Education is a human right, and a school in rural Uganda is giving rural students a chance to excel.
The Tat Sat Community Academy (TaSKA) in rural Kasasa, Uganda, gives students in the community and beyond a shot at education relevant to their goals and life needs beyond school as well. The school opened in February 2023 with 30 students who live at the school and 82 from the nearby community who live on-site.
The community partnered with The InteRoots Initiative to develop the project. InteRoots is a Denver, Colorado-based nonprofit working both domestically and internationally on projects that are sustainable to local communities.
In the case of The Tat Sat Community Academy, several unique characteristics set the school and project apart from others.
To help pay the necessary school fees, families can process and sell their maize at the project’s local, community-owned maize mill. So far, 100 tons of maize have been sold, totaling over $25,000, which helps families subsidize their children’s education.
“This is an innovative and critical piece of the project in Kasasa,” says Scott Frank, co-founder of The InteRoots Initiative. “We are excited to see the maize mill helping students and families pay school fees so students can reach their full potential.”
To that end, one student shared that since her mom is a farmer, she is able to bring maize to the milling machine and produce flour and sell it to the school.
Another student said her father is a farmer and brings the maize to the milling machine as well.
Olivia, a teacher at the school, said the parents in the Kasasa community are very happy because the school is affordable to the community members as well as those who have a bit more money.
“I think this great landmark will help with the development of this area. The response has been very positive. The community has been very excited,” she said.
Besides the school, the project has two other pillars to it: The Institute of Indigenous Cultures and Performing Arts, or ICPA, and a Savings and Credit Cooperative Organization, or SACCO.
The ICPA allows students and community members to keep traditional knowledge alive through music, dance, and other art forms.
The SACCO, meanwhile, provides economic education for students and their families.
The SACCO is community-owned, and among other services, facilitates access to the banking system — often acting as a liaison between members and larger urban banks.
This is paramount, because 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 — it makes financing viable from the perspective of larger financial institutions. This approach has seen success in other rural communities globally and it is already seeing success in Kasasa.
Another innovative strategy setting the TaSCA project apart from others is the fact that 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.
This funding resource is important 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.”
Frank, meanwhile, is excited about the future as well.
“We think the community’s goal of providing students and community members with education centered around Indigenous knowledge as well as financial education is paramount to providing a holistic and sustainable practice,” he said.