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Lehigh students help school in Uganda

Eva Gathura ’12 founded Lehigh’s Schools for Schools program four years ago.

The boys at Sir Samuel Baker School in war-torn Uganda now have a chance for superior education. Lehigh’s Schools for Schools program has helped make that possible.

Eva Gathura ’12, founded Schools for Schools at Lehigh her freshman year, making this its fourth year as a club.

“I decided to bring it to Lehigh since most programs aim at spreading awareness but don’t usually pinpoint a specific area they’d like to work on and actually do something about it,” she says. “In our case we know that our efforts are helping our partnered school, and we can track the progress made online, which is encouraging.”

Lehigh’s Schools for Schools’ mission is bi-fold—to raise money for the boarding school and to increase awareness about the 25-year war in Uganda. Last year, Lehigh students raised around $500, organization president says. This semester, their main fundraiser is T-shirt sales.

Schools for Schools strives to improve the poor conditions of schools and the education system in Uganda.

“Universally, I think everyone should have an education,” Lee says.
 
Awareness is key since the media hardly discusses the war at all. “Twenty-three [years] and you don’t even hear about it,” Lee says.

With Joseph Kony as its leader, the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has been fighting with the government of Uganda (GoU) for 25 years. Kony and his rebels abducted and indoctrinated children. Ninety percent of the LRA troops were abducted children. In hopes of protecting people from Kony and the LRA, the GoU evicted people from their homes and sent them to camps.

Earlier this month, Lehigh’s Schools for Schools showed a movie titled Tony, which detailed the effects of the war on Ugandan children and society. Following the movie screening, a young man named Geoffrey spoke about his experiences growing up in Uganda and being abducted at the age of 16.

Tangible and intangible changes

The Schools for Schools program grew out of a nonprofit organization called Invisible Children. In 2003, three young men—Jason Russell, Laren Poole and Bobby Bailey—traveled to Uganda with the sole purpose of filmmaking. Little did they know that they would observe the harsh treatment of innocent children resulting from the war.

After their trip they became inspired to spread awareness of the tragedy facing hundreds of thousands of Ugandan kids. They created a documentary called Invisible Children: Rough Cut, showing the harsh reality of many Ugandan children.

The following year, the filmmakers created the non-profit, Invisible Children, to enhance the future of the Ugandan community. They focus on long-term progress, rebuild schools and provide scholarships as part of their mission. Schools for Schools is just one of the programs that Invisible Children created.

The Schools for Schools program seeks to improve Ugandan society through tangible and intangible changes. It has constructed facilities, implemented water and sanitation systems, supplied academic materials, enhanced teacher skills and introduced new technology, according to the Invisible Children website.

In March 2008, the Juba Peace Talks between the LRA and GoU ended. They would have provided peace between the opposing sides, but Kony failed to sign the final agreement.

Meanwhile, around 900,000 of the 1.8 million people displaced have returned to their homes in the past two years, according to the Invisible Children website.

Story by Courtney Buchanan

Posted on Thursday, October 20, 2011

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