One of our challenges in Uganda and in Africa as a whole is lack of sustainable development. Africa has over the years received so much aid from Western countries; so many structures put up, but collapsed soon after the flow of aid. The sole reason for this basically is lack of qualified local personnel to sustain them. In the first place, projects are usually started by funds from donor communities and run as long as the donor organization still supports them. The moment the donors withdraw or withhold the funds, the projects stop almost instantly and we go back to square one.
Uganda is an underdeveloped country, but with a lot of potential, for there are so many untapped and undeveloped resources; both natural and human. The country is not poor. The problem is poor institutions and systems in Uganda. However, I strongly believe that Uganda, like the rest of third-world countries, cannot develop on handouts only. Our ultimate need therefore is finding a lasting solution to our problems. The best means to this solution will be quality, relevant and holistic education which will enable people to build good systems and institutions. Unfortunately, there are many factors hindering a child from receiving such an education. These include lack of good and well-facilitated school structures, lack of tuition and scholastic materials and lack of easy access to clean water and basic healthcare. Statistics show Uganda is one of the countries in Africa with high percentage of the younger people, but most of them lack the opportunities to good education. The result of this has been widespread illiteracy, very poor basic education, abject poverty, early marriages, domestic violence, rampant spreading of diseases (especially HIV/AIDS), early deaths, drug abuse, unemployment and a high crime rate. This has become a vicious circle. Children grow up without going to school and become young parents without education.
What most Americans would not expect is that in Uganda, there are very few public schools. The culture follows the British educational system that has lingered since our independence in 1962. To send a child to a quality grade school costs at least $180 per quarter ($540 per year) in tuition. A high school student would require about $240 per quarter ($720 per year) in tuition. To an ordinary person in Uganda, this is a fortune. They can hardly raise such amounts with an entire year’s worth of work. Families work hard and dream a better future for their children, but their dreams are frustrated by the socio-economic and political conditions they work in. Before students can even consider school, basic needs such as available water and health care truncate any chances for education. In the parish where I have begun my priesthood ministry, our parish clinic has no running clean water, yet serves over 180,000 rural citizens.
My sincere gratitude goes to Zimu Foundation for answering the call to help our brothers and sisters in these communities. Even small improvements bring such hope. I have personally witnessed the positive impact on so many families from the early work funded through St. Anne: I can only imagine the residual improvement in so many more once Zimu Foundation is able to complete the water project and clinic.
Fr. Peter Mukasa