Change through Action
Costence Mpirirwe, an Educate! Mentor, teaches the Educate! Leadership Curriculum at three of our partner schools. Through the Educate! Program, high school students (Educate! Scholars) unleash their potential to tackle their community’s greatest challenges. In addition to learning skills in leadership and social entrepreneurship, our Scholars start social initiatives. Below, read from Costence about her Scholars at New Kaabale High School and all they have done to reduce poverty in their community.
In the Kampala suburb of Busega, I teach the Educate! Leadership Curriculum at a typical school in a developing country—New Kaabale High School. It is a young school with boys and girls from the poor communities in the country. The school administrators have put up solid buildings but the floors lack cement and there are few desks. When I started teaching as an Educate! Mentor, I remember thinking that the school compound looked dull, without flowers or design. Needless to say, starting a social initiative was really difficult for the students, because they viewed themselves as having nothing.
As a mentor we are taught to believe in the potential of all our students, help them build a vision for change and push them to set goals towards achieving that vision. At New Kabaale, the vision started on their school’s very own campus.
Last year, through the Educate! Leadership Curriculum, Educate! Scholars at New Kabaale set out to beautify their school compound. They began by planting flowers around their school’s campus. Next, they created a round- a-bout and organized an area they named “The Freedom Square.” Since instigating the changes, the students began to take pride in their school—an improvement that was reflected in a stronger commitment to their academics.
The newly found pride is apparent in the administration, as well. After the beautification project, the administration started to take pictures of the school campus. They now use the pictures for advertising and recruitment. Giving the Educate! Scholars even more recognition for their work, the New Kabaale annual reports and yearly calendar features pictures of the Freedom Square.
After being so inspired by the success of the beautification project, the Educate! Scholars decided to grow their social initiative and address the problem of poverty: They started a small business. Though they are poor, they found a way to create jewelry out of recycled materials and discarded trash. They make beads from thrown out scrap paper and create bangles from plastic bottles and old tin. With the help from one of their fellow Educate! Scholars Zeridah, all the students learned how to make paper beads, glass beads, bangles, necklaces, belts, door mats, baskets, and earrings. They sell their jewelry to teachers, parents and visitors to earn income. They have extended their services to their community as well. The Scholars have taught members of their church how to make the paper beads and door mats, thus allowing some of them to earn a better living and generate personal income.
After saving enough money from the jewelry project, the Educate! Scholars extended their initiative and reinvested the money in a vegetable growing project. The school gave the students land, which was used to harvest carrots, cabbage, sweet potatoes, corn and eggplant. They sold the produce back to the school, bringing in more money for their Educate! initiative, while simultaneously adding to the diets of their classmates. The school prepared the vegetables for the entire student body, providing a nutritional element to their standard lunch of beans and posho (flour water mixture).
Over the holidays, the students took the skills they acquired through Educate! back to their homes by creating personal gardens for their families. As I speak now, every student has a garden at his or her home that they attend to; their parents have even commented that their children have improved their knowledge and skills.
As I work with the students at New Kabaale, I see how they started with a simple vision of improving their school’s campus, and then I watched that vision spread into the larger community and their lives back home. Educate! does not just teach students skills to succeed, we empower our students to take action with the skills they have learned. This has enabled the change to extend beyond the individual. Through the Educate! Leadership Curriculum, students are learning and demonstrating how much potential they have to pursue their vision for a better world everywhere they go.