Educating the most vulnerable in Uganda
Growing up in Karamoja, a region in North East Uganda, John Mark Loiki knows the devastating effects of poverty too well. For the Karamojong people, getting trapped in poverty is all too frequent a reality but a good education can make all the difference, as it has done for John.
Karamoja is one of the poorest and most vulnerable regions in Uganda, where 75% of Karamojong people live in absolute poverty. The area has a long history of conflict and periodic famine, contributing to the chronic under-development of the region. Life expectancy is 47 years, and only 11% of the population can read and write, which makes breaking the cycle of poverty very difficult.
John described how his family relied on “a few animals to maintain as their only source of income”. In 2002, a violent raid by another tribe left John and his family mourning the death of his father as well as the theft of all their animals and their livelihood. The family’s situation changed inexorably. John was in primary school at the time, but with two brothers, three sisters and no source of income, his family could not afford to send John to school anymore. “I had to do some manual work, laying bricks and collecting firewood to sell in order to help my family and pay for some schooling”.
“I feel my future is becoming brighter and without the bursary I would be in a very dark world without a chance of becoming someone”.
Recognising the need for education in the region Irish Aid supports children to attend primary and secondary school. Since 2010 Irish Aid has supported more than 1,300 students from the Karamoja and Acholi regions in Northern Uganda. This is part of a wider programme to tackle the challenges of education in a region with limited school facilities, less qualified teachers and poor attendance rates.
In 2006 John applied for, and was chosen to receive, an Irish Aid bursary to continue his secondary education in Jinja in Central Uganda. Though his time there had its difficulties, John received a congratulatory award for the high grades he achieved at advanced level. As a result of Irish Aid support John, now aged 21, successfully finished secondary school and hopes to go to university to become a doctor.
With no medical doctor in John’s hometown he is determined that he will “return to help the Karamojong community and the rest of my relatives”.
The support of Irish Aid has allowed John steer his life along another path. The alternative, John said, would be very different: at best, trying to scrape a living as a charcoal burner in the village. Simply put, he said “I already have more options in life because I can (now) read and write”.
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