"The most exciting thing about the children of Uganda
is their conviction that they are the future of their
country," says Elaine Kessler, president and
co-founder of Educate the Girls. "That belief leads
them to crave education."
Uganda's growing agricultural and industrial sectors, along with a growing intellectual and
cultural leadership, was crushed by Idi Amin's violent overthrow of the country in 1971
and the devastation lingered long after his overthrow in 1979.
Uganda had become one of the poorest countries in the world by the time President Yoweri
Kaguta Museveni assumed leadership in 1986, and the education system had collapsed.
But in 1997, Uganda instituted a Universal Primary Education Program, promising a free
primary education for up to four children in each family, including two girls. That promise
more than doubled enrollment in primary schools.
In 1990, 69 percent of children age 6 to 12 were in school. That number rose to 80
percent by 1996, and in 1997 it rose to 124 percent! Parents with more than the four
children entitled to free education asked relatives to enroll them or asked authorities to
enroll them anyway. And adults above primary school age saw education as so important,
they also enrolled for the free education.
Although Uganda is outstanding in its attempts to pull the country out of economic
chaos, while at the same time trying to educate its most disadvantaged citizens, it faces an
uphill battle for years to come. Some teachers are minimally qualified to teach, and the
pupil to teacher ratio in the lowest primary grades is sometimes 100:1. For these reasons,
parents seek out schools with better-trained teachers and smaller class sizes. There also
are additional fees that some families cannot afford, and thus some children do not go to
school. Girls are usually the first to lose out on education when family finances will not
stretch to include all children. Educated boys are seen as being of more help to a family
than girls, although countless studies show that educating girls reaps rewards in
healthier, educated children and families with greater economic resources.
Lack of education not only dooms girls to an impoverished life, it can literally be a death
sentence. More than 40 percent of women without education have no knowledge of AIDS,
compared with 8 percent of women with post-primary schooling. In Uganda, AIDS
education is most often given in secondary school. The scourge of AIDS resulted in an
average life expectancy in the 40s--one of the lowest in the world. Efforts to attack the
problem has only recently begun to increase the life expectancy. One sad legacy of the
problem is the many orphans left behind.
Educate the Girls, Inc., a 501 (c) (3) organization, is helping to pay the school fees
of girls in need in primary and secondary school and helping to remove the
obstacles that keep them from school or cause them to drop out. For more
information contact us at email@example.com.