The Year 8 class at St. Bruno’s School in the Ugandan district of Masaka is shrinking. At the start of the academic year, 140 students crowded into the small classroom. A few months later the number of students sat at the small tables was down to 90. “Many students are not able to pay their school fees,” says 14-year-old Joseph. “Others have no money to buy materials like pens and books.” From Year 7 onwards, schooling is no longer free in Uganda. Four out of five children cannot afford to stay at school.
This is a situation that Andrej Safundzic is keen to change. Together with fellow student Lotta Opderbeck, the German computer studies student thought up the social project “Eduglobe”. It works on the principle of helping people to help themselves. The German students show Ugandan schoolchildren how to make notebooks. The children can use a couple of the books for their own lessons. The rest can be sold by the children themselves in order to pay their school fees out of their earnings.
“The Ugandan children are incredibly talented,” explains 20-year-old Andrej Safundzic. Last September he and his team went to Uganda for the first time to demonstrate the project to the young people. He went back again in March 2017. “When we were trying to show the students how to make a schoolbook, it took me numerous attempts to thread a needle,” recalls Safundzic. “The young Ugandan girls had no problem whatsoever with it. They shook their heads, took the needle and threaded it immediately,” says Safundzic, who was amazed at their abilities.
Enough school materials for all the children
The Ugandan students work on the project for two hours a week. They produce a total of 25 books a term. Less the cost of the materials, each student can earn a profit of ten euros. Even this amount represents a great relief for them – the school fees being about 30 euros per term. “School enterprise” is what Safundzic calls this production of books by the schoolchildren. He calculates that, “the students can pay one third of their school fees by working just two hours a week on the school enterprise.” William, the deputy headmaster of St. Bruno’s School, praises the idea too: “Students would often come to me to ask for pens and paper because they didn’t have enough money to buy them. Thanks to Eduglobe’s school enterprise, all the students have enough school materials now.”
However, Safundzic and his fellow students are not content to leave it at that, given that Uganda is one of the world’s poorest countries. Uganda ranks 163rd out of a total of 188 countries in the United Nations’ Human Development Index. Youth unemployment is estimated to be 80 percent in Uganda. Even with a good education, it’s hard to find a good job. “That was a real shock to me,” says Safundzic.
Projects that are impossible in classes of 100 students
He and his fellow students therefore thought up a new school subject to teach. “Life skills” is the name of the course through which they want to give the Ugandan young people the chance to develop their own strengths to a higher level. The schoolchildren work in small groups to do activities like produce their own school newspaper, make soap, or rehearse a dance. These are projects that are impossible to do in classes of more than 100 students.
“The course we’re offering places each individual student at the center of attention,” explains Safundzic. They aim to help the children learn how to get their own projects going by themselves. As the German student puts it, “Our grand vision is for the students who are now taking part in our projects to one day be in a position to start their own companies and create jobs.”
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