On our first day in Jinja we were joined by Ken Galyean, the founder of Call to Africa, and the rest of the team that had just flown in and were, themselves, trying to recover from the flight over. We were now 19 people strong, ready to go, do, and give however we could to best meet the needs presented to us.
During the drive to our first stop, Good Shepherd school, I was reacquainting myself to a culture and a landscape I had discovered during my earlier trip that is so different from the American culture and landscape I have known all my life. I was reminded of so many things I take for granted, things I am so familiar with that I feel, if I am honest, that I am entitled to them. Yes, my WiFi should always work and be super fast and my venti-sized lattes should always be hot and made just the way I like them and ready within the 4-9 minute as-promised window on the Starbucks app. And my roads should never have potholes and the house never get too hot or my car never be without refreshing and comfortable air-conditioning. What would I ever do without Amazon prime and its near-instant delivery to my doorstep of all the many items I want but do not really need? And my bank account should always have at least some money in it.
At a bare minimum, these are my necessities and entitlements. I am ashamed to say this is true more times than it is not. It is the culture I live in and often the attitude of many fellow citizens. It cannot be denied because just today I saw tell-tale signs of this on Facebook. If we’re being honest.
I just visited a school here in Uganda that is currently educating some 550 children. There have been 700 students here at one time. Education in Uganda is not free like it is in the primary years in America. So there are children that do not go to school simply because their parents cannot afford it. Their floors are dirt floors, they have no cars, they fetch water from the well down the road and carry it on their heads several times a day to do the washing that needs to be done. There is no electricity in their homes.
I can tell you one thing for certain; I would not be here typing on my Mac computer in Uganda beside the Nile River if I had never been to school. If I could not read or write or add up numbers so that I could discern how to live on a budget or start a business from scratch, I would not be living the life I am living. It is hard for me to grasp what it would be like to not read or write or understand how history has shaped my world or be able to figure out the missing variable in a simple equation so that I can find the solution to just about any problem. I am a business owner and an inventor. None of that would be my reality if I had never received an education. What is an education worth? Well here in Jinja, Uganda at Good Shepherd school it is worth everything when you have nothing. It is the thing that will equip and empower a generation to build new things, and overcome government corruption, and put clean, running water in homes. It is priceless. And yet, for some it is still unattainable. Too many children cannot read or write or add up numbers.
At Good Shepherd school, approximately 50% of the 550 students have their tuition costs covered by their parents (roughly 275 students).
Another 25% (approximately 137 students) have a portion of their tuition costs covered by their parents.
And the remaining 25% (roughly 137) are unable to pay anything at all.
The staff at Good Shepherd have gone without to make up for the lost tuition so these students could continue being educated. The meals for the children are minimized to smaller portions and become rice with beans when tuition cannot be paid. Stretching a schilling (or a dollar) has become an art so that children can receive a priceless education. But this cannot continue for long. Those who cannot afford will not get an education.
The cost for one single child to attend school is about $150 per semester. There are 3 semesters in their school year which makes the total for one child per year $450. Some of these children live in dormitories and eat every meal on campus, while some go home to their families after school each afternoon.
I spoke with Lillian, the burser (treasurer) of Good Shepherd school and learned of this incredible need for tuition costs to be covered for these 130-some children that will not receive an education unless someone steps up.
If you want to help change the future of one of these little ones, you can join me in this endeavor. If we all gave up a coffee for one day a week or even one day a month it really could change a life, because the numbers add up when we all pitch in just a little. After meeting literally hundreds of these children and spending some time in Uganda on two different occasions, I can attest to the incredible impact that this does make for a child, a family, and the future of a nation.
This evening, before I finished this post, I had the pleasure of meeting with three young men who have a vision to work together on a large project using their skills with computers, websites, digital marketing, and ministry. We had a bit of a jam-session to talk about ways in which they can best make their vision come to life. It was exciting for me to see them become excited over the potential that lies ahead for them. And our meeting was a reminder to me, yet again, of the incredible value of an education.
Anyone that feels compelled to help with a child’s tuition can do so by giving directly to Call to Africa, a non-profit organization that can get the money directly to Good Shepherd school and into the right hands. Every single dollar of a donation or sponsorship for tuition except for the credit card transaction fee will go to Uganda for this specific purpose.
I am so incredibly thankful to have received an education. I am thankful I can read, write, and add up numbers. I cannot imagine a life any different.
PS. Check out the school for the little ones at Sangaalo that I wrote about on my last visit to Uganda here.