Dreams can be realized when communities work hand in hand with government to achieve them. Uganda is achieving dreams and opening doors to more with its Building Tomorrow Academies.
The “academies” are schools with seven classrooms that can accommodate 325 elementary school children. There are currently eight such academies in Uganda thanks to American founder George Srour and Joseph Kalisa, the country director of Uganda and a number of international organizations who have leant their support.
What makes this model different is that the community comes together to help in the construction of the academy with the understanding that the government will take over the cost of maintenance and teacher salaries once construction is completed.
Srour graduated from William and Mary College in 2005 and launched Building Tomorrow that same year. His inspiration developed after a trip to Uganda and a subsequent fundraising over the holidays during his senior year in college. That fundraising effort reaped in excess of $45,000 and funded the first school in the capital city of Kampala. With a 50% of its population under the age of 15, Srour realized that building schools alone was not going to be enough.
The school in Gita was the result of a collaboration with the undergraduate architecture and engineering students from the University of Virginia’s Architecture Studio reCOVER and its Engineering in Context Capstone Design Program. Included in the design were office spaces, a library, seven classrooms, outdoor play areas including sports areas and a garden.
Then the other students of the University of Virginia raised money to turn the plans into a reality. One of the fundraisers was a “stationary bike ride across Uganda” in which pedaled over 7,500 miles. Their time on the bikes raised $60,000 to build and buy supplies for the academy.
Even with the financial part coming from donations, it was the people of Gita who supplied that labor to actually build the school. Parents and grandparents of the future students volunteered more than 20,000 to make the school come to life.
Once built, the government selects the teachers and pays for the ongoing operations of the academies. The Ugandan government has taken a firm role in this, realizing it is their duty to provide an education for their people, even if they need a little help getting the academies built. It is a new approach to helping disadvantaged countries turn their educational challenges into opportunities.
With eight schools running and six more nearly finished, the project is a real success. More than 25 colleges and universities in the U.S. have helped by designing or contributing time and money to the project. The impact? More than 1800 Ugandan children receive a better education and a shot at a future.