Our Project Coordinator, Kessia Lum, shares the inspiring stories of the graduates from our Adult Literacy Program in rural Uganda.
Last week, I sat and spoke to Winnie for thirty minutes. She told me all about her life, in English. One year ago, Winnie could not speak a word of English.
Winnie was one of five students to graduate from our Level 2 Adult Literacy Program (ALP) this month. As one of the first people to receive their level two ALP graduate certificates, her face was beaming as she told me how proud she was of herself. Winnie was proud that her and I were having a detailed conversation in her newly acquired language, she was proud that she was studying at the same school as her youngest daughter, and proud that she was receiving a graduation certificate that afternoon, from teachers she respected.
Aged 38, Winnie is a mother to five children – her daughter Clare is in Primary 5 at Katuuso. She moved to the area with her family in 2010, just one kilometre away from Katuuso Primary and Vocational School. After enrolling her daughter in school, she began working with School for Life’s (SFL) agricultural program as a digger in our fields. When Winnie was a child she had no choice but to drop out of school in Primary 7 due to her family’s inability to pay school fees. She knew she wanted a better future for her children. After working in our gardens for a year SFL staff noticed Winnie’s incredible work ethic, warm personality and motivation to be more than just a digger. One year later she was promoted.
In Winnie’s new role as an early childhood development assistant she acts as a caretaker for our nursery school students – and the babies love her! When she began her new role Winnie was thrilled to be in a stable job where she could provide for her family, but she was intimidated to be surrounded by people who spoke English when she couldn’t speak a word. When SFL notified the community of the ALP program, she was one of the first to sign up – she knew it was her second chance at an education.
It’s been one year since SFL’s Adult Literacy Program began in Katuuso village. Winnie, alongside 4 others, were thrilled to accept their Level 2 graduation certificates, presented to them by their proud teachers, and cheered on by their husbands and wives. On the same day 20 other students (from beginners and Level 1 classes) were celebrating advancing to the next level of their ALP. The program, introduced last September, was developed with the objective of granting parents and grandparents in Katuuso and surrounding villages the opportunity of an education. Joseph Kaabunga, the head teacher of our ALP, could never have imagined the impact the program would have on his life. With emotion in his voice, he said...
“I finally feel that I have accomplished something great in my life through this program. This, to me, is the most important thing that I have been able to achieve. To see my students who were unable to read or write in Luganda, their local language, now be able communicate read, write and speak not only in Luganda but in English as well is unparalleled to anything I have ever felt.”
Sadly, in Uganda, 26% of people over 15 years of age are illiterate. Only 66% of adult females are literate (“Uganda Population,” 2016). Uganda is ranked the 114th lowest country in the world for literacy (“Literacy Rates,” 2015).
Since the majority of our graduates had never received a certificate of completion for any formal education in their lives, teacher Joseph put on a graduation party at Katuuso Primary and Vocational School. The teachers, graduates and their loved ones celebrated with music, dancing, speeches and a banquet lunch. Each student danced and jumped for joy as their names were individually called to accept their graduate certificates from their teachers.
Many of SFL’s support staff and parents of SFL’s students are attending the adult literacy classes on Monday and Tuesday evenings. After seeing Winnie and their other peers graduate, they have reaffirmed their commitment to the program and are dedicated to one day receiving a certificate of their own.
I know the impact that School for Life is making on the community. Even though I see this positive impact everyday my eyes still teared up with happiness when George Ssemukutu, ALP’s student representative and level one graduate, stood in front of the group to say...
“This is my first time being able to learn in a classroom in my entire life. I never had the opportunity to go to school. I want to thank you for not just educating our children and grandchildren in this village, but for not forgetting about us adults as well. Let us continue to tell the community about this program; let us ensure that all generations continue to learn. This is how we can make lasting change together.”
And we will continue to make lasting change, George.
The ALP program is not currently sponsored. To sponsor the teacher’s salaries for this program or contribute to the cost of scholastic materials for our adult students click here
Written by Kessia Lum - Project Coordinator