You can actually see that each dollar makes a real difference in someone’s life.
After winning a State Department diversity lottery visa, Joyce and John Wanda moved from Uganda to the U.S. in June, 1995, and settled in Arlington, VA. Witnessing the impressive learning experiences of their children in Arlington Public Schools, John and Joyce were inspired to provide a similar education for children in their native villages. Less than 1% of Ugandans graduate from a university, as John and Joyce had, and they both knew how rocky and pot-holed the road to such success was.
In 1999, they began to smooth that road by providing tuition support to five village children and recruited other supporters from their church and workplace. Soon their program was embraced by Bethel United Church of Christ and the American Chiropractic Association, where John worked. By 2002, John and Joyce had raised over $10,000 which directly supported the education of 142 students. Unfortunately, their scholarship program did not have the immediate impact on the local standards of education that John and Joyce wanted.
Many schools in rural Uganda (a full 80% of the country) lack materials, such as paper, pencils, books, and even walls. Teachers are often undertrained, and many do not speak English fluently, although classes are taught in English. Attendance and tardiness issues are prevalent for both teachers and students. Many families choose for a child to help in the fields rather than to attend inadequate schools. While John and Joyce’s scholarship students had better resources, they sat in crowded classrooms and received little assistance from their teachers or parents.
A Model Primary School
The Ugandan community and U.S. donors decided together that starting their own school in the village would be the best way to make an impact on local education. A model primary school could serve as an example for all the other schools in the district.
On February 2, 2004, the Arlington Junior School opened its doors to 78 students and became the only school in the region using American models of education, serving lunch, and emphasizing the development of the child as an individual. Word spread quickly. Soon over 300 students attended AJS, with nearly 150 on a waiting list.