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

Multimedia Obama, Modi Break Nuclear Deal Deadlock

Impasse over liability issues had been stalling bilateral civilian nuclear cooperation; deal reached at start of US president's three-day visit to India More

WHO's Late Efforts in Tackling Ebola Highlight Need for Reform

Health experts debate measures to reform agency’s response to global public health emergencies in special one-day session on deadly outbreak More

One Tumultuous Year in Power for CAR's President

As sectarian violence raged across Central African Republic, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has Herculean task: to end civil war and put country back on right track More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youthi
X
Julie Taboh
January 23, 2015 11:08 PM
Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Worldwide Photo Workshops Empower Youth

Last September, 20 young adults from South Sudan took part in a National Geographic Photo Camp. They are among hundreds of students from around the world who have learned how to use a camera to tell the stories of the people in their communities through the powerful medium of photography. Three camp participants talked about their experiences recently on a visit to Washington. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video US, Japan Offer Lessons as Eurozone Launches Huge Stimulus

The Euro currency has fallen sharply after the European Central Bank announced a bigger-than-expected $67 billion-a-month quantitative easing program Thursday - commonly seen as a form of printing new money. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London on whether the move might rescue the eurozone economy -- and what lessons have been learned from similar programs around the world.
Video

Video Nigerian Elections Pose Concern of Potential Conflict in 'Middle Belt'

Nigeria’s north-central state of Kaduna has long been the site of fighting between Muslims and Christians as well as between people of different ethnic groups. As the February elections approach, community and religious leaders are making plans they hope will keep the streets calm after results are announced. Chris Stein reports from the state capital, Kaduna.
Video

Video As Viewership Drops, Obama Puts His Message on YouTube

Ratings reports show President Obama’s State of the Union address this week drew the lowest number of viewers for this annual speech in 15 years. White House officials anticipated this, and the president has decided to take a non-traditional approach to getting his message out. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video S. Korean Businesses Want to End Trade Restrictions With North

Business leaders in South Korea are calling for President Park Geun-hye to ease trade restrictions with North Korea that were put in place in 2010 after the sinking of a South Korean warship.Pro-business groups argue that expanding trade and investment is not only good for business, it is also good for long-term regional peace and security. VOA’s Brian Padden reports.
Video

Video US Marching Bands Grow Into a Show of Their Own

The 2014 Super Bowl halftime show was the most-watched in history - attracting an estimated 115 million viewers. That event featured pop star Bruno Mars. But the halftime show tradition started with marching bands, which still dominate the entertainment at U.S. high school and college American football games. But as Enming Liu reports in this story narrated by Adrianna Zhang, marching bands have grown into a show of their own.
Video

Video Secular, Religious Kurds Face Off in Southeast Turkey

Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast has been rocked by violence between religious and secular Kurds. Dorian Jones reports on the reasons behind the stand-off from the region's main city of Diyarbakir, which suffered the bloodiest fighting.
Video

Video Kenya: Misuse of Antibiotics Leading to Resistance by Immune System

In Kenya, the rise of drug resistant bacteria could reverse the gains made by medical science over diseases that were once treatable. Kenyans could be at risk of fatalities as a result if the power in antibiotics is not preserved. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story from Nairobi.
Video

Video Solar-Powered Plane Getting Ready to Circumnavigate Globe

Pilots of the solar plane that already set records flying without a drop of fuel are close to making their first attempt to fly the craft around the globe. They plan to do it in 25 flying days over a five month period. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video How Experts Decide Ethiopia Has the Best Coffee

Ethiopia’s coffee has been ranked as the best in the world by an international group of coffee connoisseurs. Not surprisingly, coffee is a top export for the country. But at home it is a source of pride. Marthe van der Wolf in Addis Ababa decided to find out what makes the bean and brew so special and how experts make their determinations.
Video

Video Yazidi Refugees at Center of Political Fight Between Turkey, Kurds

The treatment of thousands of Yazidis refugees who fled to Turkey to escape attacks by Islamic State militants has become the center of a dispute between the Turkish government and the country's pro-Kurdish movement. VOA's Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video World’s Richest 1% Forecast to Own More Than Half of Global Wealth

The combined wealth of the world's richest 1 percent will overtake that of the remaining 99 percent at some point in 2016, according to the anti-poverty charity Oxfam. Campaigners are demanding that policymakers take action to address the widening gap between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, as Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid