In Uganda, about 500,000 primarylevel children are out of school. Countless other children walk long distances to get to a school in a neighbouring community, scribbling their lessons in the dirt for lack of proper learning materials or gathering under a tree to learn. “I used to go at night. It was a long journey,” says Phiona of her walk to school. “I would wake up at night and reach there in the morning.”
Phiona would be tired and often miss part of the morning lessons, putting her at risk of falling behind, plus her school did not have enough teachers or desks, making it difficult to learn. The barriers she faced are the reality for many of her peers in Uganda.
Lack of classroom space can fuel dropout rates and leaves many children without access to any formal primary education. In fact, 71 per cent of students starting primary school in Uganda will not graduate (UNESCO Institute of Statistics). Still, Phiona was determined to continue her education and made the tough decision to walk in the dark to get to school.
In 2014, Educate A Child (EAC), a global programme of the Education Above All Foundation, and Building Tomorrow partnered to launch the Ensuring Access to Quality Education project, a five-year initiative to build 60 locally supported and sustained schools, and hire 150 project fellows with the goal of enrolling more than 50,000 children in primary education.
In 2015, Kisaluwoko, a brand new primary school was constructed and opened in the Lyantonde District of Uganda. Finally, Phiona would have the opportunity to attend a school close to home.
Phiona, now 15 years old, will graduate primary school in 2018. She plans to continue her education and aspires to become a lawyer. “I can speak English, I can write, I can do everything because of my education,” she says. Phiona is head of the Child Protection Club at school and spends time teaching her peers about their rights. “I have many friends, I can help in their studies because I go to Building Tomorrow Kisaluwoko.
“I like Kisaluwoko because the teachers are friendly,” says Phiona. “It has enough desks and the teachers like teaching children.” The teachers at Kisaluwoko believe in Phiona and encourage her to pursue her dreams. According to John Kimbugwe, a Building Tomorrow Fellow, “Phiona is changing her life.”