By David Martin Aliker
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” President Nelson Mandela
Last year, Ugandan social media was trending with the story of Anena Harriet.
Harriet is the first Ugandan to win the biennial writing prize, awarded to the continent’s best writers.
She won herself the 2018 Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature. From a total of 110 submissions from 11 nations in Africa, two works of poetry stood out this year. One of them is by a Ugandan – Harriet Anena.
A few months ago, Harriet Anena again was trending in Uganda’s social media for being admitted to the prestigious Columbia University’s MFA writing program.
However, this time round she was not granted financial aid. Apparently, she is singing, dancing, reciting poems and writing to strangers begging for people of good will to come to her aid and sponsor her $100,000 bill for her education.
Similarly, another writer with a familiar background Anena Mercy; a Senior One student who excelled in her Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE) like Anena Harriet is writing to any person of good will to aid her education.
She has written to the Chairman LC V of Nwoya District to forge away to support her education because she does not want to drop out of school. Unfortunately, the LCV Chairman seem overwhelmed and not able to help.
My District Nwoya is nationally known for the worst performance in Primary Leaving Examinations. It also has one of the highest drop out rates with an increasingly terrifying story of early child marriage and child labour.
My bet is unlike Anena Harriet who possibly had parents, Anena Mercy will be part of the statistics of increased school drop out rates, increased statistics of early pregnancies and of course early child labour in the next two years unless a God sent good samaritan comes her way.
Certainly, Anena Mercy is walking in the footsteps of Anena Harriet and may become our next winner of the Wole Soyinka Prize for Literature in Africa.
For now, a few social media enthusiasts have paid up her fees for a year.My experience in sponsorship programs is that this is never sustainable and open to abuse.
But as a country, why would an intelligent girl like Anena Harriet and Anena Mercy; intelligent as they are beg to realize their full potential if we live in a merit based society?
Secondly, why would a young intelligent orphan ask for a favor from the District LCV Chairman whom she barely knows; yet as a country we are signatory to international frameworks like The Dakar Framework of April 2000 that binds us to the education for all dream?
This country is blessed with great opportunities and programs that should come to the aid of such girls instead of waiting until they bring national pride and we are not even ashamed to identify with them.
There are thousands of scholarship opportunities; from state house scholarships, district scholarships to non for profit scholarships but the problem is that it is not merit based.
Instead of waiting for our dysfunctional political state structures to come to the aid of such intelligent youngsters, the community need to focus on local community initiatives that are within their scrutiny like Children Up, Dero Kwan by Mega Fm, Invisible Children Uganda, Acholi Education Initiative and faith based institutional scholarships to educate the poor.
Acholi Sub Region should emulate their brothers in West Nile with West Nile Education Trust Fund to mobilize the community to stand for itself to initiate a publicly transparent merit based Acholi Education Trust Fund to support the likes of Anena Mercy and others.
When we wanted a football stadium, we surprised ourselves and mobilized enough resources locally and rebuilt Pece Stadium to host East African Secondary School games without government support. Today, the FUFA Drum in Pece Stadium is the biggest uniting factor in northern Uganda and so should the education of our children.
The author is a Blogger based in Gulu