The impact volunteers are having on primary children in rural Uganda

Three years ago, John Ssentamu, Head Teacher of the Good Shepherd School, Uganda contacted Education and Employers. His school is situated in the Masake District, a very rural part of Uganda and a five hour drive from the capital, Kampala. John had seen an article about the launch of Primary Futures in Blackpool and the impact it was having on children, especially from disadvantaged backgrounds. He explained that he wanted to do something similar to motivate and broaden the horizons of his children and give them hope that they can succeed.

Since then he has organised two Primary Futures events and other schools in Uganda are now getting involved.

And a number of his children took part in the 2018  Drawing the Future study –  see page 58 to see what careers they aspire to.

John was invited to speak at the 10th anniversary event of Education and Employers (see photos) and the launch of  “I am #Inspiringthefuture” campaign. Getting a visa was challenging and it took four attempts before he succeeded (each attempt involving at 10 hours round trip).

John spoke about the impact volunteers were having and showed clips of a Primary Futures event he  organised on 10 August 2018 where children got to meet medical doctor, general practitioner, journalist, agriculturist, electrician and project manager. The volunteers spoke to the children about their jobs, opening their eyes to new directions and aspirations.

Question and Answers with John:

Why do Primary aged children need to meet role models from the world of work in Uganda?

When children meet role models, they get inspired to keep pursuing their dreams. It helps them build confidence to work hard and realise their destiny. The role models also help them to chart out the goals of their education journey that can subsequently open a wide range of job opportunities for them.

Why is it important that the volunteers come to visit your school?

The children and adults from the rural areas often feel that they are treated as third-class citizens who are not included in the process of nation building as much as the city-based population. But when volunteers visit schools, it makes the school children feel encouraged and included in the nation building process.

Children in our society have a narrow perspective on career choices. This is as they are exposed to only a few regular professionals in their daily lives such as nurses, teachers or gardeners. Interacting with volunteers from various professional backgrounds has opened new avenues of education curriculums and consecutive career prospects. As a result, the children are increasingly showing a positive attitude towards learning irrespective of the education background or economic status of their parents.

What impacts have the visits had?

The volunteers had a positive impact on changing the children as well as the parents’ attitude towards education. The parents now understand the wide scopes of career opportunities and importance of keeping the children in school. The children’s attendances have increased while they feel encouraged to pursue a range of vocational and professional opportunities.

How have Primary Future events helped your vision to connect role models with children and create aspirations?

The Primary Future events have bridged the gap between education curriculum and job opportunities for our school children. They are now equipped with information that can help them achieve their education goals. The teachers are also inspired to get more involved in their roles of shaping the future of children.

Do Primary Future events help in breaking gender stereotypes for children?

The Primary Future events have opened the eyes of the young minds to a more inclusive world where all job opportunities are available to all irrespective of gender bias. They realise that every role is available to all and the best applicants are selected based on their individual performance as well as interview skills and not on their gender profile.

What is the long-term benefit of connecting?

My idea is to set up a ‘Centre of inspiration’ where children and adults will come together to exchange ideas with professionals and develop a better understanding of the world of work. I also want to create a database like the one in the UK  to enable more professional volunteers visit primary schools to meet the school children and prepare them for future job market.