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Building tomorrow in Uganda
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Building tomorrow in Uganda

YOUTH WORK WEEK SPECIAL: Building Tomorrow recruits and trains young Ugandan university graduates and sends them to rural and under-served schools and communities.  With nearly eight million young people in the country, Erisa Sserwadda, 23, a Commonwealth Correspondent from Kampala, Uganda explores how young people can be mobilised to be part of the education solution.

Only 1 in 4 children who starts primary school in Uganda makes it to secondary school, and less than half of students are literate at the end of primary school, according to UNICEF

While much has been done over the years to improve school enrolment rates in the country, there is clearly much more left to do. Uganda is sitting on its greatest asset—young people. And with the right support, it is young people who can help turn these statistics around.  

Building Tomorrow, a non-profit organisation which provides access to inclusive, quality primary education in Uganda, is an example of an entity that values young people as a resource.

Through its Thriving Schools Program, it empowers youth to become Building Tomorrow Fellows who are helping shape Uganda’s education system.

Commonwealth Correspondent Erisa Sserwadda with children from Bugabo Primary School at a Career Guidance and Counselling session held in September 2019

Empowering Fellows

Building Tomorrow recruits and trains young Ugandan university graduates and sends them to rural and under-served schools and communities. These Building Tomorrow Fellows are trained in the core school curriculum and go on to serve in four schools for a two-year term.

Their mission: to help improve learning outcomes, build the capacity of school leadership and management, and improve enrollment of out-of-school children.

“We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends”. Mary Mcleod Bethune

Fellows train local leaders as Community Education Volunteers (CEVs) and work with them to enroll out-of-school children and galvanize community support for the school.

They also work with school leadership, helping them create School Development Plans that outline priority areas for improvement.

CEVs and teachers jointly lead efforts to improve student outcomes through Roots to Rise, a learning initiative through which students are grouped according to their learning level and are taught basic literacy and numeracy skills.

Fellows also work with CEVs to run extracurricular activities, helping build students’ vocational and life skills.

Each Fellow is challenged to find an innovative solution to a development challenge or need they encounter in the community, from climate change and poverty, to human rights protection.

By pushing Fellows to reimagine the world as it could be and coming up with solutions for some of the most persistent challenges confronting Uganda, youth are empowered as leaders, entrepreneurs, and change-makers.

Since 2015, Building Tomorrow has deployed 150 fellows and supported 605 schools. More than 3,400 Community Education Volunteers have been engaged. The result: nearly 38,000 children have been re-enrolled and are back in school.

Building Tomorrow Fellows at Shimoni Core Training Institute, Uganda

Young People as an Asset

To realize Uganda’s potential, quality education is vital, and considerable attention should be given to achieving this outcome.

Part of the success of Building Tomorrow’s education model comes from acknowledging that young people are a largely untapped resource in the quest for quality education in Uganda.

“In order to align all actors to make the whole system work for learning, we need to reimagine the role of key players, such as the youth, in that system and address the asymmetries between mindsets and needs that stand in the way of quality education ecosystems,” says Joseph B Kaliisa, Country Director for Building Tomorrow, Uganda.

Young people are often the ones with the time, energy, and idealism not to accept things as they are, and the restlessness to push for things as they should be. Yet in Africa, they are often dismissed as inexperienced.

We need to give young people more than a token ‘seat at the table’. Results from organisations like Building Tomorrow show that young people are ready to walk, march, run, and fly to lift our communities up to the future they deserve.

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About me: I am a Social Worker at Communication for Health, Uganda, aspiring to improve on health of the poor and vulnerable groups in Uganda. I aspire to challenge young people in Uganda and Africa at large to directly or indirectly engage in programmes that are of value to the society. I am a global activist on human rights issues and I have passion for writing. I have authored several scholarly articles and papers on different topics with various media and publication houses. Reach me on Twitter @elishameds

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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