At Home and Abroad
July 22, 2011
Lately, our critics have asked us why we choose to work in Uganda when there is so much need at home. The education system in the United States is far from perfect, and yet we have chosen to dedicate our time, talent and resources to strangers half a world away.
First of all, BT works in Uganda today because that is where we started when our Founder, George Srour, visited the country as a United Nations intern. He recognized the unique opportunity to empower the next generation in Uganda, one of the youngest countries in the world with half of the population under 15 years of age. This abundance of young people is unfortunately countered by an incredible deficit in opportunities for education.
Furthermore, as BTers we identify ourselves as a part of a global community. We are citizens of the world, working beside our peers around the world. The students who attend BT academies are no different than ourselves, our friends or family. They too dream of growing up to be teachers, doctors, musicians, and engineers. They, like many of us, hope to one day fall in love and start a family, and to be able to provide all of the opportunities in the world for their children. It is not a lack of drive or motivation that often restricts them, but the poverty into which they were born; communities plagued by disease, debt, and illiteracy that narrows the options available to them. Yes, we are proud Americans. But the location of our birth should not separate us or prevent us from understanding the problems of humankind.
If an American school is closed due to lack of funding or some other obstacle, there is always an alternative. A longer bus ride may be required, or a classroom may become slightly more crowded, yet the access to education is there. The vast majority of American children have a safe, staffed, and local school to attend. However their peers in Uganda do not enjoy such luxuries. Students in Uganda oftentimes have to walk as far as 5 or 6 miles along busy roads to school everyday, which is prohibitively dangerous to many.
Universal Primary Education is a goal delineated by the United Nations as one of the Millennium Development Goals. They are designed as ways to enable â€œthe entire international community to work together towards a common end – making sure that human development reaches everyone, everywhere.â€ And global development is a two way street. Improved quality of life in other countries will in turn provide opportunities for new diplomatic and trade relationships for the United States. The entire global economy benefits when one country prospers, and citizens of our world will live longer, happier, and healthier lives.
We arenâ€™t arguing that there is no room to give back in our American backyard, but we are aware that the impact of a dollar can reach much further in Uganda than it would in the United States. $60,000 can fund the construction of a primary academy for 325 children in Uganda every school year for generations to come. On the other hand, Reed Construction Data shows the United States at the opposite end of the spectrum. According to their website, construction of an average American elementary school runs approximately $6,000,000. Because of this difference, our work in Uganda has made the most change for our buck, if you will. It allows Building Tomorrow to impact the most lives in our global community, and provide opportunities for children in Uganda to climb out of the holes of poverty and illiteracy. Together with other organizations working towards Universal Primary Education in every country, we can work towards a world where every child has equal opportunity to realize their potential as human beings.
For all of these reasons, and so many more, we are dedicating ourselves to increasing access to education in Uganda. One billion people in the world are currently illiterate. Until each of them has the opportunity to go to a safe and accessible school, we wonâ€™t stop Building Tomorrow.