Education for the future
The activities of the Ashinaga Uganda Rainbow House can be broken down into seven key areas:
- Care Program
- Terakoya literacy education
- Overseas education
- Provision of scholastic materials
- Home visits
- Outings and camps
The death of a parent is one of the biggest losses a child can experience. Bereaved children are at a greater risk of being depressed, becoming withdrawn, and suffering anxiety. They often also experience low self-esteem. Psychosocial support given to such children can help them cope with their losses and view the world from a completely different perspective.
Our Care Program provides children with psychosocial support. The program takes place on Saturdays and is held about 40 times a year. Each year, approximately 2,000 children (including repeat participants) benefit from the program. The Care Program is divided into three groups: nursery-, primary-, and secondary-school-aged children. It includes various activities such as sharing life stories, group sessions, presentations, and games.
Each program has a theme for the day. In the past, primary-school-aged children have enjoyed themes such as personal hygiene; making good friends; and keeping our environment clean. Secondary-school-aged students have participated in activities based on career guidance; life challenges, choices, and consequences; and HIV/AIDS education. Through the Care Program, children and teenagers learn how to cope with their losses as well as with other challenges they face in daily life. They also discover how to develop their strengths and talents.
Outings and Camps
Orphaned students in our community rarely have the chance to leave their hometown of Nansana. Therefore, during the first-term holiday each year, we hold an outing for primary-school-aged children, with some 200 participating each time.
We take the children to various places in the Kampala area. The morning is spent doing something educational, such as visiting factories, farms, the zoo, Lake Victoria, and the Nile River. After the morning program, children enjoy lunch and take part in recreational activities in the afternoon. These outings give them the chance to experience things they have never seen before, and to learn something new.
“I enjoyed visiting Oscar Industries, because I didn’t know how the notebooks we use at school are made. But today, I learned how they are made from soft wood. I also had a lot of fun at the Kavumba Recreation Centre. I enjoyed riding a pony and a bicycle. I also played different games with my friends. It was a happy day!”
(Ashinaga Uganda schoolgirl, aged 13)
During the second-term holiday, Ashinaga Uganda holds a four-day, three-night camp for our orphaned teenagers. The camps take place in other districts of Uganda, and approximately 50 teenagers participate each time. The camps focus on helping young people develop leadership skills.
We hope that, by participating in these camps, teenagers will learn to overcome challenges in life and understand the value of working hard for their future. Our goal is for each teenager to mature into an adult with a strong sense of purpose and a good heart. One of the major events of each camp is an endurance walk, in which participants help each other walk 40km.
“From the camp, I have learned to stick to my dream and never give up on my future—even when I only see darkness in my life. After I completed the endurance walk, I realized that I’m a superwoman who can face all challenges. There is nothing that can discourage me from reaching my dream of becoming a writer.”
(Female student, aged 17)
Terakoya: Literacy Education
The Terakoya literacy education program began in 2007 with 13 children orphaned by HIV/AIDS. It is based on the terakoya (“temple school”) system of private education that existed in Japan during the Edo Period (1603–1868). Although the government of Uganda provides free education via the Universal Primary Education scheme, orphans of Ashinaga Uganda are generally unable to study at regular schools, because they cannot afford to pay for even the most basic items needed, such as uniforms, lunch, and school materials.
Terakoya follows the curriculum of Ugandan government schools, and after children complete the program, they are able to study at regular schools on Terakoya scholarships.
There are consistently about 55 children, ranging in age from 8 to 15, enrolled in the Terakoya program. These students have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS, and many have never attended school, or have dropped out. At first, many pupils cannot read or write English, or do simple arithmetic. Through the program, they learn not only academic skills, but also moral values. They surely experience great joy at having the opportunity to study.
The motto of Terakoya is “Education for the Future.” Ashinaga Uganda firmly believes that education is the key to escaping from poverty. It is our hope that the Terakoya program will produce many future leaders of Africa.
In 2006, Ritah, who Ashinaga had been supporting, passed the entrance examination for Waseda University in Japan, where she has since gone on to complete a postgraduate degree. Waseda University is one of Japan’s top private, co-educational institutions of higher learning. It has produced many Japanese leaders, including former prime minister Yoshihiko Noda.
Ritah’s life in Uganda was very difficult after losing her father as a young child. Yet, in spite of these harsh circumstances, her mother encouraged her to study hard. Sometimes Ritah was unable to study at night, because she could not even afford to buy a candle. Still, she never gave up on her education.
Like Ritah, there are now over a dozen orphaned students from Uganda studying at some of the most prestigious universities in Japan, with more students joining each year. These young people provide hope and inspiration to other orphans around the world. Ashinaga hopes they will one day return to Africa and contribute to the development of the region.
Once children in Uganda have finished their Primary Education they are expected to enroll in Secondary School. However, some guardians are unable to pay the costs with associated school and, in these cases, students often miss the opportunity to receive an education.
At Ashinaga, we believe that these children have the right to an education. Therefore, Ashinaga has set up a secondary school scholarship which supports these financially disadvantaged students. Currently, 25 students are studying at a variety of secondary schools with the help of this scholarship.
We also provide scholarships for higher education to the most academically gifted but financially disadvantaged students. We choose a varying number of students each year and, currently, we support five students at Makerere University—one of the best institutions on the African continent.
We at Ashinaga understand the importance of cultural tradition. Because of this, we started our own dance troupe, which consists of Terakoya members.
The purpose is to give the Terakoya children the opportunity to embrace their rich culture and have fun in the process!
Since its initiation in 2012, the Terakoya dance troupe has had international success. This consists of shows in the USA, Japan, and Uganda as part of the performance “At Home in the World.”
In 2016, we launched a Craft Club that gives mothers of registered children the opportunity to gain skills and learn the importance of investing in their own and their children’s futures. We provide training in craft making, business skills, and money management.
All profits from the sale of craft products are given directly to the mothers who made them. Our aim is to teach the skills needed and provide the mothers with an income so that they can start their own businesses and become financially independent.
Ashinaga Baseball Club (ABC)
Physical activities can be a key way in which children can learn. They help to build self-worth by giving a child a sense of his or her own abilities and allowing them to feel good about themselves. Because it’s fun, children often become very absorbed in what they are doing. In turn, this helps them develop the ability to concentrate. Due to this, Ashinaga started the Ashinaga Baseball Club, which consists of 20 members who are either Terakoya kids or other Ashinaga-registered children.
We have practice sessions every Sunday under the theme, “Learn about Baseball and Learn from Baseball.” We also have regular matches and, in 2015, the ABC team was the regional U12 champions!