Many young people and adults in Uganda lack basic reading and writing skills and counting. This leads to exclusion and vulnerability. They are easily exposed to deception, they are discriminated against, they have no knowledge of their rights and lack basic knowledge of health and hygiene. They can't control their own finances, set the right prices or figure out what things cost.
Many young people from the countryside move to Kampala and Entebbe in the hope of finding livelihood. But without education, they have little chance of crossing the poverty line. Young guys try to support themselves as a motorcycle taxi driver, the girls work as housekeeping. Those who manage to get a small start-up capital can buy goods and resell in smaller quantities. Many find no job at all, and are ashamed to return to the hometown and admit their failure. It can become the gateway to crime and prostitution, and to open misery.
Luganda is Uganda's largest language. Those who speak the language are called Baganda and their kingdom is called Buganda. The country of Uganda is named after this population of 5.5 million, which is Uganda's largest.
The partner organization
The local organization CACI (Change African Child International) works among people on the outskirts of the big cities of Kampala and Entebbe. They already have a job among young unemployed, with training in crafts, entrepreneurship and social work. CACI works closely with several other local organizations. They make staff available and help to organize and follow up the study groups. Through their network, the number of study groups can be increased, while at the same time offering participants to be integrated into other activities that lead them to find a livelihood.
Since its inception in 2013, the program has become increasingly established. Courses are in demand throughout the area, and the proportion who drop out without completing the course is very low, below 15%. In most similar programs, 50% or more do not finish the course. The authorities are now starting to see this work, and CACI hopes to be able to establish a collaboration that can lead to the method being used by other actors among the several million Ugandans who missed the opportunity to attend school.
ALEF prepared a series of syllabuses and textbooks on luganda together with a project team during the years 2013-2016. Over the years, they have been used in over 100 groups in three grades.
In year 1 you learn basic reading and writing in Luanda and practice reading on texts you create yourself. You talk about common everyday challenges and decide how to deal with them.
Year 2 focuses on how to use the four methods of calculation in everyday life. At the same time you continue reading and writing in the mother tongue. This year's course also introduces easy conversations in English. Discussions about the challenges of everyday life and the solutions to the problems continue.
In the 3rd grade, you read longer texts. Human rights are discussed based on the local situation. The groups learn how to start and run an economic association together. They also learn to read and write in English, and to relate to and interpret the various documents in English that they encounter in everyday life, e.g. bills, school grades and signs and instructions from the authorities.
During May-October, all groups gather twice a week, a couple of hours each time. They meet in their home areas in rooms that they arrange themselves, sometimes under a tree, sometimes in a backyard or in someone's living room. In November, everyone undergoes a final exam. All groups are visited at least once a month by someone from the project management, to ensure that everything works and that they follow the syllabus and lead the groups with the correct methodology.
Since the project started in 2013, we have seen fantastic results. Individuals and groups begin to change their lives, gain new hope, take control of their finances and start income-generating activities. They begin to work together in groups and assert their basic human rights. They stand up to abuse of power and corruption.
Striking in the project in Uganda is that so many groups and individuals have started different companies. Here's a pick among the many small businesses that have grown up thanks to the project:
Some women started a fishing cooperative, and bought several fishing boats. They dried the fish and sold it tons to buyers. Another group started a bakery and egg production. They sell bread and eggs to local schools. A carpenter could start a kick-start operation for several carpentry companies, which has created working capital and can expand and invest in the business. Some young people started a dance troupe performing at parties and weddings for a fee. A woman buys fish that she fries and sells on the market. She makes all payments and orders on mobile.
Another important effect of the project is that the children of the participants get a better schooling. Moms realize that even girls need to go to school. Thanks to an improved economy, they can afford to pay school fees and buy textbooks for the children. Thanks to the knowledge of English, they can read and understand the children's school grades and during the first school years they can help their children with homework.
In the fall of 2017, two students from the Sahlgrenska Academy in Gothenburg each performed an evaluation of ALEF's project in collaboration with CACI in Uganda. Here you can download the reports.
By 2020, CACI had planned to conduct 54 study groups with more than 1100 participants. They had just begun to train group leaders when restrictions on freedom of movement were imposed because of the corona pandemic. Instead, food is instead distributed to the needy in the organization's network thanks to the contribution that ALEF has been able to transfer. Many people have lost all opportunities for income because of the restrictions, and the famine is spreading rapidly. If the restrictions are lifted, the courses can start in July or August.