Newsletter 6 February 2022
Welcome to our monthly newsletter, which we plan to send out every first weekend of the month.
Our trips to Uganda and Zimbabwe have been very fruitful. We have been welcomed by local organizations and governments, as well as many school dropouts – all were pointing out how much our initiative was needed, had come it the right time and how happy they are to embrace it.
Uganda is facing an educational crisis: After 2 years of school closures, it is estimated that 4.5 million, or thirty percent of students are not returning to schools, many because they are pregnant. There also was a much-discussed issue of Bishop Ssebagala stating on Saturday 15th January at St Paul Church Kanjuki in Kayunga District, that even though he supports parents take care of pregnant daughters, it was not morally acceptable for them to be at school with other children. As many schools are owned by the Catholic church, this guideline has brought hardship to over 90’000 girls under 18 who according to education officer Nelson Ayo got pregnant during the lockdown.
Our interviews with different school dropouts from vulnerable backgrounds also showed the need and an eagerness to study IcT.
Seeing the urgency of empowermefirst.college we are establishing empowermefirst Uganda and plan close partnerships with local NGO and the ministries of ICT and higher education. Before leaving we visited a local secondary school where classes in the first week after school opening had about 100 students. It was expected that they would grow to about 250, meaning that students would have to take turns to be with their teachers or many would need to sit very far from their teachers and may find it hard to follow the class.
We paid a last visit to the Honorable Joyce Nabbosa Ssebugwawo, Minister of ICT, and keep working closely with our local charter, especially Henry Lutwama, who is the PA to the Minister, and our country, regional and student coordinators.
Education is central also to bring change to the country. While the country is rich in natural resources and has so much potential, we also saw the need for education in ecology, agriculture, water and waste management.
Crops grow meagerly, people are not used to picking up their own garbage, Malaria is prevalent, there are constant traffic jams with no pollution control, and you see vultures in the town center. In our educational content we focus on such global issues, especially, in the course “global citizenship” which looks at ecology, climate change, water and waste management, infrastructure, …. This is a course which is also highly appreciated in Zimbabwe. Some of the school dropouts we met were keen on studying community development.
In our absence the teams are working on different goals such as the accreditation of our curriculum, partnerships with internet and tech companies, organizations for infrastructure, onboarding those students, who need out education most and are able and keen to persue it, and internship options. We are also working on a special event to show the success of our current work for the international day of “girls in ICT” in April, which we hope to do together with our partners in Zimbabwe.
During the months of December and January 2022 Country Coordinators Conium Nyathi and Given Moyo established contacts for partnerships and unboarded students for a test run in Zimbabwe.
Our founders Anthony and Brigit arrived in Zimbabwe on 22 January and were met at the airport by Conium and his friend Sidney, the excitement on their faces was a joy to behold.
Harare and region
During our arrival in Zimbabwe school were still closed. We had the opportunity to meet the Honorable Minister of Primary and Secondary Education and the Permanent Secretary. We were directed to the curriculum development department and working with them on having our curriculum both for formal and informal education aligned to Zimbabwen standards.
We then met up with Evernice Munando, who is empowering young women with her female student trust.
School in Rural Zimbabwe
She also took us on a courtesy visit to a school, which impressed us with the initiative they are taking to make school accessible to youths who cannot afford school fees.
They added a factory for school uniforms and a chicken farm, which offers local community workers and former students employment, gives students practical training skills and adds funds to allow them to give out free uniforms or cut the school fees for those who otherwise couldn’t afford education.
Just before we travelled to Victoria Falls, we went to Bulawayo to try out our content with local school dropouts. We also had the opportunity to meet with Thandeka Ndlovu team leader of our global citizenship team for a short chat.
Victoria Falls and region
In the course of the week, we travelled to several schools and centers in the countryside to meet up with future students for the trial. There we also met the local chief, community leaders, school heads, representatives of mothers. We met with challenges to internet connections and are currently discussing possible solutions such as installing satellite dishes.
We met up with the mayor in Victoria Falls and went to visit Conium Nyathi and Given Moyo’s school, where we met more school dropouts and the team of an organization which gives bicycles to children who walk more than 3km to school every day. It was touching to see what motivates students to continue their education despite financial and personal challenges. One girl told us, that she wanted to become a dentist, so she could offer dental care for free to the elderly and vulnerable, because her mother is constantly suffering from tooth ache.
Meeting the Chief
This was also stressed by the chief of the region who thanked us for coming to them while they have been left out by most national and international initiatives. For many years they didn’t even have a school in the region.
Short note for our sponsors
Our association and trust in Switzerland have been approved for tax exemption by the tax authorities of Zurich.
One of our fundraising efforts is our art shop. Please share it with any art lovers you know. We will add new art from out trip.
We thank all our volunteers, sponsors and everyone interested in our cause for their support – be it in time, expertise, financially or in spirit. We appreciate you all.
Greetings from Victoria Falls
Anthony and Brigit, founders of empowermefirst.college with Given Moyo and Conium Nyathi in Victoria Falls.