Uganda's 59th Independence Day! Celebrating with a cause.
It was on October 9, 1962 that Uganda become a sovereign nation after 68 years of British colonial rule. The pandemic has redefined and scaled back celebrations of any variety, so in lieu of standard Independence Day fanfare, we are celebrating Uganda's independence this year in another way—by giving back in response to the country's current education crisis brought on by the pandemic.
Schools in Uganda have been closed since the pandemic was declared in March 2020 (apart from a brief reopening in June 2021), and are scheduled to remain closed until (at least) January 2022. That is almost 24 months of teachers out of work, and two years of in-person learning loss for Uganda's school-age population, which numbers around 15 million, or 32%. Uganda has largely been spared significant Covid-19 illness and death (relative to higher-income countries) but the vaccination rate is abysmal, and is a large part of the reason why Uganda's leadership is compelled to keep schools closed. Uganda has a population 48 million, and a vaccination rate of 0.9%. Spain by comparison (home to 46 million), has a vaccination rate of 79%.
I have been involved with the primary education system in Uganda since 2014 when I began a charitable partnership with Suubi Primary and Secondary Orphanage School (image below). The relationship began with informal donations, both monetary and in-kind, and has evolved to become the Mukono Foundation, a 501(c)3 created to support the cultural arts and education in Africa. Uganda has been Mukono Foundation's largest beneficiary to-date thanks to contributions from small businesses, large philanthropies, and individuals alike.
During a check-in I had with Suubi's executive director Ezra Ssemwanga this week, he stated, "The biggest challenge is meeting the rent for accommodation and feeding. Most parents are waiting for next year to have their children back in school [and] we have a few children we are taking care of here at Suubi since they don't have families". This corroborates the stories recounted in the Guardian's September 30th article, "'I'll never go back’: Uganda’s schools at risk as teachers find new work during Covid. This article discusses the challenges that teachers face in the absence of income or a social safety net—many have returned to their villages and started their own businesses, or taken up forms of employment they have found through recruitment agencies. A smaller number have become private tutors to families with the means to continue their children's education in this manner, but this is a minority, and is not supported by public monies.
My conversation with Ezra, plus the Guardian article, motivated me to leverage the attention on Uganda's Independence Day this year for something else important and timely: rallying around the education crisis.
Mukono Foundation is open 24/7 to receive contributions, but we are taking it a step further and matching all outright donations 1:1 between Thursday, October 7 and Monday, October 11. All contributions are tax-deductible, and all donors will receive a small gift, made in Uganda. xN always donates a portion of its sales to Mukono Foundation, and during this time period, we're taking 15% off of all Ugandan and Rwandan baskets, and still donating a portion of sales.
This is a small gesture, but not an insignificant one. When we provided emergency grants to xN artisans and Suubi in July, this prevented Suubi's utilities from being shut off, and our artisans were able to provide healthy meals for their families—the first in a very long time. So I'll reiterate, no amount is too small. If you are not able to make a contribution or a purchase, you can share this information with someone who can, or someone who will also be willing to share and spread the word. On Suubi's and my artisans' behalf, Weebale Nnyo. We thank you very much.