#PD14 Sponsor: Inspiration: What a Poem Can Do

Near the shores of Lake Kyoga, Uganda, in the Nakasongola district, the 687 students of Kiguli Army primary school are the educational centerpiece of their local communities. From fishing communities to landing sites to the Ministry of Defense ordnace factory managed by Luwero Industries, these students’ families represent the childrens’ diverse backgrounds, lifestyles and experiences.
The school is also the centerpiece of Luwero Industries’ corporate social responsibility plan, which includes re-forestation of local areas near the school.
The school is a primary school, not a military or boarding school. Its teachers seek to instill the values of discipline, hard work and community service in their students. From Primary One through Primary Seven, students learn Social Studies, Mathematics, English and Science. No students are promoted until they complete the work needed to earn a passing grade in their current level of study. Students also excel in extra-curricular athletic activities such as football (soccer) and volleyball, winning district accolades and advancing themselves to a district-wide football showpiece which will showcase these children’s unrivaled skills in this sport.
For the past several years, the school has been turning out the best students in the district. Last year, however, the students’ academic scores suffered a decline, due in large part to the economic woes befalling Uganda. These children teeter precariously close to spending the rest ot their lives in poverty if they fail to get the education they so desperately need to better their stations in life.
The school itself also suffers from Uganda’s economic malaise. Porridge is now the sole meal served to the students. The school’s buildings have fallen in disrepair. Teachers are earning a pittance, or volunteering their time. The parents, Luwero Industries and other local benefactors have managed to raise some funds to repair and renovate the school. This, however, is but a drop in the school’s ocean of need.
“We have a strong sense of mission. And we have faith that initiatives such as this project will flip the floudering fortunes of this school and its glorious, inspiring students.”
So, what can a poetry book do to combat such a mountain of obstacles? A lot. This project, The Songs Of Kiguli, has given these children the inspiration to believe in themselves and what they can accomplish. This is why the majority of the 2012 class went on to secondary schools of higher repute, in spite of their academic losses when compared to the previous years’ classes.
The Songs Of Kiguli has drawn many accolades, in Uganda and internationally. Uganda’s Minister Of Internal Affairs, Aronda Nyakairima, stated that their writing reached of a level of quality exceeding what he though rural school children were capable of. The children have also collaborated with American students in a “poetry without borders” program, learning about the things they share in common as well as their differences.
The school indeed stands on the cusp of monumental achievement. The Songs Of Kiguli gives these children a way to reach the world with the beauty of their poetry, lift themselves out of poverty and give them a path to a stronger future. Not just for themselves, but the people of Uganda, and Africa as a whole. Their moment in time has come, a moment that will shine far beyond any 15 minutes of fame.


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