By: Jeremy Phillips, Executive Director
Sometimes I wonder if we got our name wrong. We call ourselves Empower African Children, yet most of our students are hardly children. Some of the boys in the equivalent of 8th grade are bigger and stronger than I am. I remember when I was in 8th grade. I barely weighed 100 pounds and looked nothing like the barrel-chested boys that step on stage with Spirit of Uganda.
So, why is that? One reason is that most of our students have encountered “dead years” along their educational journey prior to entering our scholarship program. A dead year is when you miss a year of schooling, usually because you don’t have the money for school fees. Dead years are the reason we have students, like Daniel, who are 19-years-old in 8th grade. In fact, all of our students graduating from high school this year are between the age of 20 and 23. In Uganda, you can’t judge the age of a student by their grade. There can easily be a range of more than five years between two students sharing a desk.
The graduation ceremony for primary school students was held this weekend at our partner school, Taibah International School. For most students in America, completing elementary school is assumed. Yet, in Uganda a recent report showed that the majority of students who start primary school do not finish. The article states, “68 per cent of the pupils who enrolled have either dropped out of school, married early, died, or repeated some classes along the way.”
Here are some statistics about education in Uganda*:
- 90.9% net enrollment rate in primary school (though, as you read above, most do not complete)
- 28% gross enrollment rate in secondary school
- 4% gross enrollment rate in a form of post-secondary education (vocational school or university)
Education is not assumed here, it is a gift. The fact that most of our scholars can more accurately be described as young adults, not children, just makes them even more grateful for this gift they have been given. Plus, Empower African Young Adults just doesn’t have the same ring to it!
*The 2012 Legatum Prosperity Index- http://www.prosperity.com/CountryProfile.aspx?id=800