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

On Everest, Helicopters Rescue Stranded Climbers

Choppers transport some of more than 100 mountaineers trapped after deadly quake, avalanches More

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

In 2005, a Paris suburb exploded into violence after two teenagers were electrocuted as they hid from police; since then, somethings have changed, others not More

US, Japan Announce Historic Revision of Defense Cooperation Guidelines

Nations say new guidelines will be 'cornerstone for peace and security' in Asia-Pacific region while also serving as 'platform for a more stable international security environment' More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europei
X
Henry Ridgwell
April 26, 2015 10:36 PM
Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video ‘Angel of the Migrants’ Helps Desperate Syrians Arriving in Europe

Waves of migrants are continuing to arrive on the shores of southern Italy from North Africa. After their dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, they face an unknown future in Europe. In the Sicilian city of Catania there is an activist dedicated to helping the refugees on their journey.
Video

Video Ten Years After Riots, France Searches for Answers to Neglected Suburbs

January’s terrorist attacks and fears of more to come are casting a spotlight on France’s neglected suburbs. Home to many immigrants, and sometimes hubs of crime, they were rocked by rioting a decade ago. Lisa Bryant visited the Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, where the 2005 violence first broke out, and has this report about what has changed and what has not.
Video

Video Gay Marriage Goes Before US Supreme Court

This week, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments on whether gay people have a constitutional right to marriage. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the case could lead to the nationwide legalization of same-sex marriage, or a continuation of the status quo in which individual states decide whether to recognize gay unions.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.

VOA Blogs