News / Africa

    Playing for an Education in Uganda

    18- year-old Zaituni Uzamukunda runs a program to get girls into school using soccer, February 15, 2013. (Hilary Heuler / VOA News)
    18- year-old Zaituni Uzamukunda runs a program to get girls into school using soccer, February 15, 2013. (Hilary Heuler / VOA News)
    A teenager in Uganda's capital is running a program to get hundreds of girls into school - by training them to play football.  

    Their soccer field is in dangerously poor condition, edged with heaps of trash and ankle-deep in mud.  Cows graze on the little grass there is.  But the girls playing here under the supervision of 18-year-old Zaituni Uzamukunda do not seem to mind.  They are hoping soccer will be their ticket out of poverty.

    Many children in this poor Kampala neighborhood drop out of school because their families cannot afford the fees.  Uzamukunda says she created her program to train them as soccer players, then find them scholarships to play for school teams.

    “The children don’t go to school, no fees, high birth rates, high school drop-outs," said Uzamukunda. "So we decided we can use football as a tool to put those kids into schools.”

    She and a friend started the program three years ago with a small grant from the British Council. Since then, they have trained several hundred children, and found scholarships for around 150 of them.

    Uzamukunda, a student herself, specifically wanted to target girls, who are not usually given the chance in Uganda to play football.

    “The Ugandans believe this game is for boys," she said. "The girls are denied more opportunities than the boys.  We came up with this idea to show that there should be gender balance within the community.”

    Some parents were hard to convince, says Uzamukunda.  Many families in the community are Muslim, and did not want their daughters to appear in public wearing shorts.

    “Some of the parents who are Muslim were worried just because the girls would be showing their thighs, they will easily attract men," said Uzamukunda. "So we said, ‘no problem, we shall provide them with leggings.’”

    There were other problems as well.  Nineteen-year-old Grace Kabahanuzi, who had dropped out of school when her family could not pay, explains that her mother did not want her playing a sport she thought was for boys.

    “When I started playing football my mum had to quarrel. ‘All the time you are with boys.’  Then after those two terms when I joined senior three, I called her [and] told her, ‘Mum, I have got a full bursary, you are not going to pay any coin.’  So they are happy now," said Kabahanuzi.

    Paul Mugabi is the headmaster of Jolly primary school, where nearly 50 children from the soccer program have found scholarships.  He points proudly to a cluster of trophies beside his desk.

    Soccer is important for his school, he says, even important enough to pay for.

    “If we really see that talent within that child, we develop it by giving a half bursary. If we see the talent is beyond, then we can help that child by giving him or her a full bursary.  Let us put these things together, football and academics, so that we can bring up a child as a whole," said Mugabi.

    Uzamukunda is about to finish school herself.  But she plans to continue training her girls, even expanding the program to include children as young as three.

    You May Like

    US, Somalia Launch New Chapter in Relations

    US sends first ambassador to Somalia in 25 years; diplomatic presence and forces pulled out in 1993, after 18 US soldiers were killed when militiamen shot down military helicopter

    Brexit Vote Ripples Across South Asia

    Experts say exit is likely to have far-reaching economic, political and social implications for a region with deep historic ties to Britain

    Russian Military Tests Readiness With Snap Inspections

    Some observers see surprise drill as tit-for-tat response to NATO’s recent multinational military exercises in Baltic region

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Testing Bamboo as Building Materiali
    X
    June 27, 2016 9:06 PM
    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video New York Pride March A Celebration of Life, Mourning of Loss

    At this year’s march in New York marking the end of pride week, a record-breaking crowd of LGBT activists and allies marched down Manhattan's Fifth Avenue, in what will be long remembered as a powerful display of solidarity and remembrance for the 49 victims killed two weeks ago in an Orlando gay nightclub.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.
    Video

    Video Tunisian Fishing Town Searches for Jobs, Local Development Solutions

    As the European Union tries to come to grips with its migrant crisis, some newcomers are leaving voluntarily. But those returning to their home countries face an uncertain future.  Five years after Tunisia's revolution, the tiny North African country is struggling with unrest, soaring unemployment and plummeting growth. From the southern Tunisian fishing town of Zarzis, Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at a search for local solutions.
    Video

    Video 'American Troops' in Russia Despite Tensions

    Historic battle re-enactment is a niche hobby with a fair number of adherents in Russia where past military victories are played-up by the Kremlin as a show of national strength. But, one group of World War II re-enactors in Moscow has the rare distinction of choosing to play western ally troops. VOA's Daniel Schearf explains.
    Video

    Video Muslim American Mayor Calls for Tolerance

    Syrian-born Mohamed Khairullah describes himself as "an American mayor who happens to be Muslim." As the three-term mayor of Prospect Park, New Jersey, he believes his town of 6,000 is an example of how ethnicity and religious beliefs should not determine a community's leadership. Ramon Taylor has this report from Prospect Park.
    Video

    Video Internal Rifts Over Syria Policy Could Be Headache for Next US President

    With the Obama administration showing little outward enthusiasm for adopting a more robust Syria policy, there is a strong likelihood that the internal discontent expressed by State Department employees will roll over to the next administration. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports.
    Video

    Video Senegal to Park Colorful ‘Cars Rapides’ Permanently

    Brightly painted cars rapide are a hallmark of Dakar, offering residents a cheap way to get around the capital city since 1976. But the privately owned minibuses are scheduled to be parked for good in late 2018, as Ricci Shryock reports for VOA.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora