New year's Newsletter 2 January 2022
We wish you all a successful, healthy, and fulfilling New Year and are thanking everyone who are supporting us with their time and donation. Thanks to the support we have received from our global volunteers and our donors we are able to pilot. Currently, our founders Dr Anthony Powell and Brigit Koch are piloting in Uganda together with Aggrey Bwaita and Derrick Mugabi from our partners Youth Coffee Talk Africa, who are coordinating our efforts in several areas of Uganda including Kampala, and Simon Tukei, who is coordinating our efforts in Soroti. In this newsletter you will learn more about our findings during our trip around Uganda.
We have been able to do the entry test with a number of youths from the slums in Uganda together with Ronald Eligu, from Touch The Slum, and are continuing to work with them on instructing them about how to use the LMS and study with us.
On 18 December we set off for Soroti. On the way we visited place where Ghandi’s ashes were scattered the source of the Nile, an area where lake Victoria is turning into the river Nile. Within the past 5 years due to climate change the area, which had been land, had been severely flooded.
On the road we also discussed our next steps. This road trip was also important, as observing people’s lifestyles allowed us also to assess the needs and possibilities of our project.
Arriving in Soroti we were welcomed by Simon Tukei, our country coordinator of the area, and his wife Helen.
Our pilot in Soroti
On Monday we went to visit the district educational officer and his assistant and discussed options and needs.
Then we went to see our prospect students, answered their questions before they took their entry test. It was inspiring to see the need and interest in young people, even after having been out of school for two or more years, wanting to further their education. Many came with their babies or being pregnant, and embraced the idea of being able to study while being otherwise engaged. We are especially inspired by a 77-year-old grandmother who supported the idea of online learning which she had seen her grandchildren doing.
In the evening we had several meetings with our educational teams and our country coordinators in Zimbabwe.
On 21 December we went to see key people involved in offering us the premises of their youth center free of charge. We had inspiring meetings. The evenings were again packed with zoom meetings with our partners in the UK about funding opportunities and with our country coordinators about the entry test.
The youths are very motivated and their lives have been battered by rebel activities, many of them were left orphans at a very young age. We also were able to watch a local choir practicing Christmas carols in their own language. You can find our Christmas message and their singing in this video.
On 24 December we went to visit a vocational college where our students could use the Wifi and the computers and other labs and then we went to a rehabilitation center for children and youths with disabilities. They receive physiotherapy, schooling and vocational training such as working in a bakery and in ICT. In this place we donated a suitcase filled with secondhand clothes we were able to bring from friends.
On 27 December, we met with the local secondary school teachers and administrators to discuss partnerships such as content creation and the use of one of their classrooms for our students to access WiFi and possibly using their labs.
On 28 December, our last day in Soroti, we had a great day piloting with those school dropouts who had phones and were ready to start studying. After registering them all, we showed them how the system works. They’re starting with ICT Fundamentals and English in the pilot and we’re adding new courses throughout the coming months as we are setting up WiFi centers in several areas of Uganda.
One of the highlights was a play by a local theatre group showing the benefits of empowermefirst.college and testimonies by our beneficiaries.
Piloting and partnering on other parts of Uganda
We set off for a long dusty drive to Moyo district from Soroti on 29 December. On the way we stopped in Gulu to meet representatives of a grassroots organization which is formed by former child soldiers. The area had been suffering from Koni’s terror group and many were left orphaned and with post traumatic syndrome by being used as child soldiers. Thanks to help they had received they found a way of coping. Richard Ojwini is now a journalist and community leader. Diana Alaroker and Chua Collins Kisembo are leaders of the organization Yolred, which focuses on helping youth to overcome trauma through counselling and education.
Having to wait three hours to find room on the ferry across the Nile we arrived in Moyo late in the evening and met Unzimai Paul, a member of Youth Coffee Talk Africa, who coordinated our work on ground.
On 30th of December we had our first meeting at 9am with the District Education Officer Mr. Mali Michael who welcomed us and with prior knowledge on our objectives from the organization summary that had been given to him a few days before, he reechoed a common affirmation that we encountered throughout the pilot “this is a good project that has come at the right time and to the right people”. He did ask a couple of questions and gave us guidance on how to successfully incorporate our curriculum into the Ugandan system. He also proposed a number of facilities that we can make use of and government schools that we can partner with.
We thereafter met with a group that comprised of politicians, the Presidential representative in the district known as the Resident District Commissioner, the district officials including the district development officer, teachers, peer educators and potential beneficiaries. The main objective of the meeting was to sell our vision to the officials to attract their support both morally and technically. Generally, it was welcomed with multiple questions asked after our presentation including the courses we are offering, the type of accreditation we give, when we are officially starting among others.
After a long day of work, we went out hiking on Ochen Mountain in Moyo. We were able to watch the sunset over the Nile which was clouded by Sahara sand.
We met over 20 beneficiaries, gave them detailed information about our program for them to make an informed choice on whether they want to join us or not. We successfully enrolled 13 students, expecting more later as due to some changes in our schedule they had only been informed on a short notice and were not available during the festive season. Also, some are still planning to get a smart phone and will be enrolled in the coming weeks. We recorded interviews with some of our students, went through the questionnaire to understand their intentions and also had a short workshop in digital literacy skills, setting up an email account and on how to effectively use the LMS platform. From Moyo we headed to Western Uganda on a long but interesting dusty road.
Be an art collector and support empowermefirst.college
Please also don’t forget to check our art event. This month we feature art and photography from Africa. Do you want to get a sense of the warmth and color of Africa and help educate those who need it most? Our youths need your help. All proceeds go directly to empowermefirst.college to reach our beneficiaries.
We are very happy to receive a donation and ensure you it will reach the youth:
We wish you and your loved ones a successful, healthy and fulfilling 2022.