Catalyzing systemic change across Uganda: A BT Fellow’s journey of self-transformation
Access to quality education remains elusive for many across Uganda, particularly in the rural areas where Building Tomorrow (BT) works. The challenges are numerous and far-reaching: teachers are often isolated with little or no access to a network of peers and professional development; community School Management Committees have not been equipped to effectively carry out their responsibilities; local government officers are severely limited in their time and resources and, perhaps most importantly, parents often see little value in investing in a system that is failing their children. Building Tomorrow has been faced with the question of how to simultaneously affect so many diverse issues. We’ve found the answer in a group of ten extraordinary individuals who now make up the Building Tomorrow Fellows.
The BT Fellows program engages Uganda’s youth in developing holistic and long-term solutions to systemic issues plaguing their country. Over the life of the program Fellows will empower 450 head teachers in hard-to-reach schools, train 3,600 community leaders in effective school management and ultimately enroll 38,200 out-of-school children.
We’ve found that to really understand the fellowship, you have to learn about it directly from a Fellow. So, we’ve asked Bruce to share his story:
Having grown up in rural Uganda, I studied in rural schools (Universal Primary Education (UPE) school) and experienced firsthand the daunting challenges these schools face. They are in hard-to-reach areas, often have uninspired teachers, lack instructional materials, and have high pupil to teacher ratios. As a BT Fellow, I am currently placed in the Lyantonde district of central Uganda. I have the mandate to work with head teachers in four government primary schools and, together with school management committees and surrounding communities, to work towards creating a self-sustaining system.
I facilitate training workshops for teachers during the course of the school year. I am always humbled when teachers and head teachers testify to the impact the trainings I conduct have had on them. One of the head teachers made this remark: "Because of your presence and the trainings, there has been a great change in the mindsets of my teachers”. “They have become more passionate and creative in their classes which are transforming the general environment at school for the better." When I hear such testimonies, I am encouraged to press on even more with the work. I am persuaded that our efforts at Building Tomorrow to transform education in Uganda are not in vain.
Through the Fellowship, I mobilize the local community to work together to develop their schools and I sensitize them about the importance of education. One particular problem I have found throughout my Fellowship is that most parents do not value education because they never had the opportunity to go to school. As a Fellow and a leader, I have the responsibility to go to people in their homes, persuade them to bring their children to the schools and also provide for their necessities like meals and scholastic materials by mobilizing the civil society organization and local government bodies in the area. This brings me a lot of joy as I realize that my input as a Fellow can have an impact on the life of a young person.
I have to confess that these experiences with the community are changing me. Eight months down the road as a Fellow, my hope in humanity is being restored. I have been to these villages, lived with the people, shared their meals, built relationships with them and discovered that there is a lot of potential in them that can be harnessed for their greatness. My mind has been opened up to the realities faced by people here in Uganda as a result of poverty, and the urgency to design solutions to their problems, especially in the education sector. This has challenged me to begin looking at the bigger picture of the purpose of my life. Yes, now I want to spend my entire life empowering ordinary people with a great education to rise out of poverty and become agents of change in their communities.
In January, because of the opportunity given to me by the Building Tomorrow Fellowship, I will attend the International Development Design Summit (IDDS) on the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) in developing rural areas.
About Building Tomorrow
Building Tomorrow catalyzes communities and individuals in support of access to quality education for students in East Africa. We do this by empowering young people to invest their time, talents and resources in support of new educational opportunities; facilitating the construction of community-built, locally-sustained primary schools; and building the human capacity and leadership of locally-based school management teams.