Ashinaga Uganda Kokoro-Juku
A place of learning for the heart and mind
The Ashinaga Uganda Kokoro-Juku (“Hearts Academy”) is a preparatory academy and residential facility for English- or Portuguese-speaking Ashinaga Africa Initiative students. The Kokoro-Juku provides a space for students to form bonds with their peers from across the continent. It helps prepare students for university, and instills in them the compassion and leadership characteristics that underlie our program.
Each year we conduct a vigorous recruitment strategy to find gifted students from English- and Portuguese-speaking countries across Sub-Saharan Africa. The aim is to find exceptional students that fit the following criteria: between the ages of 17 and 22, have lost one or both parents, have obtained exceptional high school grades, and hope to study abroad in order dedicate their future careers to the development of Sub-Saharan Africa.
Once all applications are received, staff will choose five students from each country to interview. Then the staff, accompanied by local experts, will interview these students in their home countries. One student from each country will then be selected to join the Ashinaga Africa Initiative program. We value equality, so we seek to find a gender balance and a diverse range of subject choices when choosing our applicants.
Once the students have been selected, they fly to Uganda to partake in an intensive six-month Study Camp. Students attend daily classes and tutorial sessions in which they prepare for standardized testing and university entrance applications. Classes also strengthen their skills in core subjects such as reading, writing, math, and science. In addition, scholars benefit from African and global affairs classes, computer skills, presentations, and debate classes. They also take on positions of responsibility in daily life within the Kokoro-Juku.
After the students have completed Study Camp in Uganda and Senegal, we bring them all to Uganda to participate in Preparation Camp. The aim of the camp is to ready the students for all aspects of their university and future lives. This comprises academic and social preparation, and visa applications.
We also have a strong emphasis on leadership development. We want students to learn and adopt the spirit of ‘pay it forward’ by learning their roots and shaping their future plans. We work with them on their kokorozashi (life goals), promote entrepreneurship, discuss personal development, and build a united “Ashinaga family” between English-, French-, and Portuguese-speaking students.
Every year the Kokoro-Juku welcomes around 30 interns from around the world. The interns work closely with the students to prepare them for university and life abroad. The interns are specifically chosen according to the needs of the students. This is integral, as the chosen interns must have country-specific and subject-specific knowledge which they can pass on to our students. Internships either last two or four months, and during this time interns and students build strong bonds. With support from regional staff, past interns often volunteer as mentors, staying connected and giving advice to our students once they start university.
Gorata from Botswana
“My experience in Uganda was life-changing. Before I went to Uganda, I honestly believed that I had everything figured out. I thought I knew who I was, my beliefs, and to some extent I thought I understood what was happening in the world. So when I got to the Juku and met a lot of amazing people from different backgrounds, cultures, and nationalities, it opened my eyes to how little I knew about the world. Every moment in the Juku was an opportunity to learn, and I loved it. I was surrounded by people who supported my dreams and encouraged me to dream bigger. This gave me the confidence to believe in myself and know that I can accomplish whatever I set my mind to. Because of my time in Uganda, I have matured, I am open-minded, and I am not afraid to question the things around me. The scholars, interns and staff gave me a sense of belonging, I felt like I was part of something great. My experience in Uganda was life changing because I became part of a family that loves and supports me.”
Matamando from Malawi
“My name is Matamando, and I am a Malawian boy aged 19. Following the passing of my father at age seven, my three siblings and I were raised by our mother. I was lucky enough to have a number of role models growing up ranging from men to women, both young and old. I consider this lucky because it is through a number of conversations and hearing multiple words of advice that I was constantly motivated to work hard and behave well.
Today, I look forward to studying Electrical Engineering at the University of Twente in the Netherlands. I consider this course a gateway to studying Mechatronics which will then allow me to work in the medical sector researching and creating various technology that can not only improve but possibly save lives. Furthermore, I picked this university because it aims at creating technology that has real world applications and, as such, is in a good position to equip me with the skills necessary to achieve my aspirations. Lastly, I aim to work at increasing the literacy levels of females in Malawi, which are currently as low as 59% in comparison to the male literacy rate which is at 73% according to UNESCO Institute for Statistics (March 2016).”
About the Building
Located in Nansana, Uganda, the facility is comprised of classrooms, male and female dormitories, a canteen and kitchen, as well as offices for staff. The facility was designed to reflect traditional architectural concepts, and was built by local workers. It was constructed using only locally sourced materials and can house up to 50 students.