A Village of Support across Continents for REACH for Uganda

This article is cross-posted from the news section of Marymount University)

Each summer, teachers and school administrators in Marymount University’s Master of Education in Administration and Supervision program come to campus for two weeks of intensive classes. They arrive from across the country and abroad. The two-year program is mostly conducted online, with two summer, on-campus sessions. This year, the first year and second-year cohorts include individuals from Mississippi, California, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, in addition to local educators in the Diocese of Arlington and the Archdiocese of Washington, DC. Primarily a program for Catholic school leaders, Marymount’s program also provides a strong foundation for those taking a leadership position at other private, faith-based schools. And, among the 2014 cohort is Thomas Kitandwe Kisolo, director of the REACH for Uganda in Bumwalukani, Uganda, which is inclusive and non-denominational.

It serves a remote, impoverished area of eastern Uganda. Kitandwe Kisolo’s connection with Arlington and Marymount is not new. The Academy is supported by the REACH for Uganda Foundation, which was established by Arlington residents John and Joyce Wanda, who wanted to bring an American model of education to their home village. What started as an elementary school in 2004 has evolved into a major community support system.

“It’s so much more than a school,” explains Kitandwe Kisolo. The REACH for Uganda now includes the elementary school, which has 335 pupils in grades 1-7; sponsorship of about 270 students to continue their education at secondary schools; an outreach program that provides materials and workshops for teachers at 45 public schools in outlying villages; a women’s microfinance program, and two health clinics that give free care.

The Foundation, which receives donations from individuals across the United States, has also expanded partnerships to help support the expanding endeavors. Marymount’s Education Department is one such partner. Marymount professors of education and students have been traveling to Uganda to provide teacher-training workshops for the REACH for Uganda teachers and teachers in the outlying public schools. Kitandwe Kisolo says, “Our teachers really enjoy learning about new, diverse methods of instruction, and they can’t wait for the next workshops.”

Dr. Alice Young, Marymount professor of Education and associate dean of the School of Education and Human Services, explains that “learning to teach with an interactive, hands-on approach requires experiences in those teaching methods. The teacher workshops in Uganda have focused on having the teachers participate in the same type of learning experiences that we want them to provide for their students.” She adds, “Thomas Kitandwe Kisolo epitomizes what I see is the best of Uganda. He has a joy for life and learning that comes out as he works with the children and teachers at the REACH for Uganda. The new skills, knowledge, and understandings that he will take back from the Administration and Supervision program will build on his natural talents, dedication, and enthusiasm to provide the best for his children and community in Uganda.”

Now director of the REACH for Uganda, Kitandwe Kisolo was headmaster (principal) for seven years and previously taught elementary school for about 15 years. He was invited into Marymount’s M.Ed. program and says, “This is one of the biggest landmarks in my life, and I am so grateful to Marymount for the partnership with the REACH for Uganda and for having me in this inspiring program.” In just this first week, I can realize how much I am learning about human resource management and leadership.” He also notes America’s emphasis on research and resource materials, explaining, “Research is lacking in Uganda and many African countries, but here it is center stage. For example, in my class we have been discussing case studies of cyber bullying. That is just becoming a problem in Uganda, so this gives me insight into ways to prevent it.”

Sister Patricia Earl, IHM, coordinator of the Marymount’s M.Ed. in Administration and Supervision program and interim dean of the School of Education and Human Services, points out that Tom Kitandwe Kisolo brings a fresh perspective to the cohort of educators. “We take so much for granted,” she explains. “The poverty and hardships faced by the children and families that the REACH for Uganda serves are hard for us to imagine.” Yet many administrative school issues are common to both worlds, as is the desire to give students the tools to be successful.

John Wanda at the REACH for Uganda Foundation says, “Our mission is to bring hope and opportunity to kids who have never seen a quality education, who have never seen a clean classroom. We want to give them hope for a better life through education.”

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