Being born into a poor family can make a challenging start in life. However, as ALFRED OCHWO writes, there are ways to get around poverty.
Bulikya Nambogga is just 20 years old and a student at Kiwoko SS. She has an infectious but easy smile about her, as she explains her fortune at being in school.
“I have never been a school fees defaulter, we attend camps,” she says.
The senior six student is one of several beneficiaries of Concern for the Girl Child (CGC), since she joined the school in senior one.
According to CGC’s managing director Catherine Opondo, the organisation is engaged in empowering the girl child through education in the communities of Luweero and Nakaseke districts, and Nakawa division in Kampala.
During a recent visit of the beneficiary schools in Nakaseke and Luweero recently, The Observer found that CGC had provided to the girl child through education and health information, as well as advocating and lobbying for the rights of children.
“CGC provides us with counseling and also provides us with practical skills; for me now I can bake cakes, fabricate shoes from leather, and make reusable pads,” Nambogga adds.
In addition to education, CGC has built a multi-purpose hall in Mazzi, equipped with 25 computers connected with internet. The institution is also involved in advocating for child protection and psychosocial support, health support services, economic strengthening, advocacy and organizational development.
During the visit, The Observer learned that Opondo’s organisation had been honored by the locals for some of its activities.
“Since the inception of CGC, we have impacted the lives of about 785 girls and their families and the impact has spilled over to the surrounding communities. We sponsor school fees, uniform, tour expenses, empower them into art and craft to make reusable pads and also built teachers' quarters,” she said.
“We are honored to have been recognized by Nakaseke and Luweero districts for our exemplary service delivery especially in providing education to the needy girl child, provision of water sources and construction of classroom blocks in the cattle corridor.”
Opondo adds that they also plan to construct a girls' dormitory at Kiwoko SS since 50 per cent of the girls in the school are beneficiaries.
Concern for the Girl Child was founded by Dr Ann F Hayes and the late Freddie Henry Kasozi of Luweero who appealed to friends and families to start an orphanage in 2001, but somehow it changed to supporting girls in secondary schools.
According to Opondo, they started with secondary schools, with Kalinabiri SS as the first to take care of orphaned girls. However, the large number of vulnerable girls persuaded them to develop the idea into a school.
“Due to the many challenges Luweero district underwent [during the 1981-1986 guerilla war], it forced us to expand our support to also embrace Luweero SS,” she said.
Although headquartered in Kampala, CGC activities are largely based in the old Luweero triangle, where Opondo and her colleagues are fighting to stem the high rate of girls dropping out of school, before their due date. They are doing this through a network of child rights activists.
“These partners who are at the national, district, sub-county, parish and village levels have made it possible for us to reach as many beneficiaries as possible,” she adds.
“Our vision is to envision a world where all people are contributing to the social, economic and political development of their communities.”
For now, the likes of Nambogga look to have reason to maintain an even wider smile. Nambogga is studying to become a teacher and be of use to her community, one day.
“Teachers have always been my role models … adding value to society is the least I can do; after all that has been done for me.” And many others are looking to emulate Nambogga’s optimism.