The Problem

dripping faucetIn Uganda, many families struggle to provide the most basic of needs for their families. Homes are often built with mud and sticks, which wash away over time as the rains fall. The only food available is often the food that a family may grow in their garden. Many children and young adults have never tasted meat of any kind. A single medical emergency can financially cripple a family.

In this community, things that are taken for granted in other parts of the world, such as books, shoes, clothes that fit, soap, toothpaste, immunizations, and clean water are counted as luxuries. Because of this, education of children is ranked very far down the list of priorities. For a family struggling to provide a single meal a day for their children, the idea of sending their children for education is simply impossible.

For instance, a poverty stricken family may be a single mother raising 4-5 children, with the number of children sometimes climbing to 10-12. The mother may have been widowed because of an accident or disease, or simply abandoned along with her children.

The only work she is able to find is digging in other people’s gardens. If she is lucky, she will be paid around 3000 Ugandan Schillings (approximately 1 US Dollar) for a day of digging. With two growing seasons, consisting of around 3 months, she will be very fortunate to find work every day. But if she does, she can earn as much as 360,000 UG schillings (around $124 US) in the year.

Empty classroomHowever, the price to send a child to primary level school can range from 120,000-200,000 UG schillings per term. Taking the lowest of these possibilities, the price of sending one of her children to low level primary school (1st grade, in America) will be around 360,000 UG schillings per year (120k/term x 3 terms). That is to say that if she spends every coin that she earns, assuming she has a very successful year of digging, on education, she will be able to afford to send a single child to low level primary for the year.

Having spent all of the money on a single child’s education, however, she has completely neglected feeding any of her children for the year, clothing her children, purchasing any pens, paper, or books to ensure the child’s success, medical care for herself or any of her children. She also has only managed to provide a very basic level education, maybe teaching the child some letters and numbers, but not yet teaching the child to read or do basic math.

In order to provide a level equivalent to a 5th grade education (basic literacy, basic mathematics, basic history, etc) she will have to repeat this process five or six more times. And then the price of education goes up to a level that she cannot possibly attain.

So the problem is simple mathematics: she simply cannot send her children to school. And so they grow up, have children of their own, and dig in someone else’s field, struggling to feed their own children.

This circle of poverty is the problem that has plagued Uganda for generations. This problem is the one we intend to change.

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