What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?
The Batwa have lived in the forest for centuries. They were driven out of the forest in 1991 when Bwindi was gazzatted as a national park and there was no compensation by the government. BDP is one of the organizations that are resettling the Batwa especially in Kanungu District. Therefore going to school is a new experience for the Batwa. Batwa students are new to their Bakiga classmates, the teachers and even the headmaster. Therefore BDP is making sure that the Batwa are in school with all the school necessities such that they are not discriminated. We hope that in future after they have attained quality education, these people will become leaders in their communities and perhaps the nation at large.
In 2000 a medical needs survey ascertained that the Batwa had an under five mortality of 38% compared with a Uganda average of 18% and USA statistics of 0.8%. Four in ten Batwa would not live to see their fifth birth day. With the life expectancy of only 28 and an annual income of$50, their very existence was threatened. It was recognized that in order to address their grinding poverty, that multiple areas of intervention were necessary. That is why BDP was formed.
BDP shall make sure that Batwa literacy rate is increased from 0% to 70% with in 10 years time. Our goal is to make nursery, primary, secondary and higher education as well as vocational training available at all Batwa. We know that without improving the literacy rate, it will remain difficult for them to conceive the importance of better health and development.
Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.
Dr. Scott and Carol Kellermann the founders of the Batwa ministry and BDP advisory committee have worked hard to see that BDP is in place and operational. Funds are raise through appealing for sponsorships for each individual student.
Their ancestors lived in the forested mountains of southwest Uganda. They used trees for their hunting, nourishment and shelter. The plants, flowers and waters for their medicines. The children are naturally inquisitive because nature germinates the seeds of curiosity. They have honed the tools that God has given them and with the help of good schools, colleges and universities, from caring and involved teachers and professors and with lots of books, paper, pencils and midnight oil these children will become leaders in their communities and perhaps the nation.
Going to school, usually a boarding school, is a new experience for the Batwa and they do not accept it as easily as one would think. I am speaking of both children and parents. The children have been fairly isolated in the settlement. They do not know the children from around the area, the Bakiga, the dominant tribe. Batwa students are new to their Bakiga classmates, the teachers and even, the head master. They all have to learn how to treat each other, their limitations and boundaries. This is never easy.
On the other hand, the parents have not been to school, in most cases, so they do not know the real importance of an education. Their children have been home helping with chores and African children do many chores around the house and in the fields. Now the child is gone at school and this puts more of a strain on Mom and Dad, if both parents are even still alive or around. So I think you can see that sending a Batwa child to school is more than just coming up with the school fees.
If the Batwa are treated too harshly by fellow students, their teachers or the head master, they will run away, back to the settlement. In many instances, teachers may be more malicious to the Batwa students because of their lowly status. Due to the potential unfair treatment of the Batwa by students and teachers alike, combined with the timidness of the Batwa children, education can become a challenge. The good thing is that the Batwa Development Program being made up of only Batwa and their advisory committee, non-Batwa, but who have been sending the children to school and bringing them back to school for over eight years now, know how to handle just about any situation that will and does arise. Love and understanding are critical components in creating a positive, learning experience for the Batwa students, their fellow students and their families.
How did you first hear about Changemakers?
BDP heard about change makers through our friend Terry Lowe <[email protected]> Terry Lowe is a potential supporter of BDP. He and his friends intend to support the BDP’s home building program.