Imagine that you have founded a school for rural learners out of just about nothing. Your school is growing. The kids are eager to learn, but language is proving a barrier. The juggling between mother tongue learning and English language learning makes it difficult to access adequate teaching material in either language, especially in rural areas. The children do not have sufficient reading material to expose them to reading and writing. Consequently, the kids are frustrated because they do not have sufficient grounding in language to enable them to grasp learning in other subjects. Simply close your eyes and imagine yourself as a child or a teacher under those conditions.
Enter Frederick Tebigwayo, a far-thinking and generous spirit who founded a private school for kids in a rural area well off the beaten track in eastern Uganda. For a start, forget what the term “private school” conjures in most minds. Frederick’s school lacks even the most basic of basics, like building materials for classrooms.
A large proportion of the parents pay reduced or no fees. Frederick welcomes the children because they want them to learn and because their parents, who mostly live off the land, want their children to have the opportunities to build better lives with wider horizons. One way Frederick tries to broaden the children’s love for reading and writing is by starting a writing club, but he knows little of how to proceed from there.
Through a series of lucky coincidences (some connived by me), he meets Felicity Keats Morrison, a highly regarded author, writing teacher and writing mentor, based in Durban, South Africa – who fortuitously also happens to be a dear friend. He wants her training and she wants him to have the training, but …. there is a problem. Frederick has only an aged cell phone and an unreliable internet connection. With dogged determination, Frederick receives training from Felicity over Zoom, and she conducts a writing workshop with Frederick’s writing club over Zoom – all on his battered cell phone. Enthusiasm soars and soon stories are pouring out of the children and out of Frederick himself. Can you see, in your imagination, how much courage and enthusiasm and sheer ingenuity that took?
Felicity’s model involves training children to write books for other children to read. The books are edited for language correctness only, so the authentic voices of the children are captured. Now there are stories and eager young authors who can, finally, help fill the gap in reading resources for their school and others like it. But with no computer, printer or reliable internet connection, how can these books be produced in a format that can be copied and distributed?
(See A Lucky Escape on this blog for Priscilla’s story – she’s the featured author from the writing club.)
That’s where my appeal comes in. I have started two funding campaigns, one on BackaBuddy and one on GoGetFunding, because I know people have different preferences when it comes to crowdfunding. The goal of the campaigns is to raise money for a decent smartphone, computer, printer and reliable Internet connection for Frederick, his writing club and his school.
Countless studies have shown that a love for reading and writing is the foundation for all education. I am appealing to each one of you to sacrifice the cost of a cup of coffee – or maybe even the cost of just one of your favorite morning coffee and muffin combos at that cosy coffee shop down the road from the office. Sacrifice it and donate the equivalent to one of these campaigns. Your cup of coffee could be the foundation of a new voice in African writing, or simply the difference between one child completing school and moving upwards versus remaining stuck in the cycle of rural poverty.
Please sacrifice just one little luxury to light the flame of learning in one child’s mind. Help Frederick to get the most basic equipment needed to support his writing club and so to support writing and learning throughout his school. Your donation will enable the children of Frederick’swriting club to write their stories in their words, and to help those stories go out to help other children who want to conquer language and flourish.
Isn’t that worth more than all the coffee you could drink in a lifetime?