Notably, this school in rural Uganda will offer financial literacy education and banking access to services for families and community members
Jan. 24, 2022, marks the United Nations’ International Day of Education, celebrating the role education plays in peace and development.
Children in Uganda have been out of school longer than any other country in the world because of the pandemic, and access to remote learning lags far behind middle and high-income countries.
A report from UNICEF released earlier in 2021 examined digital connectivity and showed that 2.2 billion children and youth today under the age of 25 do not have fixed internet access at home. That’s two out of every three children in the world.
Schools reopened in Uganda this week, and there will be many challenges to overcome: social, emotional, and financial, to name a few.
It’s no different in Kasasa, where the non-profit organization The InteRoots Initiative has partnered with the community to open up the Tat Sat Community Academy, also known as TaSCA.
Every aspect of the project — from concept to operation — is community-led and initiated.
When it opens up, the school and cultural institution will seek ways to alleviate some of those challenges for students and families.
But the project’s approach to education goes far beyond addressing access. One way this is accomplished is through the school’s collaboration with the Institute for Indigenous Cultures and Performing Arts (ICPA).
The ICPA will work alongside the standard curriculum to provide a platform for community elders, leaders, and entrepreneurs to pass on Indigenous knowledge, cultural practices, and skills-based training.
Currently, the national curriculum is based on the system imposed through colonial rule, which community members believe lacks cultural and skills-based relevance.
There are also plans in place to overcome financial barriers and ways to empower Kasasa community members. For example, the Tat Sat Community Savings and Credit Co-Operative Society (TaSSCOS) is set to begin operations soon.
The Co-Operative is community-owned, and among other services, will facilitate access to the banking system — often acting as a liaison between members and larger urban banks.
Nearly 60% of Africa’s population doesn’t utilize a bank because it is out of their reach.
By pooling the risk and resources of the community at large — or smaller groups within the community (there currently exists a women’s business guild, for example) — it makes financing viable from the perspective of larger financial institutions.
This approach has seen success in other rural communities globally.
Farmers in the community are interested in investing in a mill through the cooperative, which will be used to process produce locally instead of having to outsource at a high cost. It will also provide locally sourced food for the students and staff.
Beyond offering financial services to local entrepreneurs and families, the co-operative will work hand in hand with the school and community at large to provide financial literacy programming and educational opportunities relating to business and finance.
In another approach to making TaSCA sustainable, community members have developed an idea for the Graduate Enterprise Fund.
Every time a student pays tuition, a majority of the funds goes into a fund that will be used to help students pursue their dreams post-graduation. These set-aside funds will be transferred directly to students who apply to use them. They’ll be used to further their goals, like starting a business or continuing their education.
If the plan is approved by a community board overseen by the co-operative, the student will receive direct financial support — an estimated one to two years of stability — in pursuing their dreams beyond graduation.
These two funding mechanisms and resources will be of particular importance to women and girls, who may feel like they lack access to educational opportunities compared to their male peers.
“Women and children have not been given an equal chance to financial progress and development,” said Mrs. Namayega Agnes, a TaSCA Kasasa Community Board member, and farmer. She is married with four children and excited about the possibilities the co-operative will have on the community.
“You cannot imagine how much help this is to our community! When a genuine community program like this, with absolutely no strings attached, develops here, you can be sure we will give it our all.”
M. Scott Frank, executive director of The InteRoots Initiative, said the finance model the community of Kasasa has developed through the Co-Operative allows for continuing investments in individuals, institutions, and infrastructure.
“It connects existing economic and social sectors — both formal and informal — with financial tools and resources otherwise difficult to access in this context,” he said.
The vision is truly innovative, bridging a gap that often exists between education and real-world application. This project has enormous potential to serve as a model for other similar initiatives across the globe.”