Irish Aid funds a Bursary Programme which is an initiative to support improved access to and retention in post primary education in Karamoja sub-region, North Eastern Uganda. The programme benefits bright but disadvantaged children in post primary level in Karamoja. The Irish Aid Bursary Program is currently implemented by the Straight Talk Foundation.
Since the Secondary School Bursary Programme began in 2005, 1,950 Karimojong students have benefited from it. The University programme began in 2011 and so far, 217 students have benefited from it. Of these, 103 have completed their courses and graduated from different Universities.
Judith Lokor is a third year student pursuing a Bachelors of Arts in Education Degree at Kyambogo University in Kampala, Uganda. Lokor hails from Kotido, one of the districts in Karamoja sub-region where girls’ education is not valued by most parents. Many parents there do not believe in sending girls to school because it distracts girls from their traditional role in the home. Girls are looked at as a source of income and are groomed to be good housewives, who can bring cows into their family in the form of bride price.
Lokor says, “I am among the few lucky girls from Karamoja who got a rare opportunity to be in school. Most of my peers are married. My relatives and friends back home keep telling me that I should get married because I am wasting a lot of time at school. But, I know that education will liberate me from the troubles I have been going through since childhood.”
Lokor is the eldest in a family of eight children from her mother. However, her father has twenty-five children from four wives, with her mother being the first wife. Their father abandoned them when he took on the other wives. He does not provide support to any of her mother’s children, save for her brother who took him to court, forcing him to start paying for his school-fees.
“When I was in Primary School, life was tough. We had no food or school fees. We would go without food for days or go to the bush and gather wild leaves to eat. Sometimes, we would help our mother to brew and sell local beer to make ends meet. Thank God my mother valued and still values education. Despite the hurdles, my mother gathered courage to go and talk to the management of Mary Mother of God Primary School in Kotido district, so that they could allow us to study free of charge.”
Lokor studied in this school throughout her Primary Education. After sitting for her Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE), life became harder. She had no school fees for Secondary Education. Her mother has eight children of her own and four dependents, who are Lokor’s deceased aunt’s children. The meager salary earned by her mother as a cleaner at Kanawat Health Centre in Kotido district, could not cater for all their needs.
“Luck came my way when I applied for an Irish Aid Bursary and received it. I was admitted to Kotido Secondary School for O-Level and Kangole Girls Secondary School in Napak for A-level. I couldn’t believe that I could also study in a school that was known in the region as that of children from well-to-do families.”
Lokor continues to say, “My family has always benefitted from the support I receive from Irish Aid through Straight Talk Foundation and previously from FAWEU. I must say that Irish Aid has changed my entire family’s life. Whenever I receive items like soap, vaseline and sanitary towels, I send some to my siblings. I also give my mother some of my upkeep money so that she can buy food for the family. I really appreciate the support. It has saved the lives of all my family members. I do not think I would be where I am today. I would probably be suffering in a violent marriage.”