Each day children in Uganda face limited educational opportunities, illiteracy, disease and even death. A child should not have to think about his/her basic needs being met. But when parents are seeking to survive, their child’s education is neglected. Uganda’s schools should be a place of hope for their youth. Instead, the average class size is just under 100 students—leaving teachers overworked and unable to give proper attention to their pupils. Most schools enroll as many children as possible in order to benefit economically and, hopefully, one day expand their property. This ‘business mentality’ of Ugandan schools fails to give proper attention to the children who count on education to brighten their future.
A few weeks ago I met a young man named Baye. Baye is in his 20s and makes money by fetching water and disposing of people’s trash. Baye is an orphan; both of his parents died of AIDS when he was young, leaving him to only complete a few years of elementary school. To this day, Baye is illiterate. Until a few weeks ago, he could only count from 1 to 10. The lack of investment into Baye’s life has left him to depend on other people’s honesty for his daily wage (something that is not dependable in Uganda). Over the years, he has lived with different people, and due to their own lack of education and failure to provide him school fees, Baye has been left uneducated and without hope for his future. Baye wants to attend school, he simply has not been afforded this opportunity.
Recently, a Ugandan high school student and I began tutoring Baye in simple math. Our hope is that these lessons will empower him to gain a fair day’s wage for his labor. Each night Baye comes to our home to learn, displaying great effort and enthusiasm. He often looks down with his eyebrows narrowed as he concentrates and when he completes a problem he looks up to us waiting for us to say, “gebale ko” (“well done”) or offer correction. His humility allows him, a grown man, to overcome a lifetime of educational disadvantage as he practices simple counting exercises.
Baye’s is only one story of a forsaken child in Uganda, but many others also share his story. Even those who have been afforded educational opportunities have not learned because they lacked simple school supplies (paper, pencil, and required textbooks), were malnourished and unable to think critically, their teacher failed to give them proper attention, or they missed too many days because of the multitude of sicknesses that plague this region.
Change needs to take place in Uganda. Investment needs to go towards the children. Education and empowerment are in great demand. God desires the children of Uganda to have futures that are not inhibited by their lack of education and present state of poverty but filled with ideas of change, health and hope! This dream can come true but it will require the people of Uganda to take responsibility for the next generation. Children need education, which requires more teachers, smaller class sizes, and willing people to give their time and effort so that the youth of this country can have a brighter future. As of now, far too many children wander the streets, play in trash, and are left unsupervised. This summer we are doing our best to not only learn about the disadvantages Ugandan children face, but offer opportunities for them to learn. For this summer, we engage in one-on-one tutoring, Saturday night youth Bible study, support a few children with school fees and contribute towards the ongoing education of local teachers. We are very hopeful and challenged to take on the responsibility of investing into the youth here. Things are going to change!
Written by: Lyssa Loeffler