Millennium School grows its own network
Have you heard of white elephant projects? These are common in African Development circles. This is when a government and/or Donor move to an area, start a major project but leave before it was complete or operational. Usually, the local community has no idea what the development is about since they are not involved. All they know is that people came, worked non-stop for nine months and left as suddenly as they appeared. It is rumored that it was a water project or irrigation or something about electricity generation; nobody knows for sure. Nobody took time to inform, educate or involve the community the project or its benefits.
Millennium School was set up in rural Naama Village in central Uganda to offer quality education to orphans and vulnerable children. The founders were also determined to grow the school at the pace of the community. The school was founded as a collective effort of community members led by Dr. Christopher Kigongo. More efforts could have been made to put up impressive buildings but the school was started in a humble facility of former shops. Millennium School involved the community from the start by choosing board members from local churches, government workers, civil servants and business practitioners and religious leaders. They invited community members to the launch; they visited homes of prospective students to sell the vision of the school to the relatives and guardians of the orphans. The School shares all good things with the community. As a result, the community is open to assist the school whenever called upon.
The founders focused on giving the best quality education using the minimum resources. Steadily, the school grew to become best in the region, attracting local parents who were willing to pay for their children to attend the humble school. Millennium School is a non-profit entity that depends on donations and sponsorships to keep the school running. They have hired local teachers and purchased an old commercial premise for the school. Many private non-profit schools that they compare themselves with have impressive buildings and elaborate programs, and attract paying students from far and wide. Most of those schools are conveniently located near towns and major roads; very few serve interior rural areas like Naama.
Millennium School goes a step further by using the school as a spring-board for development of the larger local community. Every other year, the school hosts international teams of volunteers who work with the children. But as a mandate, the volunteers spend an equal amount of time serving the community. They work in the local churches, hospitals and clinics. They visit with families of the Millennium students and host events for them at the school. They interact with local business people and they are often hosted by local University students who act as guides and translators.
Millennium School has taught five other Ugandan schools to run in a similar way: they educate orphans, provide quality affordable education in rural communities, and they work towards financially sustainable goals. In this way, a member of the Africa Rising network developed a network of its own.