The walls of Martha’s small, cramped living room are covered with graduation photos. Martha, a 57-year-old widow who lives in Bukesa, a poor suburb of Uganda’s capital Kampala, has put eight children through school. She’s also possibly one of Opportunity’s longest serving clients.
Through the open door we can hear the combined noise of some 600 chickens in a pen – one of Martha’s two businesses. The second, a small tailoring outfit, is located just along the track outside. For 20 years, this formidable lady known locally as “Mama”, has chaired an Opportunity International loan trust group – a co-operative of women friends who take out small loans with Opportunity to help build their businesses and pay school fees.
Martha’s own education was limited: “I had a year or two at secondary school,” she tells me, “but then one of my sisters got pregnant – we were a family of girls - and so we all had to leave.” As a result, Martha has been determined to get all her children through school. Not all eight were her biological children –some were nieces and nephews, orphaned after the death of Martha’s siblings. In spite of this Martha has worked hard, with the support of Opportunity, to build up her businesses and to finance schooling for them all. “I think I will get my reward in heaven,” she says, with a twinkle in her eye.
“You have to educate your children so that they can have a better future,” she tells me. “Most of mine have gone to university and they all have good jobs.”
I met Martha on a trip to Uganda in March 2015. After several years as a supporter of Opportunity International my visit was a chance to talk to some of the charity’s clients. On a whistle stop tour of Kampala it was apparent that the priority for so many is education for their children. In a country where there is little state provision for secondary education, most have to find the money for fees if they want their children to complete school. It was fantastic to see Opportunity International meet this need and support families in giving their children the best opportunity for a brighter future.
(Helen Plummer – Opportunity International Supporter)
Find out more about Opportunity International's Education Finance programme here.