Friday, February 1, 2013

Francis and our Education work, part 1.

Last week, we shared with you a field report, written by Francis Emolu, one of our amazing Ugandan program associates.  We thought that this week we'd share with you a little more about him...and his work for Fount of Mercy.  This is part 1 of what our Education program does in Uganda. 

Ugandan student working hard.  Photo by Rebecca Cippola
Francis knows what it is like to struggle to get an education, as well as for his very life…sometimes those struggles happened simultaneously. 
Coming from a village called Olumai, Francis started at a teacher’s college in 1984, during a time of great upheaval in Uganda.  In 1985, Museveni, Uganda’s current president, overtook power with his army. The ensuing violence reached the college, forcing Francis to run to safety.  Lacking transportation, he had to walk 70 km (46 miles) to his home.  He switched to a new teacher’s college in 1986, but again, civil war broke out.  There were many raids and violent attacks, leading to several people at the college being killed.  Francis remembers jumping over dead bodies to reach his classes!  Knowing that pursuing education would open up possibilities in his life, Francis refused to give up.  He persevered and completed his courses in 1987. 
Francis is not alone in his belief that education is the way out of poverty.  Just like every other parent in Uganda, not to mention around the world, Francis and his wife want the best for their three children.  Learning from his own struggle to get an education, Francis would like to see his kids attend University and study science.  “I want to see [them] grow into good, morally upright Christians who live healthy, peaceful, successful lives.”   He knows that completing an education is the first, vital step to their success. 
Unfortunately, in Uganda, the poorest and most marginalized families struggle immensely to get a basic education for their children.
Francis taught in Ugandan government schools for ten years. He knows more than anyone that even though the Ugandan government provides “universal” education for elementary aged children, in reality, schools are far from free.  Parents must provide uniforms, shoes, books, and other supplies for their children to enroll in school.  This is unattainable for many families, leaving them to make difficult choices about which of their children to send to school…if any. 
Can you imagine making that decision?  Choosing which child you will offer a better future for, and which you will not? 
For this reason, often a local Community Based Organization or Non-Governmental Organization (CBO/NGO) will create a small Community School.  There are several benefits to creating a Community School.  The school is close to the children’s homes.  Community Schools can also provide schooling without the prohibitive costs of required uniforms, shoes, and high fees.  But, the disadvantages are numerous also.  They often end up with unqualified and untrained teachers, lack basic supplies such as books and chalk, and don’t receive Uganda’s Ministry of Education’s new curriculum.  This curriculum is student-centered, discourages corporal punishment and places a heavy emphasis on bilingual education and literacy across core subjects. 
In 2011, Francis was hired by FOM, after completing a diploma course in Education. It was clear that he possessed a passion for more about our Education program in our next post.

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