Strength From Within

This photo essay was submitted by Ken Driese

Joel Katamba is visionary. Compelled to help his struggling family as a young man, he cut short his schooling, vowing to help others in his community get the education he missed. As an adult, Joel built the Kyamulinga School using funds generated by selling pineapples.

I stayed with Joel while visiting Kyamulinga to photograph a successful partnership between his school and a small but energetic non-profit from Boulder, Colorado, called One School at a Time. One School worked with Joel and the local community to add a classroom building and a water system at Kyamulinga, facilities that were needed but unaffordable, since many students can’t pay full fees.

One School at a Time helped by providing funding and technical oversight for the addition of a classroom and an on-site water system including a cistern, treadle pump, filtration and solar heater. The community provided labor, local materials and enthusiasm. For girls, at-school water is especially important because it saves hours spent out of class, walking to remote ponds where they are vulnerable to assault.

One School is building on its success by partnering with another school in the same area, a strategy intended to strengthen both project schools.

While staying with Joel and photographing the children of Kyamulinga for One School at a Time, I was especially impressed by two human qualities in the school community. First, among today’s Ugandans, there is a powerful commitment to education that is constrained not by a lack of vision, but instead by scarce financial resources. Second, the children at the schools are fully committed to their educations, attending school with enthusiasm, humor and an irresistible sense of fun and camaraderie in the face of hard circumstances. Every child is affected directly or indirectly by AIDS and poverty, and yet they remain full of spirit.

Helping schools succeed in Uganda is not about dumping resources on perceived problems and moving on, it’s about building strong partnerships with local communities to harness the remarkable intelligence, vision and commitment that they share for education. It is these partnerships that offer the opportunity for sustainable gains in the quality of education for these children, each of whom has the potential to make their lives and their nation better. One School at a Time continues to strengthen the Kyamulinga School from within, instead of from the outside.

One School at a Time
Ken Driese’s book about One School

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