Is Windle Trust Uganda’s programme for war-affected youth in Northern Uganda.Started in 2006, the ABS was the largest supporter of access to secondary and vocational education for former LRA abductees, orphans, young and child-mothers, young heads of households, chronically ill, disabled, families affected by HIV or extreme poverty and other marginalized youth in this conflict-torn region.
The overall objective of the programme was to contribute to the reconciliation, integration and reconstruction in the war affected districts of northern Uganda by improving access to education for war affected youth with a theme to reintegrate into their families and communities, gain self-confidence and self-esteem, and contribute to rebuilding their devastated region through a fund grant by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.The organization also offered a range of workshops, counseling, and school constructions so not only students benefit but teachers, the school, and the community as a whole do as well. Thanks to the funding from Royal Netherlands Embassy, Windle Trust Uganda has created a holistic approach to the needs of the student and community. For 5 years this programme supported over 3500 youth boys and girls to attain a secondary education and over 550 youth male and female to attain vocational training and a handful of University students in Gulu, Amuru, Kitgum, Pader and Lira districts..Its operation ended in 2010.
Opio,a student at Kitgum Town College, stated that the civil war fought for over two decades in Acholi land shattered his past life. His father was brutally murdered during this time of conflict and Opio captured by the Lords Resistance Army and forcefully conscripted into their ranks.
It is challenging to talk about this haunting period that absorbed five years of his life and Opio quickly moves on to the topic of his return.
Coming home from the bush was tremendously difficult for Opio and after some time he began to realize that reintegrating back into his village would not be the easy homecoming he imagined. Not only shouldered with the growing responsibility of aiding his single mother raise, feed and afford his other siblings; Opio faced hostility from family and neighbors who used to be important figures in his life before the war. Secondary school seemed to be a distant reality from the daily obstacles of seeking acceptance from his society, digging to earn money for his family, and reeling from the emotional scarring of the LRA. The possibilities in his future diminished as school began taking a backseat to resettling his former life and relationships.
However, Opio has always placed great importance on education and did not want to relinquish the hopes of a diploma. Since his mother could not give him the financial support needed Opio desperately tried raising the money on his own. After a few irregular semesters at school he applied and received an ABS scholarship. This program gave Opio an opportunity to succeed through the use of his own willpower and obtain self-confidence and respect from his peers. Opio grins as he says that “my life used to be directly dependent on guns when I was in the LRA. After the war ended I had no hope in the future but ABS helped me reset my life.” By providing school fees and other essential benefits Opio was able to fully concentrate on his course work and study for his exams. He confidently says that “ABS had helped me regain my dignity as a useful person since the war.”
When discussing the possible continuation of the WTU/ABS program past 2009 Opio’s face is filled with wistful yearning. He knows that without the financial and social help of the Acholi Bursary Scheme he will be forced to return to his old life of struggling for school fees and an assortment of odd jobs. Opio longs to have the opportunity to finish his A-levels and as the dialogue trails off he finishes by saying “I thank Windle Trust for their hard work and hope the Almightly God bless you in continuing.”
Akwero Fiona is a soft-spoken 19 year old who is a student at Sacred Heart Secondary School. She remained quiet and chose her sentences carefully as we asked her what life was like before Windle Trust Uganda. Fiona started off simply by stating that it “was very difficult.”
All hopes of a secondary education seemed beyond the grasps of this now flourishing student a few years prior. Her father died of HIV/AIDS in 2001 and left the family financially devastated and Fiona’s mother as the sole provider and caretaker of Fiona and her five siblings. Since Fiona is the second-born she is expected to perform various odd jobs such as cleaning other people’s homes and digging crops to financially help her family. These day to day obstacles severely affected her ability to focus on her studies as she could not devote all her time and efforts to revising. Frequently Fiona was sent home from school due to her family’s inability to pay and with the steady increase of responsibilities at home all dreams of graduation secondary school seemed dashed. The possibilities in her future narrowed dramatically as she started taking more and more time away from school.
After many years of financial hardship, Fiona says that, “I went to Sister Mary Carla the head teacher at Sacred Heart Secondary School and explained my problem. She gave me a form of the Acholi Bursary Scheme; I filled it out and was accepted to be sponsored by Windle Trust.” Following acceptance into the program, “I became very settled in mind and I began having hope that I will study and then become the very person I want to be out of the support.” She beams as she states that her future possibilities have widened and how ABS has given her the financial and personal support she needs to continue higher education.
In giving students like Fiona access to further schooling WTU/ABS, with the help of the Royal Netherlands Embassy, is opening doors for the youth of Northern Uganda and breaking the structural violence of poverty. By giving students the educational tools to change their own lives, ABS is encouraging the next generation of Acholi people to seize their future and become leaders within their communities.
Okata Walter is a reserved 23 year old student at Uganda Technical College.
After his father was killed in a vehicle accident in 1998 Walter became the primary financial supporter of his mother and his six other brother and sisters. Since he was older than many of his siblings the responsibility of taking care of them and finding means to support the family often fell on the shoulders of his young man. For many years Walter helped sustain his household on the sale of surplus crops he plucked from his fields and dug under the baking Ugandan sun. What little money was left after the needs of his family were handled Walter saved for his education. However, finances were tight and semester after semester he would be sent home early from school due to his inability to provide tuition. These constant interruptions in his studies were harmful to his academic marks and slowly Walter began to lose hopes of graduating and finding a job that could help sustain him.
Walter happily says that getting accepted into the ABS program was a real turning point in his life. With the financial and social support of the scheme Walter was given the opportunity to study without the constant disruptions and a chance at a seconday education. Given his experience in the fields Walter decided to enroll in an Agriculture course which he hopes will give him the tools and knowledge to change his living situation. When he asked what he aspires to be in the future, he humbly responded, “I want to be a good man with a job who can help support my family.”
Knowing that WTU/ABS is due to end in 2009 Walter pleads that the program continues. He quietly adds that “I pray that the program can support me for one more year until I get my diploma. The people in the north are poor and lacking knowledge but there are so many willing students who do not get a chance – including me.” Walter shows that the next generation of youth in northern Uganda is not asking for handouts, they understand the severity of their situations but are merely asking for the opportunities to change them. He conluded by stating that he believes this program is making large strides in raising the standards of everyday Acholis and will contribute to a more educated and confident region.
After decades of strife and hardship with the LRA it is refreshing to hear of individual students who are able to rise above what they are given and achieve more. ABS strives to give individuals the tools the change their conditions with an education that will last them a lifetime. This program is more than just scholarships and social services but a trangible chance at a brighter future. In sponsoring 3,500 students each year, this 4-year scheme has touched the lives of thousands of Acholi youth. The resounding declaration repeated over and over is these students represent countless hoards of young minds willing and able – simply waiting for an opportunity.
Female beneficiaries and other female students of Christ the King PTC (Gulu)
attending a Reproductive Health workshop
apteka mujchine for man ukonkemerovo woditely driver.