Writing, and my dream to have a newspaper column

I am writing this at 21:30 Ireland time. Today, I want to share with you the importance of writing and my dream for a newspaper column. You see, there is a saying that goes that, “when you want to hide something from an African, you put it into writing.” Back then, Africans were not reading that much and literacy rates were very low. Today, many people read, including Ugandans. However, most of the reading is on social media, not books or technical reports or journals. At least that is my opinion.

Back to our issue. I was saying, people are now reading. But few are writing. Many young people call me “mentor” and I get very surprised. I don’t turn down their requests to “mentor” them. And one of the things I overly emphasize is during our “mentoring” sessions is writing. Yes, learning how to write. Putting your ideas into paper. I believe that every person deserves to have the ability to communicate in writing their ideas, feelings, ambitions, and dreams.

Growing up in the early nineties, the last P.O. Box decade, I learned the technicalities of writing and also posting letters through the post office. Although we now have computers and digital technologies, the writing has shifted from paper to digital media. These include digital media such as word processors, blogs, websites, and social media. I do not buy the idea of reading people’s ideas all the time, while you contribute nothing to the world. As you digest other people’s ideas, they mix with yours. Resultantly, your attitudes, thinking, perspectives, knowledge, and beliefs may change. These can be both positively and negatively. For me, writing allows you to express yourself, sometimes in ways can you cannot do in words. It is a very powerful and forceful way of pouring your ideas out into the world.

I encourage young people, right from primary school to learn how to write well. At A-level, your writing should be very good, because at university, you spend less time there and nobody teaches you to write. That is why at university, many students fear “research” in the final year.

For young people, good writing allows you correctly communicate your ideas, write your profile, apply for jobs and helps people understand you better. Keep in mind that, through writing, your ideas travel faster than you. For the projects I have been involved in, I emphasize the need to document everything.

Over the years, I have read and followed many writers and columnists in newspapers. I started buying newspapers in secondary school (S.3). In the Daily Monitor, I always look forward to Charles Onyango Obbo (Wednesday), Daniel Kalinaki, Odobo C. Bichachi, Norbert Mao, Allan Tacca (Sunday) and Josue Okoth. I have also keenly read articles of my Mzee of Kumi University (I forget his name). I also follow Andrew Mwenda’s lengthy and controversial articles.

In the New Vision, it is Gwynne Dyer (Monday), Opiyo Oloya and other balanced articles. Of course, back in the early 2000s, I followed the randy articles of “Tom Rush.” I greatly enjoyed his serial fictional stories that he wrote every week about women and alcohol in the Sunday Magazine, which is now no more. I still miss him.

To improve my view of the world and also get knowledge, I buy newspapers and books a lot. My collection of newspapers and books is huge. I hope to start donating them to schools or start a “community library” project and share them with the world.

Also, I subscribe to many online newsletters for different organizations, companies, projects, and blogs. Though my reading and writing habits have developed over a quite a long time, it is not too late to learn reading and writing. I still believe that my writing will become better so that I can have a column in our leading newspapers were I can pour out my ideas and contribute to intellectual discourse in our beloved country. End.

2017 Teachers Making a Difference awards

October 05, 2017 found me in Kampala, at New Vision offices in the industrial area. I had been invited to attend the Teachers Making a Difference award ceremony.  I was feeling happy and calm. Getting to be nominated for an award is easy, but winning that award is different. You may have heard how awards start well, and then later become very controversial because those who win happen to be those who don’t deserve the awards.

In Uganda, this happened to good Annual Communication Innovation Awards (ACIA). There was a time when a school with a “manila” project won the “Young ICT Innovators” award (I think that was 2015). I have also heard about people grumbling about the unfairness of the Young Achievers Awards Uganda – that the awards are given to “old people” instead of the young guys. And then the our national medals and awards have even been more controversial – with only regime loyalists getting them.

But it is not only in Uganda where awards can be controversial. Over the years, the BET awards, the Grammy awards, and even the world-famous Nobel Peace Prize have been quite controversial. Last year, the Nobel Peace prize went to an unknown Medical doctor in the nearby Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Away with that.

This year, my boss (now former) was also nominated for the Teachers Making a Difference awards. I know she is in good contention to grab an award. The record of the awards also favours her. The TMD awards have gone more to headteachers than to ordinary teachers. In 2017, in the top 12, there were only 4 ordinary teachers. And again in the top 5, there was only one ordinary teacher (that was me).

In fact, at the awards ceremony, some teachers were saying that the awards should be changed to “Headteachers Making a Difference.” If she wins, I have already told her that I will be happy to welcome her to Dublin, Ireland in January.

And again, I think the awards should have different categories for different education sub-sectors, for example, Secondary category, Primary category, Kindergarten category, and Vocational category. Right now, everyone is thrown into the same box. And you know it is very difficult to compete with primary and kindergarten teachers because the problems they gave at that level are quite different from problems in the secondary sector.

Click here to read a copy of the report I submitted to New Vision after the whole process.

Happy World Teachers Day.


Stories from Cork, Ireland (Part 1)

I have so far spent 26 days in Cork, Ireland. Cork is Ireland second biggest city after Dublin. People of Cork are called Corkonians (sounds funny). Cork is also known as the “rebel county”. I like it here because you get to feel the real culture and traditions of people. There is a good quote that says “a nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.”

The best way to travel to Cork is by train from Dublin Heuston train station. It is a 2 ½ hour journey to Kent train station in Cork. The first days in a foreign country can be very stressful, emotional and also confusing. So many things to understand and workaround. Understanding the currency, where to buy basics like food and medicine. Adjusting to time zone. And many other things.

Food, shopping and accommodation. We were lucky that ICOS has already booked and paid for accommodation within university hostels. That is good. A well-furnished room, with a shared kitchen and common room. Perfect place for a postgrad student. Other foreign students had difficulty getting accommodation. Apparently, there is a housing shortage in Ireland, especially in college towns like Cork.

When it comes to shopping, at first you find it difficult because of trying to convert the prices to Ugandan shillings. For example a meal in a restaurant maybe 10 euros, so in your head, you try to calculate 10 x 4000 gives you UGX 40,000. Why would you use all that for just one meal only? That amount buys you food for one week in Lira. However, I got advice from a Ugandan living here in Cork – that the best way to live a normal life is that don’t convert currencies. Just buy whatever you want. After all, you are in Ireland, not Uganda. Currency values and prices are different. Just like in Uganda, eating out (in restaurants) is quite expensive. To cut down food spending, the best way is to buy food and cook. It is even better because you get to eat what you are familiar with – in my case Irish potatoes, rice, pork, beef, lamb, eggs, eggplant, chicken and cabbages are good. While I am upgrading my papers, I am also upgrading my cooking skills. It has been a long time since I last prepared a meal back home (Mandela’s mum is always fully in charge of the kitchen).

Lectures, multinational class & accents. The first week of lectures was difficult, trying to get used to mzungu’s accent. Funny enough, just like in Uganda, every region here is Ireland has a different accent. And the Cork accent is weird. The trick was to sit in front, so I could grab all the words. Another thing was getting used to a class of students from many countries. Uganda, Togo, Nigeria, Japan, China, Slovenia, Ireland, UK, US, Korea. Different countries, different accents but same class.

The weather, leisure and culture. Ireland is predominantly Catholic, while their neighbours Northern Ireland are Anglican. Despite being overly religious, they are also have drinking & smoking culture. As my favourite taxi man told me, the Irish people believe that God will always forgive them for taking a little Guinness. Smoking? Don’t blame them – the weather is harsh. For leisure sport, the university has a sports arena (Mardyke) free for all students. I am yet to go there. For now, I prefer taking walks, sitting somewhere listening to Irish traditional and pop music on FM stations. And then, there is the internet of course – stream anything. Summer is over. We are now in autumn (remember geography lessons about 4 seasons in Europe?) up to November. The Irish say they have changeable weather (one-minute raining, next minute shinning). For now, it is much getting colder (average 11-140C) with lots of rain. You can forget your phone but not an umbrella & jacket.

Traditional, Analogue, Digital – all together. One thing I have found absurd is that the Irish people have the technology to do things, but also like to keep the old traditional way of doing things. After opening an account, the bank insisted that they would post (instead of giving me) the Debit card to me, yet I stay 200 metres away. Then, after getting the card, they insist I had to download an app to set me up for internet bank. They treasure their old ways of doing things but also incorporate modern technology. Sounds good because it favours all generations of people. I am slowly getting used to it. For official things, you need an appointment. The other thing is adjusting the time. I had never known that in Europe, they adjust the time (one hour forward) during winter and again 1 hour back during summer. We were told at the orientation to be ready to time adjustments (meaning Uganda will be 2 or 3 hours behind) depending on the period. I just find unfair. But nothing to do. And the Irish people only strictly follow time for only official things. Otherwise, they use what they call “5-minute rule”-be at least 5 minutes late. This applies to social events & functions.

Stress, Loneliness and Courage to move forward. I must admit that one of the hardest decisions I have made in life is to decide to come here- leaving family behind. It is very difficult walking away from kids – and answering the many questions they ask. Sometimes, I still think I made the wrong decision. That I could have remained in Uganda and tried other ways of moving my career forward. This only brings stress. When these thoughts come to my mind, I remember that I am not the first, neither will I be the last – in pursuing education abroad. Through the history of mankind, many men and women have left the homeland to go to distant lands to pursue different things. For pursuing education, these people come to mind. Aggrey Awori, Museveni, Mwalimu Nyerere, Andrew Mwenda, Peter Okwoko, Paul Kagame, Winnie Byanyima, my friend Zibusiso Dube from Zimbabwe. The list is endless. And there is a sense in which society listens and appreciate you more. After all, you have seen things in distant lands (that most haven’t seen). Of course, most people come here and refuse to go back. For me, my project here is the MSc only, nothing more. I have never entertained the idea of coming to Europe or America and remaining here permanently. Working for a few years is okay. Finally, the loneliness is real. Just too much. Everyone stays indoors. I miss home. Fair enough, WhatsApp takes you home – to at least to hear their voices and see their smiles. for now, I am still a Ugandan Corkonian. End.

My unforgettable 7 years of work at Lira Town College

In late June 2012, I came back from Gulu University, with all my belongings after finishing the 3-year Bachelor of ICT study programme. Actually, I did final exams in May but had to stay because of financial issues, final year project issues, and personal ambition. I wanted to try to get work in Gulu, West Nile or Karamoja. It didn’t work out, the only remaining option was to return to Lira or Dokolo.

After arriving in Lira, I had to get something to do & had 3 places in mind – All Saints University Lango (since I had been reading there during holidays), Lira Town College (because my two siblings were studying there) and Dr. Obote College (my former school).

On Monday, July 02, 2012, I walked to town to kick-start my job search. I had 3 applications for 3 target places. I had already made up my mind to travel to the village after dropping off my applications. I started with ASUL, up along Obote Avenue (Lira’s main street). They declined, though they said they would have loved to have me since they wanted to start the department of ICT. No problem, I continued to Lira Town College.

At Lira Town College, I met the Headteacher, Ms. Acen Sophia Rose. After a brief discussion about my competencies (about 10 minutes), she told me I could take me & start work. That very day. I had to cancel my journey to the village immediately.

First Assignment-processing results

My first work assignment was to compute student marks for the whole school. I still don’t know how I managed to do that. Imagine marks for about 2,600 students. That was in July 2012. In early August, I then took over as ICT teacher for A-level. It was only one class (S.5) because the curriculum was changed that year from 4 Principal subjects & 1 subsidiary subject (G.P) to 3 Principal subjects & 2 subsidiary subjects (GP & ICT/sub-maths). So, the opportunity I got was also partly because there was an institutional problem to manage the change. In fact, many schools did the same – hired IT or CS graduates to teach the “new, complicated” subject.

From IT to Education

One would wonder how I managed to teach, yet primarily I was not trained as a teacher. While I in A-level, I admired teaching a lot (I was a “teacher” in discussion groups) and wanted to be a teacher of English/Literature. The other options I wanted was Mass Communication & IT (because it was the in-thing). In spite of this desire, I was unable to get government scholarship to do my education course. I then changed my mind to do IT, the in-thing then. Resultantly, choosing to study IT didn’t rub off the desire for “teaching”. I think that is why I was able to stay longer, even when I got many opportunities that would have halted my “teaching”. Today, most people actually think I studied education, and they call me “Apwony Emma” (Teacher Emma or Mwalimu Emma). I became a teacher by practice, not qualification. Train on job kind of arrangement. I believe that qualification just gives us the foundation to kick start our careers.

Working with diverse Students

For the 7 years I was at Lira Town College, I met very many good students. And I love the diversity in that school. It has students from all over the country & abroad (South Sudan of course). It has a good social mix – biggest number of adult students, Muslims, students with disabilities, the urban poor, the rural poor and Indian students. It is culturally very diverse, with many ethnicities and languages.

Also enjoyed involving students in tech activities, and together, we won quite a number of awards. Even after leaving school, we have always kept in touch, and many of their parents are my friends. I like that.

Recognition from outside school, not the school

In the first 5 years, I was very dedicated to my work. My work in class and other tech activities brought me some awards and recognition at various tech events. I was featured on TV, newspapers and radio many times. I was made an Examiner, gained respect and my social status reputation improved. I became a role model for many young people. However, I was never ever acknowledged or recognized (in private or publicly) for anything. Very ironical but I don’t feel bad. It was always that this is not working, this is wrong. And bla bla bla. But that’s life. Most times we don’t appreciate what we have, and admire what we don’t have. What mattered for me was the impact my efforts had on students & respect from the community. It is very uplifting & fulfilling to know that your effort has propelled someone’s career. That your little help opened other opportunities for them. And that you made a difference in their lives.

Diving into STEM & national recognition.

In a school with about 2,600 students and 100 teachers (right now), it is difficult to get the attention of the boss. There is a lot of drama involved in getting this attention. Some people spread rumours, lies or buy the boss something – just to get their attention (and some favours as well). For me, at first, I would overwork, so much. Sometimes I would go home at 11:00pm. I would work sometimes 16 hours a day to beat unrealistic deadlines. In spite of all this, I didn’t get any attention or recognition. But kept working no matter. The turning point came when one day, left school, passed by supermarket to buy some groceries (sugar, bread etc.) and went home (ate something and slept). The following day I rushed to school again. More work. More work. Then one day I opened my bag and saw sugar that I had bought many days ago. I bought, forgot to remove it, carried it in my bag for days. I realised that I was overworking so much so that I did not have me time (on the other hand, it also saved me from many challenges that come from being youth). I did not have life after work. After that incident, I cut off most work (secretarial work), focused only on class & tech projects. My life came back to normal.

In 2013, together with students, we won our first tech award (Robotics). We were featured in newspapers & TV. We were good. That moment made me focus more on getting national awards & recognition, not school recognition (it was not coming). That meant doing many things differently, different from other teachers. That made me closer to students, but farther from my colleague teachers. I stopped pursuing money (it never came to me). I pursued excellence & recognition outside. The following year we won ACIA, pioneered with Technovation Challenge, Africa Code Week, HIVOS Social Innovation awards, Biotechnology Essay writing competitions. We got full board into STEM. We did any tech project we could find. All was good. We competed against the best schools in the country, and many times, we beat them.

All these came with awards, recognition & popularity. Unfortunately, funding for these activities were cut off, leaving me with no choice but opt-out.

What was not possible?

I kind of feel uneasy that during those 7 years, many good ideas were never implemented. My aim to make Lira Town College the best school when it comes to use of technology. The teaching was good, however the percentage pass in computer studies & ICT were averaging at 30-38% (not so good). I was not the only one with this not-so-good statistics. I still feel some kind of guilt. I was not successful in making management adopt to use school management system, school-wide e-learning system and website (I hosted a school website for 2 years on my account). I was also not able to fully make the computer lab a centre of excellence (community learning & innovation centre) and procure all-year internet access for students & staff.

Returning for school and putting self

In 2016, when I made 30 years, I had a moment of reflection. One of the things that came to my mind was that, I had worked for 5 years, but didn’t have anything to show for it. It seemed like for I was working for the school. Nothing for me. I was part of “young teachers” paid by the board (not on government payroll). The money – let me not talk about that. It was only good for bachelor. That changed in 2017. I now had a wife. But also, we lost dad (January 2017) and was made heir to family. That is huge responsibility. I made a decision in that in the New Year (2017), I would still be working in school, but I would focus on my myself. Circumstances change people. Experiences change people. I needed new thinking. I decided to return to school for Masters, and as they say, when you join another road, it takes you to another destination. The Masters class opened my mind. My wife also opened another part of my mind. We work so that our families are fine. And family includes children! That’s the point.

With the loss of dad, the going back to school, and family life, the year went by very fast. But within the year, I won the 2017 Teachers Making a Difference award, and that opened more doors. It made it possible for me to travel abroad –for the first time. My aim then was to finish masters and cross over to university. I had started my journey out of Lira Town College.

Many teachers, many friends & solidarity

One of the things I loved most from Lira Town College is the solidarity that the teachers have. Many are very dedicated to their work and are generally free with each other. They are also ambitious. It is only at Lira Town College were you can find teachers in school all year round –everyday – even on Christmas day. To most of us, the college is like home.

Headteacher, the good & the bad.

The Headteacher, Ms Acen Sophia Rose has done a good job. After the mismanagement that occurred over the years (including during the 20-year insurgency in the north), she has managed to put most things right. From the time she came to Lira Town College, she has done many things. New structures are many, student enrolment is up & good teachers are in place. But just like most leaders, there are bad things that she is blamed for. I take the view that one person cannot be blamed for all the problems in society. There are many socio-economic & political issues that invade Lira Town College, considering that it is within an urban area. As a person, I choose to complain less, and work hard instead. For the rest of my life, I will always remember her for giving me the opportunity to serve and trusting me at the time at was just 25 years, with no experience. I know she will also remember me for having remained faithful & staying longer, even when opportunities knocked on me.

When will studies stop?

My decision to return to school in 2017 has brought both good luck and challenges. I have traversed places I didn’t know I would reach. But above all, I have been to many universities – Mbarara University of Science & Technology (2 weeks only), UTAMU (4 semesters), Uganda Martyrs University – Rubaga (1 ½  months), Kampala University (not admitted) University of Delaware – U.S.A (6 weeks, Mandela Washington Fellowship) and now here at University College Cork, Ireland (1 year). When will studies stop? Definitely after that PhD.

What’s the next plan?

When I return to Uganda next year, I will be playing with children at home and do some agriculture as I look for the next opportunity. I will end with this quote from William Ayers that; “Teaching is an act of hope for a better future. The reward of teaching is knowing that your life has made a difference.” End.

Meeting 120 Irish Aid Fellows from 17 countries

Yesterday, September 21, 2019, was the official orientation and welcome for the 2019 Ireland’s Fellowship Programme. Fellows from 17 countries from Africa, Middle East and Asia assembled for the official orientation, organised by the Government of Ireland – through Irish Aid (sponsors) and International Council for International Students (ICOS) – the implementing agency. I think these fellows are from countries in which the Republic of Ireland has its embassies and consulates.

Since we applied for the fellowship last year, I only knew fellows from Uganda and Rwanda, since we did some activities together with them. The last day we met was at the pre-departure orientation, at the Ambassador’s residence in Kampala.

When it came to travel, we traveled differently, and travel was timed with the orientation at the university in which you were admitted. All the fellows, therefore, even those from the same country, travelled on different days & different flights.

The day was special because it was the first time all the fellows from 17 countries were meeting. People from different countries, different universities in Ireland gathered in one hotel, one hall.

For me, the highlight of the day was meeting and interacting with fellows from Palestine and Vietnam. You know, with all the challenges that Palestinians face in their country (including hostility from the Israel which we fantasize about), they are very resilient people, and not afraid to take a stand to support their country (or rather nation).

While growing up, I watched a lot of movies – you remember America versus Vietnam kind of movies, it was nice hearing and listening to them. They are focused, patriotic and loyal to their country (you know how they are depicted in the movies). Of course, they looked all the same – both height and faces. It’s difficult to tell who is who. But I recall from my Political Education class (in secondary school – before it was scrapped for obvious reasons) that monolithic nations (countries that evolve from one dynasty /emperor) are very closed societies and tend to marry from their own relatives – which makes them look very similar to each other. All in all, they were amazing.

Events like these are meant to mainly disseminate information and accord you some kind “official welcome”. What liked most was the presentation “Becoming a Student in Ireland,” presented by Dr. Padraig Wims of University College Dublin. And the perspectives of the finishing fellows. It was very insightful. That being said, I believe that however much somebody tells you about something, your experience is mostly going to be different. And so, most times you just have to live on and let things unfold for you.

For now, I am part of the about 3,300 international students at University College Cork, Ireland from 144 countries. Broadly, this number is part of the bigger 17,000 international students – about 20% of the student population (most of them postgraduate) studying in Ireland. The diversity of huge. This year I have been quite fortunate to have met people from all corners of the world – first during the Mandela Washington Fellowship (June and August) and then now with Ireland Fellowship programme – which will enable me to attain highly regarded European postgraduate education.

With the arrival, university and Irish Aid orientations over, I now look forward to settling into the real academics – reading, lectures, assignments and lab sessions.  Nothing more. End.

Ireland-Africa Fellows Programme fulfills my dream for European education

On Monday, September 02, 2019 I arrived in Dublin, Ireland as a beneficiary of the Irish Aid Fellowships 2019/2020 (now called Ireland-Africa Fellows Programme) to pursue postgraduate studies in Ireland. I was part of the only 11 Ugandans selected for these fully sponsored study fellowships. In Rwanda, only 4 were selected.

Since childhood, I have always admired to study in Europe, especially the UK. I remember writing to some distance learning institutions in the UK back in 2002 (17 years ago), after reading about it in a newspaper. I was in S.3 and 16 years old. That’s the same year I started buying newspapers for myself. Of course, I didn’t have the money to fully pay and enrol. I again did the same 8 years later while at Gulu University in 2010. This time, I was even sent (by Post Office) course information, notes and some assignments. However, due to financial challenges, I could not fully enrol.

The turning point was in 2014. A friend of mine, Kisarach Phillips, who at the time was teaching in Kigumba Intensive S.S managed to obtain a scholarship to study at the University of Liverpool. We had been marking mock exams together at Lira Town College, and immediately after that exercise, the guy left for the UK. I admired him a lot. After a while, another classmate from Gulu University, Peter Okwoko also went to Denmark for master’s education. Later, I was a survey respondent for his research. I admired him a lot.

As a teacher, I always wanted to attain a postgraduate education at all costs. My serious search for this opportunity was ignited in 2014 by Kisarach. However, at the time, I did not have my undergraduate papers at hand (you know how long it takes to get papers after graduation).

Finally, in March 2017, I was able to get my papers and without wasting time, I immediately applied for Msc Information Systems at Mbarara University of Science & Technology (MUST). I was admitted, but due to the distance, I later changed my mind and applied and enrolled to UTAMU for Master of Information Technology (MIT). This programme was flexible (you attend lectures 6 weekends only). I am hopeful I will go back and finish (still have a few things to complete, including research).

The UTAMU experience was every good. I enjoyed the lecturers and their system of learning, they inspired me further. All of them had attained masters and PhDs from Europe. Dr. Drake Mirembe. Prof. Jude Lubega. Dr. Rehema Baguma. They are really good. I remember one lecturer told us that “when you do masters, you master your destiny.” I believe that very much.

While still at UTAMU, I again saw a World Bank Funded scholarship advert for master’s study at Uganda Martyrs University (UMU). Together with colleagues at Lira Town College (Peter & Dick), we applied. We were later invited to do GAT (which was expensive). We all passed the Graduate Admission Test (GAT) and we were all admitted. This was Msc. in Monitoring & Evaluation. In mid-August 2018, we started classes at UMU Kampala campus. Around that time, I was actually pursuing two masters’ programmes at the same time. I had to balance the Bugolobi & Rubaga timetables accurately, which was tiring & expensive. However, I was not given the scholarship (but Dick got it). So, in October I dropped out from UMU (due to financial challenges) but I had already learnt so much about M & E (I am still on their WhatsApp group).

While juggling all this busy study stuff (my wife had also just given birth to a baby boy in July), I applied for the Irish Aid Fellowships (Sept/October 2018) and the Mandela Washington Fellowship (Sept 2018). However, I had to leave my lecturing job at All Saints University Lango (ASUL) in order to concentrate on studies & the baby. It was a very busy year.

In January 2019, the Embassy shortlisted 20 Ugandans and 4 Rwandese to continue further to do the English test – IELTS which was paid for by the embassy (about UGX 912,000). On February 02, 2019, we did the test and thankfully, I passed on the first attempt. However, many others failed and were allowed to redo it (at their expense of course). After that, a list was then sent to Dublin for final selection. When the list came in March, I was successful. But other names were dropped again, despite passing IELTS.

The 11 successful Ugandans and the Rwandese were then invited to apply for their chosen 2 programmes of study in the application (the application fee was also paid for us). I think I managed to get this because I had come to Ireland last year because of the Teachers Making a Difference award, which was also sponsored by the Embassy of Ireland. But my application was always strong. In early June 2019, was admitted to University College Cork (UCC) to pursue MSc. Interactive Media. I choose this because I wanted to be within the tech domain but study something I had not done already at Gulu University or UTAMU or UMU. The second choice was MEd, however, it delayed so I had to accept the MSc. offer.

On June 19th, I travelled to the U.S for the Mandela Washington Fellowship, civic leadership institute at the University of Delaware. I was very scared, thinking the travel may coincide with travel to Ireland. The U.S experience was very good because I learnt a few things on how to live in the developed world. I was there for 6 weeks – actually 44 days.

I finally received the final offer of award while still in the U.S (it nearly collided). I sent my acceptance from there and requested the Embassy to consider adjusting the date for me to medical test & submission of other documents (date was August 02, my departure from the U.S). Thankfully, this was accepted and I was able to do my medical the week after, and also apply for the visa.

# Name Sex Programme
1 Isabella Janet Nakimuli F LLM in International Human Rights Law and Public Policy, UCC
2 Innocent Aleto F LLM in International Criminal Law, NUIG
3 David Mugarra M MA in Peace and Development Studies, UL
4 Asha Nakiwate F MSc in Human Rights, UCD
5 Angela Nyesiga F LLM in International Commercial Law,
6 Frank Ssemakula M MSc in Electronic and Communications Engineering, TUD
7 Rachel Juliet Mujawimana F MSc in Pharmaceutical Sciences
8 Lindah Niwenyesiga F MA in Public Relations with New Media, CIT
9 Susan Labwot F LLM in International Human Rights Law and Public Policy, UCC
10 Benna Lolem F Master in Education – Foundation Studies, TCD
11 Emmanuel Angoda M MSc in Computer Science (Interactive Media), UCC

For now, my dream has been fulfilled. I know after here, I will continue for PhD here or cross over to the U.S. I also believe life will be much better after here. One day I will be Dr. Emmanuel Angoda (BIT, MIT, Msc.IM, PhD). After being a secondary school teacher for 7 years, my ambition now is to be a lecturer at nearby Lira University or Soroti University (I have never admired working in Kampala). That small position will enable me to continue working with young people, continue with STEM activities and become a famous scholar. It is possible to pursue your dream, no matter how long or hard it takes. If you remain persistent & focussed, you can achieve it. I rest my case.

IGNITE TALK: Using Development Education & STEM to empower young people in Uganda to succeed in school and life.

Today, I celebrate my parents. My dad is late now, but my mum is still alive & healthy. Today, I celebrate Nelson Mandela, who said education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. I also celebrate my son, Mandela, whose only words so far is “mum” & “papa”. He made 1 year on Tuesday. Parents, doctors & teachers are known to tell us things plainly, mostly times bitter facts. But you learn from them.

When I was 16, I remember my dad telling me that, I will never inherit anything from him. That the only thing I would get from him is education. Not even a bicycle. He is gone but those words still ring in my head every day.

He made me love education, and after many years and struggles I was able to finish high school. While in school, I loved books. But did not have access to computers. This lack of access to computers later became an inspiration to pursue it further.

After many struggles & hard work, I was able to finish university thanks to a scholarship, sponsored by Tulane University (New Orleans) – based here in the US.

After university in June 2012, I started my teaching career in July 2012. My admiration & passion for teaching had become a reality. My subject is computer studies, which I was denied at high school.

When I became a teacher, I had to decide many things. To be a progressive, liberal teacher or a conservative teacher. To use technology in class or maintain the old traditional class room model with black board & white chalk. I had to decide whether to a disciplinarian or easy go teacher.

Most importantly, I had to decide whether only class work & exams will enable students succeed after school.

After conversing with my heart and my mind, I decided I would be a teacher, a teacher who goes the extra mile. A teacher who would embrace initiatives that build & empower students. That is how got them into robotics, innovation competitions, mobile app programming, public speaking, writing competitions. I also got them into e-learning & technology camps. The impact has been amazing. It has been 7 years of amazing work. Increased participation in STEM, increased enrolment in science programmes, positive behaviour, practical skills & bigger dreams.

In Uganda today, just like other African countries, jobs are a big problem. Partly, because of what happens in schools – theoretical approach to learning. There is a mismatch between what is taught at school & what happens in real life.

All of us gathered here, all wish our children a better future. But remember, a better future begins with good education. My focus is on SDG goal number 4 – quality education. And as RODEL put it, “a great education changes everything”.

That has been my approach, my way of doing “development education” to empower young people in Uganda to succeed in school & life. But there is more work to be done. The future of work is going to look very different, with new technologies like AI, Machine Learning, and blockchain etc.

I welcome you all to join global efforts in creating education that breaks down barriers to success & embraces innovation and diversity.

Apwoyo matek. Asante sana. Thank you very much.

For God and My Country.

Uganda: 2019 Mandela Washington Fellowship participants

This year, I was privileged to be among the only 24 Ugandans selected to take part in the prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. After arriving here in the U.S, we realised that some countries were given more slots than others. South Africa, for example had about 43, while Djibouti had only 7. From Uganda, I also realised that only 2 people were selected from northern Uganda.  The rest were from central and western regions – resonating with views of some people that most opportunities today in Uganda today are “ring-fenced” leaving northern and eastern parts of the country with little. At least, in my experience, this fellowship was open. Only that, some of our people in the north also give up so early, which helps propagate this false notion. Yes, Kampala is far, but if there are opportunities there then you have to reach there. You have to be inside the “fence”. The best thing is that the whole fellowship thing is online. Purely online.

This week I managed to get some time and compiled a list of all the 2019 Mandela Washington Fellows from Uganda. When we were in Uganda, we never got the time & opportunity to socialise and get to know each other. I am sure this list will help the fellows themselves know one another, and also help those who want to apply for the fellowship next year. I must say the profiles of these young leaders is very impressive.


Public Management Civic Engagement Business Total
07 06 11 24

Download here: Uganda-2019 Mandela Washington Fellowship

Duncan Abigaba

Africa, Uganda, Public Management, 2019

Duncan Abigaba has over four years of experience in public administration at the managerial level. He is a manager at Government Citizen Interaction Centre. The center serves as the primary contact point for citizens in government. He was the acting head of the center between April 2017 and September 2018, where he relentlessly drove open government initiatives and pushed for increased citizen participation in government planning. He previously served in the Office of the President, as deputy presidential assistant in charge of research and information. He closely monitored the performance of government agencies and regularly prepared briefs for the president on the same. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Commerce from Makerere University and a post graduate diploma in Project Planning and Management from Uganda Management Institute. He is currently pursuing a master’s degree in Management from the Uganda Management Institute. He also holds several post-graduate certificates in management from both Makerere University and Uganda Management Institute. He is very passionate about public administration, management, corporate affairs, communication, open government, and public accountability. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Duncan plans on lobbying the government of Uganda to adopt an open government policy among other public accountability initiatives.


Emmanuel Angoda

Africa, Uganda, Civic Engagement, 2019

Emmanuel Angoda is a teacher at Lira Town College, in northern Uganda. He is a technology innovator, STEM activist, and mentor with seven years of experience in the education and ICT sectors. He involves his students in ICT activities such as Robotics, the Technovation Challenge, Africa Code Week, and essay writing competitions, from which he has won several national awards. From 2013 to 2017 Emmanuel served as the Regional Ambassador for Technovation Challenge, a global technology entrepreneurship program for girls and young women. Emmanuel is the founder of Walktrack Edu Platform, an educational website that provides free online open educational resources for teachers and students. He also runs the Career Assistance Program (CAP), an initiative that helps young people obtain vital career information and support after high school. In 2017, Emmanuel was the recipient of the Teachers Making a Difference award and was rewarded with an educational trip to Dublin, Ireland. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, he plans to continue his work in development education with a focus on girls’ education and eLearning resources.


Catherine Asiimwe

Africa, Uganda, Public Management, 2019

Catherine Asiimwe has over seven years of experience in the public sector, specifically in finance, tax, and audit. Currently, Catherine is a manager of financial audits at the Uganda National Roads Authority where she focuses on providing value-adding assurance on the efficiency and effectiveness of an entity’s risk management, internal controls, and governance processes. She assesses compliance with relevant laws, regulations, and best practices, including accountability and value for money in doing business. Catherine volunteers as a member of the internal audit panel and conducts mentorships for trainee accountants and other young people. Catherine is a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and received the “2017 Young Accountant of the Year Award” for her contribution to the accountancy profession in Uganda. She has completed her Master of Business Administration in Finance and is soon attaining a Certification in Project Management (PMP). She is inspired by good governance and accountability in public entities. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Catherine plans to continue her work at the Uganda National Roads Authority and expand her mentorship programs for young people.


Jimmy Awany

Africa, Uganda, Civic Engagement, 2019

Jimmy Awany has seven years of experience managing governance, peacebuilding, and developmental programs in South Sudan, Uganda, and Kenya. Currently, he is the program coordinator for Justice Africa, an organization based in South Sudan, where he manages a peacebuilding program aimed at stabilizing and transforming South Sudan. Jimmy holds a Master of Science in Development Studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Jimmy plans to continue to promote the participation of civil society in peace and governance processes across the continent.


Gerard Iga

Africa, Uganda, Business, 2019

Gerard Iga for the last six years has promoted tourism in the West Nile region of Uganda. He obtained a bachelor’s degree in Education but has shifted industries to work as a freelance tour guide before joining Oasis 24 Seven Ltd in 2014 as a tour manager. In this job, Gerard plans, markets, and executes both group and custom tours for the company’s clients. He has also managed events for the company and been a valuable local contact for researchers and volunteers from other countries. Gerard believes tourism is a critical driver for rural economic development and can facilitate the conservation of natural resources. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Gerard plans to grow his newly founded company, Lado Tours and Travel LTD, to help bolster communities beyond Uganda in South Sudan, the DRC, and across the continent.


Razaki Omia Iganachi

Africa, Uganda, Business, 2019

Razaki Omia Iganachi has over two years of experience in agribusiness development, connecting small farmers to reliable and profitable opportunities to help improve their livelihoods. Omia currently works as the managing director for the Omia Agribusiness Development Group LTD where he plans, implements and evaluates all business operations for the firm. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Sciences from Makerere University and a diploma in Agriculture from Agrostudies in Israel. Omia’s mission is to. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Omia will continue to promote the use of advanced technology so that farmers can access quality, genuine, and affordable agricultural inputs, services, and links to profitable markets.


Ambrose Kamya

Africa, Uganda, Business, 2019

Ambrose Kamya has over four years of experience in agriculture innovation and social entrepreneurship programs that combat violence against women and girls. Currently, Ambrose is the team leader at SafeBangle, where he focuses on developing technologies that will help protect women and girls from violence. He is also the CEO of Wolfarm Technologies, a startup that focuses on developing technologies to connect small scale organic farmers to the marketplace. Ambrose holds a bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Sciences with a specialization in Animal Science from Makerere University in Kampala. He is passionate about creating resilient communities using innovative, evidence-based methods. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Ambrose plans to utilize the skills, knowledge, and network gained to end violence against women and girls and to empower women engaged in sustainable agriculture to promote inclusive development in Uganda.


Brenda Allen Kawala

Africa, Uganda, Public Management, 2019

Brenda Kawala is a medical doctor at Kakira Sugar Limited hospital in Jinja, Uganda where she serves a community of over 30,000 people. Brenda completed her medical training at Mbarara University, and currently works as the Deputy Secretary General of the Uganda Medical Association (U.M.A.). U.M.A brings together over 7,000 medical doctors from Uganda and the Diaspora communities to advocate for a better Ugandan healthcare system. Brenda is also the secretary of public affairs for the Association of Uganda Women Medical Doctors, which advances maternal, child, adolescent, and elderly healthcare initiatives. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Brenda hopes to continue to advance her career and hold positions of leadership within the Ugandan healthcare system.


Isma Kayiza

Africa, Uganda, Business, 2019

Isma Kayiza is a conservationist and co-inventor of Sparky Dryer, a machine that uses biofuel to dry food. He won the Resolution Social Venture Challenge in 2017 in South Africa and is currently the CPO of Sparky Social Enterprise Limited, a company he co-founded that addresses hunger and malnutrition through the preservation of food. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in Wildlife and Management at Makerere University and specialized in community-based conservation. During his time at Makerere, he served as president of the university’s wildlife student association and has since remained committed to utilizing natural resources sustainably, to ensure the preservation of the remaining wild flora and fauna in his country. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Isma hopes to leverage the skills and connections gained through the program to continue to create simple, accessible, and effective methods for growing and preserving food, and help tackle hunger among poor communities in Uganda.


Phyllis Nek Kyomuhendo

Africa, Uganda, Business, 2019

Phyllis Kyomuhendo is a passionate social entrepreneur and innovator with two years of experience in the social-innovations sector. Phyllis is a master´s degree in Public Health candidate, a medical radiographer by profession, and the director and co-founder at the startup, M-SCAN Uganda. Through M-SCAN Uganda, she and her team develop low-cost mobile ultrasound devices to combat maternal and neonatal mortality in low resource settings. Phyllis hopes to return to Uganda after the Mandela Washington Fellowship to empower her peers in the entrepreneurship space to take their businesses to the next level through strong leadership; she also hopes to pass on the entrepreneurship and leadership skills she learns to the young girls she mentors under the STEM Queens program.


James Kiganda Lutaaya

Africa, Uganda, Business, 2019

Lutaaya James Kiganda has over ten years of experience in clinical microbiology, immunology, and genetics. James is the founder of Medicalshed, a Digital Health company that incorporates the latest technology and best human practices to improve service delivery, and accessible healthcare for all. He is also the co-founder and CEO of MAYA Group Limited, a Ugandan firm that leverages technology to promote the participation of women and young people in the business, education, health care, and advocacy sectors. In his spare time, James serves as a volunteer, youth/peer counselor, and trainer with the Uganda Youth Development Link, an organization that promotes sexual reproductive health and rights. James holds a bachelor’s degree in Medical Laboratory Science from Clarke International University and is a fellow at the University of Leeds, where he studied global challenges in bacterial resistance and food security. He believes that women and young people deserve equal opportunities to harness their full potential to thrive, compete, and create relevant and innovative solutions to the most pressing problems facing Africa. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, James plans to continue working on digital healthcare solutions, empower youth, women, and help build more inclusive businesses that help his country reach the sustainable development goals.


Rachel Precious Lwantale

Africa, Uganda, Business, 2019

Rachel Lwantale has nine years of experience as an entrepreneur and has a firm insight in working within the complex markets in emerging economies and identifying future gaps and investment opportunities. Rachel specializes in agribusiness as the CEO and co-founder of Imali Limited, a social enterprise that financially empowers people through sustainable partnerships and market access. She has a bachelor’s degree in guidance counseling from Kyambogo University and is certified in agribusiness from the Open Impact Institute. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Rachel plans to continue her work by using agriculture to empower women in rural communities while training women and youth on personal empowerment.


Joshua Musasizi

Africa, Uganda, Business, 2019

Joshua Musasizi is a social entrepreneur with over six years’ experience in agribusiness, technology innovation, community rehabilitation and info-graphics development. He is a professional researcher and holds a bachelor’s degree in Commerce from Makerere University. He has also extensively trained with world leaders in the areas of leadership, documentation, social entrepreneurship and team building. Joshua is the co-founder of TIFAT Uganda Ltd, a social enterprise that harnesses the use of technology to uplift and improve livelihoods of small and medium scale farmers, especially in rural Uganda. He is also the country director of Matendo International, an organization that works with rural communities in Uganda to help people solve the challenges they face daily with a focus on child education, poverty alleviation and community health campaigns. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Joshua plans to continue his work in agribusiness and post-harvest loss reduction with a focus on connecting farmers to buyers with real time market information.

Elizabeth Nabakooza

Africa, Uganda, Public Management, 2019

Elizabeth Nabakooza is a passionate communications professional with over eight years working for different public and private sector organizations ranging from energy to financial services. She has a bachelor’s degree in Communications and currently works with National Water and Sewerage Corporation as a public relations and engagement lead. The corporation is a government agency whose mandate is to provide safe water and sewerage services while ensuring environmental sustainability. Elizabeth is passionate about mental health and is a champion in the mental health space. Elizabeth aspires to create sustainable change on the African continent and believes in empowering people on the continent to develop their own transformative change by creating African solutions to African problems. For this reason, she chose to join public service. Elizabeth is highly skilled in brand communications, network creation, and creation of strategic partnerships across the continent. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Elizabeth intends to use her experience and knowledge to spark dialogue and change around the effective implementation of public policy within her different areas of interest such as climate change, mental health, and water, sanitation, and hygiene.


Rhoda Nakungu

Africa, Uganda, Civic Engagement, 2019

Rhoda Nakungu has two years of experience in public interest litigation, human rights advocacy, and alternative dispute resolution. Currently, she is an externship lawyer in the Public Interest Law Clinic of the School of Law at Makerere University. In this role, Rhoda works in the post-conflict district of Bundibugyo, where she offers legal aid to vulnerable and indigent people and promotes legal literacy among indigenous tribes and immigrants from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Rhoda also uses her position to advocate for women´s and girl´s rights, mainly focusing on those from minority and marginalized groups. Rhoda holds a law degree from Makerere University and a post graduate diploma in Legal Practice from the Law Development Center Uganda. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she plans to continue offering legal aid to vulnerable and indigent people in post-conflict areas and to sensitize local communities about harmful cultural practices, mainly against women and children.

Victo Nalule

Africa, Uganda, Civic Engagement, 2019

Victo Nalule is a differently-abled woman who embraces a positive “can do” attitude, and a human resource professional with strong leadership and managerial experience. Victo is the executive director and founder of the Tunaweza Foundation, a non-governmental organization that works towards creating an inclusive world where disadvantaged people achieve their maximum potential and contribute to society. Additionally, she works as a health and safety environmental administrator in an electricity distribution company. Victo is a member of Lions Clubs International and is the third vice president for Kampala Host Lions Club, which assists with global and large-scale local humanitarian projects. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Victo plans to continue her work advocating for inclusivity for all, with a focus on women and girls with disabilities.


Zahaarah Namanda

Africa, Uganda, Civic Engagement, 2019

Zaharah Namanda has over four years of experience in community development, focusing on women and girls’ education. She is a Country co-director for the Africa Education and Leadership Initiative (Africa ELI), a non-governmental organization that provides educational opportunities for young female refugees from South Sudan. At Africa ELI, Zaharah provides leadership and strategic direction while working closely with her fellow co-director to implement programs, coordinate logistics, and monitor and evaluate student performance. Zaharah holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from Makerere University in Kampala, and previously she assisted the National Planning Authority on the review of the universal primary education policy. Zaharah is driven by her commitment to empowering young women and girls through education and aspires to belong to a community where young girls and boys have equal access to education. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Zaharah will integrate learned skills to strengthen her education advocacy work and empower young women and girls in Uganda.


Pauline Namutebi

Africa, Uganda, Business, 2019

Pauline Namutebi is a social entrepreneur focused on clean energy generation and environmental protection. She has over three years of experience in business development, marketing, and sales. Currently, Pauline is the CEO and founder of Fireball Energy (U) Ltd; a company focused on producing eco-friendly bioenergy solutions in the form of briquettes and biogas from organic agricultural waste. Pauline holds a bachelor’s degree in Petroleum Geoscience and Production from Makerere University and is driven by her passion for environmental conservation. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Pauline plans to continue her work in clean energy generation by focusing on scaling and product quality improvement to serve both the local and global markets.


Brendah Nantongo

Africa, Uganda, Business, 2019

Brendah Nantongo has over six years of experience in agribusiness and developing impact focused initiatives. She is currently the founder of Water Access Farms Ltd. (WAFL), a company that embarks on empowering rural women in Uganda with skills, training, and farming support. Brendah is also an ambassador for Thought for Food, a global platform that embarks on ensuring food security. At WAFL, Brendah concentrates on developing organization strategies and designing farm skills training curriculums. She also runs an agricultural value addition business. Brendah holds a Bachelor of Science Technology in Physics from Kyambogo University and a postgraduate diploma in Project Planning and Management from the Uganda Management Institute. Brendah believes that when you empower women in farming with better skills and resources, yields are improved, and therefore, there are increased incomes and improved livelihoods. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she plans to pass on the knowledge acquired to train the rural women in Uganda in financial management and better farming methods by encouraging them to create cooperative saving groups.


Adam Nyende

Africa, Uganda, Public Management, 2019

Adam Nyende has five years of experience in community development in Uganda. Currently, Adam works with the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development as a culture officer. At the Ministry, he is working to support several community-based programs aimed at eradicating gender-based violence through the reversal of harmful cultural practices. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Adam plans to continue his work on personal and community development, human rights, and policymaking in Uganda.


Christopher Okidi

Africa, Uganda, Public Management, 2019

Christopher Okidi is an environmental health specialist with eight years of experience in the public health and community development sector. Christopher works at the Ministry of Water and Environment as an environmental health officer tasked with ensuring communities maintain water and sanitation health standards. Christopher also supports local farmers in his village, through market linkage programming for their produce. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Christopher will continue working for the Ministry of Water and Environment and focus on preventing water-borne diseases safeguarding clean drinking water for rural areas in Uganda.


Drake Ssempijja

Africa, Uganda, Civic Engagement, 2019

Drake Ssempijja has ten years of experience in the aquaculture industry, spanning across academia, research, consultancy, and civil service sectors. Drake works directly with organizations that focus on aquaculture development for food security and economic development with an emphasis on vulnerable youth groups. His passion is driven by the rampant youth unemployment in Uganda, which he believes can be solved by active involvement in the aquaculture sector. Currently, he is a lecturer of fisheries and aquaculture at Makerere University, College of Natural Sciences, Department of Zoology, Entomology and Fisheries Sciences. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, Drake also mentors youth groups interested in aquaculture value chain. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Fisheries and Aquaculture from Makerere University, a Master of Science in Aquaculture from Ghent University, and postgraduate certificates in Aquaculture from Iceland and South Africa. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, he plans to use the skills and knowledge gained to enhance the efficiency of his community outreach programs, and to bridge the gap between academia and society for sustainable aquaculture development.


Rosette Twizerimana

Africa, Uganda, Business, 2019

Rosette Twizerimana holds a diploma in Accounting from Mukono YMCA College of Commercial Studies and has three years of experience in open footwear design and production. Rosette is a founder of Tandika Uganda, focusing on training women and girls on how to make open-toe shoes as an income generating activity. Since 2016, Rosette has trained over 223 women in manufacturing leather sandals, slip-on, and lace-up shoes that are hand-crafted from recycled tires and an assortment of locally sourced materials. As a trainer, Rosette is equipping young people with the knowledge to start their shoemaking cottage industries and start making money to reduce dependence and unemployment. Her goal is to make shoemaking skills easy to learn and accessible without the use of complicated heavy machinery. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Rosette plans to continue her plans of empowering women and girls to be financially independent.


Annie Margaret Ihoreere Wagana

Africa, Uganda, Public Management, 2019

Annie Margaret Ihoreere Wagana has 12 years of legal experience in humanitarian and human rights, corporate governance, criminal, and civil law. She has served as a judicial officer for the last seven years and is currently a Ph.D. Fellow at Antwerp University IOB, Belgium where she studies Refugee Law and Policy. She is also a co-founder of Uganda Pixels Ltd, a graphics design and advertising company. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she intends to continue growing Uganda Pixels, and open a legal aid clinic catering to low-income clients.



2019 UD Mandela Washington Fellowship -Civic Leadership Institute

Peace Ahadji

Country: Togo    |      Focus: Mental Health; Advocacy; NGOs

Peace Ahadji has four years of experience in various fields in the development sector, particularly in public health. Peace is currently working as a project manager at AIMES-AFRIQUE, a medical-surgical non-governmental organization. She also runs a faith-based mental health organization to help people suffering from mental illness in Togo. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Development Economics and a master’s degree in International Health from the University of Alexandria in Egypt. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she plans to continue her work to help people suffering from mental illness in Togo and Africa at large.

Emmanuel Angoda

Country: Uganda     |        Focus: E-Learning Technology; Education; NGOs

Emmanuel Angoda is a teacher at Lira Town College, in northern Uganda. He is a technology innovator, STEM activist, and mentor with seven years of experience in the education and ICT sectors. He involves his students in ICT activities such as Robotics, the Technovation Challenge, Africa Code Week, and essay writing competitions, from which he has won several national awards. From 2013 to 2017, he served as the Regional Ambassador for Technovation Challenge, a global technology entrepreneurship program for girls and young women. Emmanuel is the founder of Walktrack Edu Platform, an educational website that provides free online open educational resources for teachers and students. He also runs the Career Assistance Program (CAP), an initiative that helps young people obtain vital career information and support after high school. In 2017, he was the recipient of the Teachers Making a Difference Award and was rewarded with an educational trip to Dublin, Ireland. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, he plans to continue his work in development education with a focus on girls’ education and eLearning resources.


Naomi Assegied

Country: Ethiopia     |      Focus: Health Systems Administration; Mental Health; Youth and Adolescent Health

Naomi Teshome has over three years of experience in the health sector and holds a medical degree from the University of Gondar and a master’s degree in Public Health from Hebrew University in Jerusalem. She worked as a general practitioner in both public and private hospitals before she joined the Resource Mobilization Department within the Federal Ministry of Health of Ethiopia. Currently, she is working as a consultant for a private consulting firm on several projects. Naomi is also the founder and board member of a charity association called Ethio-Amba, an organization that works to address the various social determinants of health. Naomi is committed to working on bridging the gap between clinical medicine and public health in her country. She also actively engages in her local church on youth mentoring and children’s ministry. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Naomi plans to continue her work in public health through private and public sector engagement, focusing on areas of adolescent and mental health issues.


Agnes Chie

Country: Liberia      |      Focus: Science & Technology; Teaching/Mentorship; Education

Agnes Gbenyenoh Chie has five years of experience working with students and holds a degree in Biology from the University of Liberia. She has organized girl’s science club in private and public schools, and mentors over twenty-five young girls currently enrolled in STEM courses at the University of Liberia. In addition to her time spent tutoring young women in STEM courses. She also serves as a trainer for high school biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics teachers. Through her work as a program officer for technology education at the Ministry of Education, she has contributed significantly to advances in the educational policy initiatives of the Liberian government. This past January Agnes and her team launched a new educational campaign, “Prioritizing Girls Education” over six counties. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she intends to continue to build the capacity of young women through science clubs, workshops, community forums, and vocational trainings.


Pearl Chunga

Country: Zambia    |      Focus: Mental Health; Advocacy; NGOs

Pearl Phelendaba Chunga has over five years of experience in community engagement. She focuses on mental health awareness and is the founder of the Walk with Me Foundation, a mental health awareness non-profit organization. She also runs her own business as an event planner. Pearl grew up surrounded by addiction, and she suffers from anxiety and depression. Access to appropriate health services continues to be a problem in Zambia; Pearl is passionate about breaking the stigma surrounding mental illness. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Pearl will continue to expand her work in the mental health field and envisions a Zambia where those that suffer from mental health problems are able to speak freely about their struggles.


Sènou Samson Francis Degbegni

Country: Benin    |     Focus: Sexual/Reproductive Health; Communications; Technology

Sènou Samson Francis Degbegni has over seven years of experience in community development and currently works as a Peer Educator on reproductive health. Sènou holds a bachelor’s degree in Agronomic Sciences from the Catholic University of West-Africa, and a master’s degree in Local Development and Decentralization from the African University of Cooperative Development. To address the high teenage pregnancy rates within Benin, Sènou is currently working to implement a digital education platform around sexual and reproductive health. Digital Health Services strives to provide youth with reliable, permanent, and accessible online sexual health resources. Currently, Sènou also volunteers with the National Students Association for Sexual Health and specifically focuses on sexual health for youth. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Sènou wants to continue to educate youth in Benin around their sexual and reproductive health, while encouraging conversations between parents and children around sexual health through his digital platform.


Ayi Dossavi Alipoeh

Country: Togo     |      Focus: Literature; Youth; Social Media

Ayi Renaud Dossavi Alipoeh is a Togolese writer, poet, and novelist. Having published several books, he now focuses on promoting reading, writing, and literature in Togo, especially among the younger generation. Ayi has won several writing awards including the African Development Bank’s “Africa of My Dreams” 2018 essay competition, and the World Bank’s 2019 Blog4Dev competition. In addition to being a published author, Ayi is also a journalist, specializing in economics, and the secretary general of the PEN-Togo Writers Association.


Edwige Dro

Country: Côte d’Ivoire     |      Focus: Literature; Entrepreneurship; Advocacy

Edwige Dro is a writer, literary translator and literary activist from Cote d’Ivoire. She is currently writing the fictionalized biography of Marie Kore, one of the female political activists of colonial Cote d’Ivoire through the support of a grant from the Miles Morland Foundation. She is the co-founder of Abidjan Lit, a collective of literary activists in Abidjan working on changing the “Africans don’t read” stereotype. Her short stories have been published in anthologies such as New Daughters of Africa or by publications such as Ankara Press or Bloomsbury. As an Africa39 writer in 2014, she was hailed as one of “the most promising writers under the age of 40 with the potential and talent to define trends in the development of literature from Sub-Saharan Africa and the diaspora” by the Hay Festival. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she plans to continue her literary activism with a focus on nurturing the young literary voices of her country.


Zibusiso Dube

Country: Zimbabwe     |       Focus: Communications; Advocacy; Technology

Zibusiso John Dube has eight years of experience in the civil society sector, working in communications, research, and project management. Zibusiso’s interests intersect at the point between media, activism, and development. Currently, he is a program officer at the Centre for Innovation and Technology (CITE). At CITE, he is responsible for the design, implementation, and monitoring of innovative media and civic engagement programs that strive to improve governance and promote positive social change. He has experience leading projects that focus on the promotion of social accountability and effective public resources management at the local government level in Zimbabwe. He has also authored multiple research papers addressing water management, corruption at the local level, and participatory budgeting. He holds a master’s degree in Media Practice for Development and Social Change, and a Master of Science in Development Studies. He has a passion for democratization, development, and good governance, and believes that the media has a crucial role to play. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, he plans to continue his work in media for social change with a focus on the role of new media and e-governance in promoting positive change.


Hannah Essien

Country: Nigeria      |       Focus: The Arts; Advocacy; Autism; Mental Health

Hannah Bassey Essien is an artist and founder of Nana Arts, a social enterprise organization that uses art to engage orphaned children. Hannah uses art as a means of expression and to draw attention to the various challenges faced by her community. The goal of Nana Arts is to inspire interest, build self-esteem, and to create world-renowned artists, and entrepreneurs. Upon the completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Hannah will work to expand Nana Arts outside of Nigeria.


Christie Linonge Etombi

Country: Cameroon     |       Focus: Public Health; Communications; Technology

Christie Linonge Etombi is committed to improving cardiovascular health in Cameroon through health education and digital health technology. Currently, she is a medical doctor with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) Cameroon, where she works to ensure proper referral and management of internally displaced persons in the south-west region. She is a web and media coordinator of the Health Education and Research Organization (HERO) Cameroon, a non-governmental organization that seeks to safeguard a more equitable, disease-free, and emerging Cameroon. Through HERO Cameroon, she has organized various campaigns on cardiovascular disease prevention. She is also the Project Manager of m-thypa, a digital health technology platform to aims to reduce high blood pressure in Cameroon. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she intends to use the m-thypa platform to provide low-cost prevention of high blood pressure and heart disease to more people.


Samwel Maphie

Country: United Republic of Tanzania    |       Focus: Gender Issues; Teaching & Mentorship; Advocacy

Samwel Maphie is an advocate and social entrepreneur who has five years of experience working with pastoralists, adolescent girls, and young women in campaigning for their health, basic needs, and rights. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Dar es Salaam. He believes that violence against women and girls impedes their full participation in society, limits their access to better health, education, economic participation, and hinders efforts to achieve gender equality. With this belief, he started an organization aimed at catering for disadvantaged girls in pastoral communities in Tanzania, called the End Child Abuse and Neglect Organization. His organization has partnered with four primary schools and six secondary schools to identify over 350 peer educator champions, including 104 college students and 70 volunteers, reaching over 57,000 pastoralists He is an author of two books and a youth mentor, being nominated as the Most Positively Inspiring Youth (2017) by Positive Youth Africa, and was also a finalist in the African Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) achiever awards (youth category) in Ghana in November 2018, and the winner of Best SDGs performer of the year award in 2018 in Tanzania. Following the Mandela Washington Fellowship, he plans to continue his work of advocating for disadvantaged girls.


Lineo Matlakala

Country: Lesotho     |       Focus: Sexual/Reproductive Health; The Arts; Entrepreneurship

Makhosi Exinia “Lineo Matlakala” Ntsalong works full time as the director of an agricultural organization in Leribe, which provides agri-business management skills to youth. She is the founder of the Barali Foundation, an organization that advocates for the rights of women and girls in rural Lesotho.


Eta Matsinhe

Country: Mozambique    |       Focus: Public Health; Social Media; NGOs

Eta Matsinhe has four years of experience in digital marketing management and journalism multimedia. Currently, she works as a social media department coordinator. She has one year of experience as the leader of the Olá Vida, a social movement to promote cancer-fighting and disseminate information to improve the quality of life of cancer patients in Mozambique. To reach more people, she disseminates the information using social media and organizes workshops in partnership with the oncology department from the main public hospital. She has a bachelor’s degree in Communication Sciences from Universidade Politécnica in Maputo. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she hopes to acquire tools that will allow her to increase the impact of Olá Vida’s activities in her community.


Abdallah Mohamed Bourhan

Country: Djibouti       |       Focus: Sexual/Reproductive Health; Advocacy; Gender Issues

Abdallah Mohamed Bourhan holds a master’s degree in International Trade from Ecole Nationale de Commerce et de Gestion d’Agadir and is fluent in four languages. Abdallah works for the Bank of Africa Mer Rouge, the Djiboutian branch of the multinational Pan-African bank conglomerate, as the head of the organization department. Driven by his commitment to social inclusion, He has served as the Executive Director of the Djiboutian Association for Family Planning (ADEPF) since 2018. The ADEPF is a member association of the International Planned Parenthood Federation RAB region and aims to promote sexual and reproductive health rights. His work at the ADEPF focuses on projects related to youth access to comprehensive sex education, the eradication of female genital mutilation, and advocacy. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Abdallah will work to strengthen access to quality sexual and reproductive health services in Djibouti for local and migrant populations while continuing work to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.


Portia Ncwane

Country: South Africa     |       Focus: The Arts; Youth; Gender Issues

Portia Nokwazi Ncwane is a philanthropist with over ten years of experience in the entertainment industry as an actress, dance choreographer, and events host. Her participation in dance and music cultural exchange festivals has allowed her to travel internationally as a representative of South Africa. She is the founder and executive director of the Portia Ncwane Foundation, a non-profit organization focused on female empowerment, youth development, sports recreation, art, and the promotion of cultural heritage to disadvantaged communities. She has also donated school uniforms to over 300 students at the Oxbridge Academy. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Portia plans to use her newly acquired skills to implement projects that encourage youth development capacity building through dance and music programs.


Guerson Neuyambe

Country: Chad      |     Focus: Education; Science; Youth

Guerson Neuyambe has over five years of experience serving as a senior statistician at the National Agency for the Employment in Chad and holds a bachelor’s degree in Statistics. He is the founder of PROMO-SCIENCE, a platform that encourages secondary students to engage in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and also serves as a program manager at the Participatory Development and Technology Agency, a local NGO that works to advance the health and well-being of poor children and young mothers. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, he hopes to grow the PROMO-SCIENCE platform and help his organization continue to encourage a generation of young people to pursue a career in STEM.


Adeboro Odunlami

Country: Nigeria    |      Focus: Technology; Law/Policy; Gender Issues

Adeboro Pelumi Odunlami is a lawyer with over two years of experience in policy drafting that respects the rights of citizens in the use, development, and deployment of technology in Africa. She is currently the program assistant and legal officer for the Pan-African Organization, Paradigm Initiative, where she works on digital rights advocacy strategies for anglophone West Africa. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Law from the University of Lagos, and a practicing certificate from the Nigerian Law School. She is fueled by her desire to see technology used for social good, and for African laws to foster technological development while protecting citizens from intrusion, biases, and other unchecked consequences of algorithms. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she plans to continue working on influencing public and company policy in favor of human rights, in addition to launching a technology club for teenage girls in underserved regions of Nigeria.


Camara Oulematou

Country: Senegal       |        Focus: Education; Teaching & Mentorship; Youth

Oulematou Camara is currently working in the logistics and purchasing directorate of a company in the telecommunications sector. Specializing in supply chain management, she holds a master’s degree in Business Administration. She has extensive experience in administration, operations, process development, and project management in private companies, public organizations, and international institutions. She volunteers with a variety of organizations focused on children and education. She strongly believes that poverty should not be a barrier to education, and currently organizes different knowledge sharing activities while helping to build a school for disadvantaged children. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, she is expecting to be even more committed to developing her community.


Précieux Guénolé Rajaofera

Country: Madagascar     |       Focus: Literacy; Politics; Humanitarian & Food Distribution; Education

Précieux Guénolé Rajaofera is a dynamic young scout of the Scout Association of the Lutheran Church of Toliara and has two years of experience in the volunteering and community service sector, mainly focused on the fight against adult illiteracy. To honor his scout obligation of service, Précieux offers free courses in reading and writing to the illiterate adult community of many rural villages in Toliara, Madagascar. Précieux holds a bachelor’s degree in Private Law from CNTEMAD (National Distance Education Center of Madagascar) and hopes to enroll in a master´s program in 2020. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Précieux plans to use his new skills and contacts to create a non-profit organization that will focus on fighting hunger, illiteracy, and clean water shortages in Madagascar.


Kobozo Renee-Gracella

Country: Central African Republic       |       Focus: Education; Sexual Health; Gender Issues; Female Social Entrepreneurship; Environment

Renee-Gracella Kobozo Yakongbo works for the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts in the Central African Republic. She teaches 6-12 years old girls critical life skills and works to help advance their personal development. As a member of the Peace Volunteer Network, she also promotes peace, dialogue, and social cohesion within her community. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Applied Ecology and Health Biology, with a specialization in Parasitology. She is passionate about her work and believes that educating a girl is educating a whole nation.


Samantha Sibanda

Country: Zimbabwe      |       Focus: Disability Advocacy; Communications; Technology

Samantha Sibanda is a human rights defender who has been working in the area of disability rights for eight years. Samantha is the founder of Signs of Hope Trust, Zimbabwe, an organization that empowers and advocates for the rights of persons with disabilities. Her organization facilitates scholarships, helps schools establish libraries for children with disabilities, and lobbies and raises awareness on disability issues to ensure that people with disabilities are empowered for self-representation and can understand and contribute to policy. Additionally, she leads the Hope Magazine Zimbabwe Initiative, an inclusive online news magazine bringing together disabled people’s organizations, academics in disability, persons with disabilities, and mainstream media, to reframe disability issues and tell untold stories in communities. Samantha is currently studying towards a degree in Special Education with the support of the Wells Mountain Initiative. Following the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Samantha hopes to contribute to inclusive education for children with disabilities, to eradicate discrimination, and to advocate for awareness of disability issues in schools.


Patrick Stephenson

Country: Ghana      |      Focus: Communications; Advocacy; Technology; Community Engagement

Patrick Stephenson has seven years of experience in public policy analysis and advocacy. Currently, Patrick is the Head of Research at the Imani Centre for Policy and Education, where he leads a team of policy analysts in projects on gas and energy, government spending, commodity management, and national procurement policies. Patrick volunteers as a World Economic Forum Global Shaper with the Accra Hub and leads youth discussions around government accountability and active citizenship. He also currently works on nCLUDED, a participatory planning and development platform aimed at improving voter experiences and participation in public policy creation. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Patrick will continue to work with nCLUDED on advocacy strategies.


Silindile Xulu

Country: South Africa     |        Focus: Communications; Youth; Gender Issues; Human Rights

Silindile Penelope Buthelezi has over five years of experience in government, working on international and government relations programs. In addition to her local government work, she also has extensive experience in media relations and corporate communications. She has worked for programs at the University of South Africa, AmaZulu Football Club, the British Broadcasting Corporation and the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants. She holds a national diploma in Public Relations Management from the University of South Africa and is currently in her final academic year of her bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Diplomacy, also at the University of South Africa. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Silindile plans to continue sharing her experiences, passions, and knowledge with young graduates through her self-designed mentorship program and looks forward to its expansion in 2019.


Robert Zulu

Country: Zambia     |       Focus: Public Health; NGOs; Communications; Cervical Cancer Awareness

Robert Zulu is a results-driven and dedicated person that works to address global social challenges. After losing his wife to cervical cancer in 2015, he decided to launch a cervical cancer education program in Zambia. He is the founder and executive director of Rakellz Dream Initiative, a non-governmental organization with a team of 50 youth working to raise awareness around cervical cancer through outreach activities and informational films. The long-term vision of the Rakellz Dream Initiative is to help increase cervical cancer knowledge across Zambia to mitigate and prevent terminal diagnoses. Upon completion of the Mandela Washington Fellowship, Robert will continue to raise awareness of cervical cancer in the rural communities of Zambia’s Northern Province by the year 2021.