Posted by: Stephen Palmer | July 18, 2008

Breaking the Cycle of Dependency

Contributed by Suzie Ludlow


Do to a high demand but a small supply, we have been struggling this past month with a lack of books. We have been trying to share the few we have among the different classes at Bweyogerere but somehow they fell permanently into the hands of a few so that the rest did not have access to them. But this past Monday I had the privilege of bringing them each their own copy of A Thomas Jefferson Education. (How interesting that out of all the journeys to the school, it had to be on this day that it was raining quite hard. No need to worry, I wouldn’t let the books come this far to not make it!)

You could not have found a happier set of teachers when they were handed their own personal copy. The secondary class at Bweyogerere (who Laura and I have learned many forms of African dance from due to our rule that if you walk into class late you must dance for the class) were all literally dancing with joy! Thank you all who contributed funds to make this possible and to those who are continuing to do so!


It has been so wonderful to see the change that is already beginning to take place in these teachers and their classes. Moses is very appreciative of the classes and has confessed learning a lot. As he has been applying the principles he has found that he is able to put forth less time and effort while having greater impact. He has discovered that as he has been setting the example by studying while the students come in for class, that they are even more interested in learning their lessons for the day because they see that he is learning too. Also he has tried being more positive with the students. Instead of cutting them down, he commends them for their effort and encourages them to keep trying. He said that this has helped his students very much.

Karim says that now when he and his children come home, he asks them what they learned in school and spends time discussing these lessons with them. The leadership education we are sharing isn’t just affecting the classrooms, but the family bond is strengthened as well! How rewarding this experience has been!

In the second class we held at Bright Future School , I asked the teachers what they wanted for their students. They answered “A bright future- to be independent, to be leaders.” I asked them what type of education their students needed to do this: conveyor belt, professional, or leadership (read A Thomas Jefferson Education for insight on each). In earnest they exclaimed a mixture of all especially leadership. I asked them what type of education they were giving their students. A long pause followed. Almost apologetically Hassefa answered “a conveyor belt.” And in the same breath she added in their defense “we did not know of any other way to teach!”


Oh my friends back in the states, the need here is so great! But it is not the need for more volunteers to help build their homes and schools, or for our government to give them more funding. Although these sacrifices appear to help the Ugandans when viewed merely on the surface or by those who are short sighted, their results cause greater harm than good. Why? Because all of this ‘service’ continues to perpetuate one underlying problem Uganda possesses.

Many officials and people of this wonderful country have informed us of this, we have seen it in the school rooms and through the short comments of strangers as we walk through the streets. The problem is that of dependency.

“Mzungu, give me money!” yelled by all ages of people. “Mzungu, pay for my school” asked by the children. “Mzungu pay me more, you have money.” In our schools, when asked what is the problem with the school system the reply has been “the teachers are not being paid enough.” “We are not allowed enough time to teach each subject.” And the comments continue.

After talking of this dependency the issue of our lack of books for them arose. One teacher declared “We need those books!” and almost in demand asked “When will we get them?” Laura, without hesitation, pointed directly to the word of “Dependence” written on the board after our lecture on Tytler’s Cycle and posed the question, “What type of mindset is that question born from?” A light dawned in that teacher and she understood. Meek came the reply, “Dependency.”

After discussing the 5 environments of mentoring in the Bweyogerere Primary School (tutorial, group discussion, lecture, testing, and coaching) we had a colloquium on The Giving Tree. Oh, I could not help but giggle. Starting off, Aisha read the story to everyone. At the beginning it states “Once there was a tree and she loved a little boy…” Before Aisha could continue, someone asked “Who is she?” She replied, “She is the tree, because she produces fruit.”

Aisha would ask others to read a page, by the end, there was at least three people reading the page at the same time. Their discussion was very heated and hilarious. They began saying how selfish the boy was but then one brought up that perhaps the tree was bad for it was giving too much. I asked them who Uganda was. They all agreed that Uganda is the boy

Janet and Josephine and I had a mentor meeting. Janet was admitting she had not been keeping the goals set previously with Laura. Janet wants to build her own house but complains of not having enough money. Laura had asked her to start a budget. She gave me many reasons why she had not, why bother for she did not have enough money anyways. I went with her step by step listing an average of every expense for the month. Looking at her income of 300,000 shillings a month (about $190) we added up all of her expenses and she ended up having 148,000 shillings left over. Look at all of your money-where is it?! She was very surprised and we set her and also Josephine up with a notebook to list every single thing they purchase for the month.

Great things are happening!

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