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

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukrainian PM Warns: Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid