Major Milestone: Six UMECS Students Graduate from Gulu University
When UMECS anchored in the war zones of Northern Uganda in 2004, a brutal war was raging throughout the region. Children were being abducted by the Lord’s Resistance Army and forced into child soldiering. Women were being raped and mutilated. Two million people had been displaced from their ancestral villages to squalid displacement camps. Massacres of civilians and massive deaths from diseases in the overcrowded camps were rife. Health and education infrastructure had largely collapsed. What was the future for society in Northern Uganda?
Despite the dangerous conditions, UMECS had a vision: war-affected youth must become fully educated, completing secondary school and higher education. It would take educated youth to restore society in Northern Uganda, as qualified professionals developing their war-affected communities and serving as critical role models.
With this vision, in February 2005, UMECS launched the Northern Uganda Education Programme with a community development approach. The idea: UMECS would fully sponsor, mentor, guide and counsel vulnerable war-affected children in secondary school through higher education graduation. Graduates would return to their post-conflict communities as qualified professionals – teachers, nurses, doctors, engineers and entrepreneurs – to help restore and develop their communities and serve as critical role models for the youth. The programme is now in Year 10.
Among our first cohort of war-affected students in February 2005 were Geoffrey Rachkara, Ben Mushega Amanya, Denish Okello Oranga, Simon Nokrach, and Geoffrey Okot who, ten years later, on Saturday, October 25 2014, together with UMECS sponsored student Brian Kal-Okwera who grew up in Gulu town during the war, graduated with bachelors degrees from Gulu University. They will soon be back in their communities, the first in their families to graduate from university. More importantly, they are returning to their high poverty post-conflict communities as qualified professionals and valuable role models – Geoffrey Okot, Denish and Simon as secondary school teachers; Ben as a rural development specialist; Brian as a community economist and Geoffrey Rachkara as a trained accountant. The impact they will soon have cannot be overstated.
Our students’ graduations from Gulu University on Saturday October 25, 2014 following their ten year journey from children of war to community minded professionals was a major triumph in their lives and a UMECS milestone.