How Education Can Transform a Nation; One person at a Time

12 year old Eddy walks almost six kilometers everyday vending ripe bananas in the hope that he will raise the 50,000 Uganda Shillings ($20) he requires for his school fees. I ask him why he thinks he needs an education, he looks at me as though wondering whether that is a question I should even be asking and he says, “I want to get a good job when I grow up- perhaps work in the president’s office.” His little face crinkles in a smile as he says those last words.
“My father works in a stone quarry and I see how dirty and tired he is when he gets back home; even then, he is always complaining that he never has any money. I do not want to be like that!” Eddy adds with a frown.
Eddy’s hopes and aspirations mirror the ones that many of us had when we were growing up; and yet as we got older, we realized that the realities are very different. The global labour market currently looks grim- in fact, many are losing their jobs and less are getting hired.
In Uganda, an estimated 400,000 people graduate from institutions of higher learning but only 9,000 of them get absorbed into the labor market (Uganda Youth Network). Whereas this state of matters does not paint a great picture, Education remains one of the surest ways of transforming lives and communities.
According to UNICEF, no other investment has such a lasting effect as the education of children. Children who go to school are healthier, more self-assured and can easily assume a profession. Yet, a significant number of children are robbed of the chance to go to school; often because they have to engage into an economic activity to sustain themselves and their families. Any kind of work that prevents children from going to school and impairs their physical or emotional growth is categorized as child labour (ILO).
The International Labour Organisation estimates that over 215 million children are engaged in child labour; Africa has the highest number of working children with one in four children working.
Farida Najjuma, was rescued from child labour by Somero Uganda, a Community Based Organisation supporting young women to lead healthier and empowered lives. Through the Somero Uganda scholarship scheme, Farida, was able to obtain her ordinary level certificate and another certificate in fashion and design.
A proud proprietor of a boutique that deals in ladies’ clothes, Farida could not hide her excitement, “I wanted to start my own business because I wanted to have more control over what happens in my life. When I talked to Somero about my ambition, they were very supportive and gave me a mentor.”
She adds, “From the mentor, I learnt business processes such as book keeping and customer relations.”
Although Farida’s business is yet to fully pick up, she is optimistic. She explains, “I am re-investing all the money I am earning. There are challenges but I am learning to deal with them as they come.”
Like many other organisations, Somero Uganda is once again proving that an educational opportunity can transform one’s life. With better income prospects, Farida will soon be able to support others close to her. Maybe she will help them acquire an education, maybe she will share with them entrepreneurial skills, and maybe…the possibilities are endless.
Education does not transform individuals; education opens up doors of opportunities which can transform an entire household. Educated people tend to be more receptive to new ideas and their ability to change and adapt helps them to come up with better solutions to the challenges surrounding them.
This is why it is critical that every child gets a quality education. The world is full of Eddys, Faridas—young men and women with transformational ideas. All children have a right to dream and it is our duty to provide them with the tools that they need to achieve their dreams. A good education is undoubtedly one of those tools!
By Derick Joseph


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