the future for Uganda’s youth, “bookending” our first official activity with our final official activity at Kisubi Brothers University College (KBUC). This time our student teachers (and a few of our current teachers), spent their time at KBUC with their counterparts. Meanwhile, the rest of us met with the Dean of the Faculty of Education, along with several staff members. It was a lively exchange about whether our two systems had much in common, or faced challenges on markedly different levels.
There is no doubt these faculty members understand the difficulties their students will face when they leave the KBUC campus. They realize some students may have no choice about where they wind up teaching, if they even secure a position. They know that some new teachers will have the good fortune of teaching at an institution that is well-equipped, where students are healthy and properly fed, and where teachers are regularly paid a good salary. By the same token, they realize their graduates may find themselves in woefully under-resourced schools, teaching 100+ students in a crowded classroom, with no textbooks, some hungry, some ill, some with unmet special needs, but nearly all eager to learn and convinced that education is truly an investment that they and their families cannot afford to ignore.
Later that day, as we packed our bags and made our way to Entebbe International Airport–where former King’s College president Fr. Tom O’Hara, CSC joined us on the flight to Amsterdam–each of our group members processed in his or her own way what this month-long experience in Uganda had meant, how it had impacted our lives, and how it would impact our students and our communities in the future. There’s no doubt in my mind that each group member has been “changed for good.”
On behalf of all the members of the “Learning from Ugandan Models of Education Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad, I thank you for reading our blog and encourage you to continue to learn about this wonderful East African country and its people. You will always be “most welcome.”