Christmas is here again. The tills and money boxes of the merchants ring with joy, not in remembrance of the saviour’s birth but in celebration of the saver’s spending spree.
This Christmas, the average American will spend US$929 (Sh. 3.3 million) on Christmas gifts. The figure for Canada is about US$600 (Sh. 2.2 million); Norway, US$592 (Sh. 2.1 million); and Britain, US$350 (Sh. 1.3 million). These figures do not include spending on decorations, gifts to self, food and other entertainment.
I do not have the current figure for Uganda, but a New Vision newspaper survey in 2014 showed that the average Ugandan respondent planned to spend a maximum of US$22 (Sh.80,000) that Christmas. All these figures represent hefty change, although how much people spend on Christmas is not my business. If you have the cash, have a great time.
However, I ask that you remember me. I really need your help. I mean financial help. Just a fraction of your Christmas budget. Oh, I do not ask you to give me the money. I ask that you support a cause that is very dear to my heart, namely, accessible quality education for the children and young people of Uganda.
All over Uganda are young people who are hungry for knowledge and employable skills. Like you and me who were beneficiaries of the generosity of strangers that set up an excellent education system, these young people need our support so that they too can have a secure future.
Education is a liberating asset that trumps everything else that we consider important. Not even healthcare beats it. Good education enables individuals and communities to live healthier lives and access better health care.
That is why I ask every Ugandan at home and abroad who has a bit of money, to identify a credible not-for-profit education project in their home district and give it a generous gift this Christmas.
The reason I encourage people to give money to education projects in their home area or region is because charity begins at home. Giving back to a community that made you is a joyful obligation.
Second, one is more likely to keep track of the progress of a project in their home area than one that is far removed. Third, the sum total of “locals” giving to their native communities is a simultaneous national investment in a common vision.
Of course you can give to your community and another community of your choosing. What is key is that you give in support of quality education.
This Christmas, I wish to applaud some individuals that have chosen to invest in efforts to build state-of-the-art non-profit education programs in Uganda.
Phoebe and James Gonahasa of Toronto, Canada, have been working very hard to complete the Amazing Love School in Namutumba, Busoga, an underserviced area that desperately needs a good quality school.
Phoebe and James are working with their community to create a school that, in addition to the standard curriculum, promotes good moral values and community service. They need only Sh.250 million ($70,000) to complete this not-for-profit school that offers enormous long-term value to Uganda.
Akello Miriam Atoro, a teacher who, until recently, lived and worked in Canada and the United Kingdom, will open the Gulu Montessori School (GMS) in January 2017. Located in Laroo Division of Gulu Municipality, the mission of the GMS is “to provide an exceptional educational experience that inspires a love of learning and nurtures the young child’s mind, heart and soul through the use of creative Arts and Sciences.”
Miriam, a woman of great faith and integrity, is spending her own savings to create a not-for-profit school that will be open to fee-paying students, but will offer full scholarships to children from disadvantaged backgrounds. To start a fully functioning school, Miriam and her team will need Sh. 970 million ($270,000).
Twesigye Jackson Kaguri of Michigan, USA, the founder of the Nyaka Aids Orphans Project in Kanungu District, continues to receive international acclaim and support because of the impressive results of his team’s hard work.
Central to his work with the Nyakagyezi (Nyaka) community is a major investment in education that has seen the construction of a school with modern facilities. Kaguri and his team serve as an inspiration for those who seek positive transformation of communities, literally one brick at a time.
A small group of Banyakigezi have supported the Kigezi Education Fund (KEF) since its formation in 2003. Through KEF, the flagship project of the International Community of Banyakigezi (ICOB), these Banyakigezi who live in Canada, UK, USA and Uganda have funded three fully equipped Information and Communication Technology (ICT) centres (Rukungiri, Kisoro and Nyarushanje Technical Institutes), and an electrical and plumbing college program at Nyakatare Technical Institute.
The Board of ICOB has also approved funding for a brand new ICT Centre at Kizinga Technical School in Kabale District that is expected to be fully operational by the end of the first quarter of 2017.
These and other not-for-profit efforts deserve your financial support. I recommend these four projects without reservation because I know they are led with integrity, transparency and fidelity to accountability.
I encourage every community in Uganda to invest in accessible high quality education of our children and young citizens. The best Christmas gift is one that gives hope and opportunities through quality education for young Okello, Mukasa, Kamure, Gidudu and Rubaganzya. The best gift to me is a donation to the Kigezi Education Fund right here.
I wish you a very blessed, happy and safe Christmas and New Year.