More than one thousand orphaned children studying under the universal primary education (UPE) in Masaka Region have opened bank accounts with various banks and micro finance institutions as part of a project to promote a culture of savings.
Participating Banks include Centenary and Diamond Trust Bank as well as Kakuuto Microfinance.
Minister of State for Education, Kamanda Bataringaya launched the initiative which is partly a research project of Dr Fred Ssemwala , a professor at Columbia University in the United States.
The Dean of Columbia University School of Social Work, Dr Jeanette Takamura attended the launch.
The children and their caretakers open up savings accounts, each starting with between Shs25,000 and Shs50,000 as the initial deposit which will be matched with twice as much by ‘Bridges to the Future,’ the project Dr Ssemwala initiated with support from the US government.
For every subsequent amount in that range deposited on a child’s savings account, ‘Bridges to the Future’ will deposit twice as much. Naluwooza Gloria a pupil from Kitenga Primary School, said she was happy to open her first bank account with Diamond Trust Bank where she started with savings amounting to 25000/= and hopes to save more when her pig produces next month. She told Education Guide that last year a relative donated to her a pig which she takes care of at her home and she thinks it will produce a number of piglets some of which she plans to sell and save the proceed. Her caretaker, Agnes Nantume said, “Good for her because she will hopefully learn that money must be handled carefully and that it is good to save.”
Evidence from similar research projects, SUUBI Uganda, SUUBI Maka and SEED which professor Ssewamala has conducted in Rakai and Masaka districts for the past nine years has shown that given the tools and knowledge, poor orphaned children and their care giving families can save money and plan for the future.
Saving a little
“Some of the orphans own a goat or two, local chicken, while others grow tomatoes or sugarcane which they sell,” said Dr Ssewamala. “Many of their caretakers who are usually also their relatives are willing to save a little money for the children’s education and we have seen them doing so in the past research projects that we have conducted. The orphan child is taught that he has to be part of the struggle for his own upbringing. It also demystifies the old belief that the orphan children are too poor to save.”
The savings accounts regulations are that the money is only withdrawn to pay school fees when the orphan child joins secondary or vocational school in the years to come. The child, the ‘Bridges to the Future’ staff and the guardians have to agree before the money is withdrawn. During the time the participating orphans are still in primary school, they will get lunch fees paid by ‘Bridges to the Future’ which will also provide them with school uniform and exercise books.
Since 2003, Dr Ssewamala has been conducting research with primary school orphans in Rakai and Masaka which, having been the epicentre of the HIV/Aids outbreak in the 1980’s has high numbers of orphans. Part of the research covers counselling and tracking behavioral change. Currently studying electrical engineering at Muteesa One Royal University, Mr. Deogratius Makumbi, a former participant in the SUUBI Seed research project, told Education, “I got to know the value of education of which today I feel my life is shaped.”
Minister Bataringaya described the project as a “wonderful opportunity not only because it will enable orphans to save for their education but also it will introduce them to the good culture of saving.”