A Reason to Smile


Just because you can’t see doesn’t mean you don’t have vision. 11-year old Betty is blind but wants to be a teacher when she grows up.

Thanks to Building Tomorrow Fellow Godfrey Nanyenya and a group of community education volunteers (CEVs), she’s moving towards that vision.

When Godfrey first heard about Betty, it was through the CEVS who had been moving around the community to identify out-of-school children. She lived in a remote area of Bukomero with her grandma, who was herself quite vulnerable but nonetheless took care of Betty. Always kept indoors to keep her safe because she couldn’t see and never provided the opportunity to play or go to school, Betty was a quiet girl who kept to herself.

One Sunday morning, Godfrey decided to drive his motorcycle, like Fellows often do, to the home of this child to see what was going on and how he could get this young girl back in school.

Upon arriving, Godfrey was met by the grandmother, whose outlook on the situation was quite dour. “Why are you trying to help a person who cannot benefit society?” she inquired. And, more importantly, “How would you?”

Up until this point, there had been no hope for Betty. How could she understand a lesson when she could not see? How could she read, learn, or navigate the world?

What Betty’s grandmother didn’t know was that there actually were opportunities for her grandchild, and Godfrey took it upon himself to prove it to her. He got in contact with Joyce Kibaate, the Kiboga District Inspector for Special Needs and outspoken advocate and innovator for children with disabilities in rural areas.

Joyce Kibaate, the Kiboga District Inspector for Special Needs, has been an outspoken advocate for inclusive education and works closely with Building Tomorrow.

“These people with ‘special needs’ are actually people with unique abilities,” Joyce has said on a number of occasions. “They can contribute a lot to the country!”

Godfrey and Joyce teamed up to enlighten Betty’s grandma about the hope there was for Betty’s future, as well as inform her about the ways that the Kateera Bikira Primary School, the center school for accommodating disabled people in the district, could help.

Roots to Rise math problems in braille

Upon hearing such promises and positivity, Betty’s grandma consented to give it a try and within one week, the school management committee at Kateera bought Betty a uniform, scholastic materials, and everything she needed to enter again into the world of education.

Betty is now enrolled in the third grade (P3) at Kateera Bikira Primary School and getting the support that she needs to succeed. She’s learning how to use braille, and she’s learning through listening, too. What’s more, she’s even making a few great friends like her classmate Leticia who she says tells her nice stories of what she sees every day.

“Right about now,” says Godfrey, “Betty has a reason to smile.”

Betty plays happily with her friends after a meeting on child protection at her school.

Betty is one of more than 52,000 children who we’ve been able to bring back to school through our Thriving Schools Program. To find out more about how our Fellows are teaming up with more than 3,000 community education volunteers across Uganda to bring out-of-school children back to class and deliver foundational learning programs, click here.

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