Did you hear the wake-up call?: Our Program Director’s thoughts on the impact of the Kampala bombings.

Angelica and her inspiration statement

Angelica Towne is now the veteran of our Uganda Educate! team. Here since the inception of the project, she has been instrumental in making Educate! the thriving organization that it is today. In this post, she wanted to share her feelings on the shocking events of July 11, 2010.

As the army guards retreat from their posts at every corner and the
constant blare of sirens for AU Summit delegate motorcades finally
fades, I am left to ponder my last two years living in Kampala and
what will happen next in Uganda. The July 11 Kampala bombings
detonated around the corner from my new house. The blast rattled my
windows but did not wake me. I see this reaction as a metaphor for the
world and Uganda’s response to such acts of random violence—rattled
but not awakened to action.

The Ugandan newspapers have been flooded with grotesque pictures of
lifeless victims, government declarations of swift vengeance, and
opinion articles calling for everything from African Union dissolution
and withdrawal from Somalia to militaristic manhunts for Al Shabab
leaders. As a teacher and non-profit manager, I am not qualified or
willing to propose the appropriate reaction; however, as an (albeit
temporary) member of the Ugandan community, I believe it is an
important time to emphasize the appropriate action we should all be
taking to ensure development, safety, and most importantly, peace.

Our first priority is to promote engagement—get involved in countries
such as Uganda and Somalia and stay involved. I have lost count of the
number of well-meaning pleas for my staff and I to return to the
safety of the U.S. Of course, as a New Yorker who watched the windows
of my high school crack under the force of the Twin Towers’ falling, I
have a different appreciation of the “safety” of home. If we can do
nothing else, organizations can remain strong and continue to support
the development of Uganda.

Educate! logo drawn by an Educate! scholar

Government officials from Uganda and the U.S. recognize the importance
of safeguarding against hotbeds of extremism in Africa and the rest of
the world. But have you heard any of those government officials
outline a clear prevention strategy? Similar to Somalia, in Uganda
nearly 50% of the population is under the age of 18. How are we
engaging the youth of African nations in alternatives to violence and
extremism?

We need to promote Ugandan youth engagement, especially Muslim youth,
in creating a new culture of non-violent social change,
socially-responsible leadership, and grassroots solutions. We need a
bridge generation in the Muslim-Christian divide. Also, there are
critical challenges facing the youth: poverty, environmental
degradation, disease, and violence. In the media, the emphasis is
always on increasing access to education in Africa; however, African
youth—like youth the world over—need the right knowledge, experience,
and mentorship. They need a quality education.

My organization, Educate!, is implementing a new model of education in
Africa that unlocks the potential of the next generation to solve the
greatest problems facing their communities. The curriculum is focused
on the skills and experience students need to find solutions to
poverty, environmental degradation, disease, and violence. Educate!
teachers are mentors who build powerful relationships that give youth
confidence to lead nonviolent social change. And our classroom is the
community itself where students start businesses, community based
organizations, and social enterprises. Youth engagement is both
necessary and powerful.

Angelica, some of the E! team and E! scholars at Hoima Duaga SS with goats from their goat rearing project

I have observed firsthand the tremendous passion among young Ugandans

to be the leaders who solve problems today. I work with a diverse
range of students. Some attend the most underprivileged, rural schools in the country; others go to wealthy boarding schools in the capital; there are Christian and Muslim schools,
boys’ schools and girls’ schools. After only one year of our programs,
students have created 12 businesses and 48 community initiatives.
Youth interventions, no matter where they are, lead to real results. I
firmly believe there will not be sustainable solutions without a new
generation of African leaders prepared to create and lead those
solutions.

The impact of the Kampala terrorist bombings did not wake me up in the
middle of the night, but they have did give me a wake-up call to
remind me of the urgency of my work and the work of so many other
organizations in Uganda.