Sunday, May 29, 2011

SURE Prospects Institute & MUBS Chairman country home

This morning started like most others; we headed to breakfast at MUBS. This morning’s breakfast was pretty typical with the exception of a new item added to the menu: Ugandan doughnuts. They looked like the doughnuts in the US and were most similar to cake doughnuts, however they are not very sweet.

We experienced a lot of hurrying up and then waiting throughout the morning. After plans were more solidified, we decided to grab some snacks at Capital Shoppers Supermarket for a light lunch later in the day.

On the way to visit SURE Prospects Institute, there was a lot of conversing between the Drake and MUBS students about what the Drake students had experienced on our rural visit yesterday. We also sang the songs that the children performed for us at the village the previous day.

When we arrived at SURE Prospects Institute, Francis, the principal, owner and founder, gave us an introduction. He explained that SURE is an inclusive school with three sections: nursery, pre-primary & primary, and special needs. Francis started the school in 2002 after he competed university. The actual idea was conceived in 1998 while attending university, when he was the chairperson of the Students with Disabilities campus organization. He decided to focus on youth and children with disabilities. Upon graduation, Francis spent time on the land where the school was going to be and pondered his idea. He also went out into the community and asked what others thought of the idea. He wanted to get the community’s view of disabled persons. In Uganda, people don’t care for the disabled. They don’t even refer to them with “politically correct” titles such as blind or deaf in their language—they simply refer to them as stupid. Numerous of the disabled are disowned and become beggars on the streets. Many of the people in the community thought he was going to get them in trouble with the law for abandoning and mistreating their disabled children, so he had to work very hard to convince them that he only wanted to help.

Francis had a desire to help disabled people become educated, productive members of society rather then becoming beggars on the streets. This makes this institution sustainable as well as the economy.

When the school started, children were taught skills to go straight into the work force. They were trained to use sewing machines and computers. The costs of education, especially those who are disabled, is very high. Nearly 90 percent of disabled children born in Uganda are born into poor families. To compensate for the high cost of education and the little money that the disabled parents and guardians had, SURE became an inclusive institution. This meant that disabled and abled persons were educated. The ratio started out as 10 abled children to 1 disabled child. That ratio is now down to 3:1. The 10, now three, fees of the abled children would help to cover the costs for the disabled child. This means that the disabled children could go to school for free. Nearly all the subjects covered in the school you attended are taught at SURE Prospects Institute. There are currently 302 students at the school. Nearly all classes are a mix of abeled and disabled children.

Many people in Uganda have the conviction that disabilities are contagious. This was another barrier that Francis had to work through. Now, SURE is known as one of the best schools in the area. He really had to show others what they were doing at SURE Prospects Institute. They have a strong emphasis on education so that these children can become productive members of society. It is engrained in these children’s brains that even though their arms or legs or eyes don’t work, their brains do. Francis and the other 24 teaches have to show the children, their parents, and the community the potential the potential these children have. Some of the teachers are also disabled.

Francis has also tried to show businesses the advantages of employing disabled people. One of the advantages is that they are SUPPOSED to get a tax break.

The people that have gone through this school have been successful in the workplace. There have been six children that have graduated from SURE. One of the six is even attending university.

One of the other challenges that Francis faces on a daily basis is being patient. Teachers at SURE have to learn about the children and be creative. Something that Francis taught me was that learning disabilities are difficult, but not complex. At SURE instead of calling the intellectually challenged “slow learners,” they call them “time takers.” This is very true; if you are patient with these children, they are often very accurate in their work.

This school is very sustainable and very beneficial for Uganda. Francis has a passion for what he does. He is educating the disabled to become useful members of society rather than becoming beggars on the streets. He cares for these children as they were his own.

After the presentation, we gave Francis a small gift, as well as some gifts for the children. Deb also presented Francis with a gift from her mother, whose name is also Francis. Then we had some time to walk around the school on a short tour, as well as spend some time with the kids. We gave them some “sweeties,” talked with them, and some even played football (what we know in the US as soccer) with them. Many of the disabled children seemed to have a buddy that helped them. There were two boys, one of them blind, and the other boy led him around all morning making sure he was not left out. They were all very cute and touched our hearts.

Next we went to a park on the shore of Lake Victoria for a light lunch. It was so beautiful out! It was nice to put our feet in the sand and take a few pictures.

After we were finished with lunch, we headed to the Chairman of the MUBS Board of Trustees country home. We had to take a smaller bus up to his house because the road is so rough and narrow. As we were driving up, everyone in the cramped bus was being thrown from side to side. At one point, many of us had to get off the bus so that it could make it over the roughest part. Many of us just walked the additional 200 meters up the hill to the house. It had a gorgeous view of Lake Victoria. We just spent some time out in the yard talking and enjoying drinks. We also went up on the balcony of the house and took some pictures. What a breathtaking view of Lake Victoria and the countryside of Kampala.

We had a wonderful dinner and spent some time chatting and playing cards. After awhile, The Chairman gave a short speech. He talked about sustainability differences between Uganda and the US. With the one-acre of land that the Chairman’s house is on, they try to grow everything they need to survive. The goal of the Chairman, as well as many other Ugandans, is to be able to survive on their own land, without going into town to buy anything for a month. This kind of life style is sustainable. If you take care of your crops, you can survive on all the food you grow.

The night was wrapped up by saying that we as students and ambassadors had to decide the value of this experience. We have to take advantage of the opportunity we have with our time left in Uganda.

Finally, as we were getting ready to leave, all the students took part in African children’s games, the equivalent of our “Duck, Duck, Goose” in the US. It was such a fun way to end another wonderful day in Uganda.

5 comments:

  1. The SURE Institue was an excellent example of how an education program can be administered sustainably. I was impressed with Francis' idea to use the tuition dollars from able bodied students to fund the free education of children with disabilities. This ensures that low income students with disabilities will have equal access to education. Over time, The SURE Institute has been able to reduce the ratio of paying students to free students which is a sign that with time, the ratio may equalize.

    I was also impressed with The SURE Institute's efforts to reduce the stigma towards disability in Uganda. As Leslie mentioned, they work with the community and employers to address the stigma associated with people with disabilities. Education for children is important and will provide great opportunities for the students at The SURE Institute, but reducing the stigma associated with disability in Uganda will ensure that ALL people with disabilities in Uganda will benefit from increased opportunities.

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  2. It was very discouraging to hear how there is no word in Luganda, the most common language after English, for disabled people in general other than one that means “stupid.” There is a terrible stigma towards the disabled people of the country and people like Francis are making a wonderful impact on the future of Uganda. I loved seeing the kids get along so well together, and everyone seemed to have a buddy to make sure they all received a smiley face button and their fair share of candy.
    The Sure Prospects Institute is really doing a lot of good work shaping the community to a more welcoming and accepting environment for disabled people with programs such as workshops for employers. Here, they demonstrate the skills that the disabled people have and to break the stigma that they are unable to work and show how talented they actually are. I was so impressed by a drawing in Francis’s office done by a 14 year old deaf and partially blind girl that was incredible.

    I also really enjoyed visiting the chairman’s home and actually getting to talk to him in depth with a few other students. He is an extremely accomplished man and has a good friendship with the President of Uganda. He has worked for the UN and lived in many different places. He has accomplished so much for the future of education in this country and it was awesome getting to speak with him.

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  3. After hearing how people with disabilities are discriminated against in this country, I was very impressed with the SURE institute. It is amazing how the founder, Francis, was able to rise above his physical disability and help so many children. This school gives those with disabilities the chance to experience life as they should. It also gives them a chance to prove to themselves and others that thier disability does not always affect their brain, and they still have a lot to contribute to society if they are given the chance.
    Integrating the students with disabilities with those who are not also greatly adds to the appeal of teh school. I feel that this is an excellent way for both groups of children to learn: Those with disabilities will be able to interact and learn with others, and at the same time, those without disabilities will learn to accept and relate to children with disabilities. In a society where disabilities are so unaccepted, I feel that allowing these children the chance to relate to those with disabilities will change their entire mindset and, in time, will hopefully spread to the rest of the population.

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  4. I was very impressed with the positive environment that the SURE institute provided for its students. It gave students with disabilities the chance to receive the high quality education that they deserved. Francis, the founder of the SURE institute, told us about how they have grown over the past years. One part that I found interesting was that they originally had 10 students to every one student with a disability at their school. They now have 3 students to every 1 student with a disability. I later asked him how well the 3 students work with the other students with disabilities and I was very pleased with his answer. He said they are very supportive of one another and a lot of the time those students will help the others learn, which is so powerful to me as a future educator.

    An example of this that I observed that day was two brothers, one was blind and one was not. The two of them were attached at the hip through out the whole morning. The brother that was not blind was leading his brother everywhere and was showing him things and letting him see how things felt, and I was just so touched by this moment. Even when the brother left him at one point, all of the other students did not mind helping the young boy that was blind. It was that moment that I could see how all of these students are there to support one another and help each other grow as learners and individuals.

    SURE gives students with disabilities so many more possibilities so many more opportunities that encourage them to keep developing.

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  5. I too, was very impressed with the SURE Institute. As a psychology major, physical and mental disabilities is something that I am very familiar with. In the United States, there is a form of stigma present for both adults and children with disabilities that they are not able to preform as well as typically developed individuals. They can be ostracized in their communities and looked down on in school and work settings. However, the stigma in the United States is not as severe as the stigma in Uganda. Hearing about the discrimination of people with disabilities in Uganda was heartbreaking. But being able to go to a place such as SURE was very uplifting. It was touching to hear about how hard they are working to reduce the stigma, and to give individuals with disabilities opportunities in the work force and to better their lives.

    One of the issues that upsets me the most about this situation is that the government has declared rights for individuals with disabilities, but they are not implemented. The Parliament even has Members of Parliament who are representatives for individuals with disabilities, but nothings seems to be getting done to help them. The government and these representatives need to develop programs to help these individuals, especially when it comes to entering the labor force.

    This was an eye-opening experience. The SURE Institute is a great place to help all children grow and receive and education that can hopefully one day help them enter the work force and be treated and viewed as a person and not their disability.

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