“I do not believe what I read in the newspapers per se, but I see in the budget that money for education is being slashed. I kindly request that the government reconsider.”
A brave thing for a college principle to say in Uganda in the presence of the Prime Minster. But that is exactly what Benon Kwirkirliza, Principle of Great Lakes Regional College, did as he addressed their 4th annual graduation ceremony.
The Prime Minister later denied that this was the case – whether in the UK or Uganda it seems that things never change!
This kind of stanch defence of education is something I have come to expect from Benon. He has helped to build the college up from a staff of just 16 in 2006 to 54 today. These staff now run 46 degree, diploma and certificate courses and have helped almost 700 young Ugandans to gain the vocational training and qualifications they need to enter the job market or, as is hoped, become entrepreneurial job creators in their own right.
The college, which has a strong and continuing relationship with Volunteer Uganda through our partner NGO, CHIFCOD, continues to grow. The Prime Minister laid the foundation stone of the new science wing and the college trustees have begun the journey to turn the college into an accredited university.
Having the Prime Minister of Uganda, President Museveni’s right hand man, at the graduation ceremony shows importance, and rarity, of such occasions.
Uganda has fewer than 100,000 graduates throughout the entire country with fewer than 1500 graduating each year – in the UK, around 350,000 people graduate each year). This is a reflection of just how difficult it is to get to tertiary education let alone complete a degree course.
But as I watched the graduation ceremony, saw the 183 smiling faces of the class of 2013 and witnessed the proud parents and guardians anxious for a loving embrace in recognition of their child’s achievement and their own sacrifice in getting to this happy day, it became clear to me that this is the end point of the work Volunteer Uganda, and other development agents, undertake in Kanungu district.
Much is needed to get to this point; teachers and good quality teaching, child sponsorship, infrastructure development, an ethos of education as being the most important weapon to combat poverty.
Volunteer Uganda facilitates of these factors and more. The children that we work with in Kanungu primary schools today will be the college graduates of a distant tomorrow.
In 10 years time, a college student with mortar board fixed firmly in place on graduation day could look back at a talented kid with great potential but little in the way of means to climb to the peak of educational success and think to themselves, for the briefest of moments, that they are there because the kindness, generosity or inspiration delivered by one of our volunteers.
That volunteer could be you.
To find out more about how you could inspire a generation visit www.volunteeruganda.org