Promoting better education opportunities for adolescents in Uganda

23 May 2019
Ichumar Sylivia Lorot
In the pastoralist community of the Karamoja region in North Eastern Uganda, the rights of girls and boys are undermined by existing social structures. As a UN Volunteer Youth Advocate with UNICEF, I advocate for better learning opportunities, prioritizing education and youth-led initiatives that promote the development of adolescents.
Ichumar Sylivia Lorot (centre), UN Volunteer Youth Advocate serving to improve education with UNICEF in Uganda, during an IVD 2018 activity in the Nabilatuk Township Primary School.

According to a survey by UNICEF in 2017, only 6 out of 10 adolescents are in school. Girls are largely considered a source of bridal wealth, while boys herd cattle for most of their lives. Born in this region myself, I have had first-hand experience of what this means for young people.

As I transitioned from secondary school to University, I realized that what I thought was a modest problem was not only regional but a national issue. Thousands of children each year were missing out on an education for different reasons. I developed a passion for promoting education in Karamoja and began a mentorship program for in-school adolescents in my community to promote education, empowering them to make informed decisions about their lives with parental support. My efforts were geared towards overcoming a challenge in my community.

I also volunteered with Save the Children International, an organization that promotes the rights of children to education. I later joined Welthungerhilfe as a Project Officer in a livelihoods project that supported women to improve their livelihoods through small scale businesses and entrepreneurship skills training. I loved my work, but I was more passionate about young people.

The call from the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme was a life-changing opportunity for me to contribute towards my passion from a larger platform. I was no longer a volunteer only for my small community, but for thousands of children in the Karamoja region who needed an education and someone to fight for their right to it.

I would be contributing to SDG4, ensuring inclusive and equitable quality education and promoting lifelong learning opportunities for all.

As a UN Volunteer, I advocate for better learning opportunities, prioritizing education and youth-led initiatives to promote the development of adolescents. This has given me the chance to influence the decisions of girls and parents to pursue an education. Among others, I contribute to mentorship programmes in schools that promote life skills by engaging young people and listening to the issues that undermine their education.

The feedback from this engagement humbles me. Achuka Paul, one of the mentees, writes “Thanks for the programme, for it has been very interesting and motivating for me. I have learnt a lot. It will change the lives of our young people.”

I have learnt that there is fulfilment in selflessness and that it takes willingness, positivity and commitment to make the world a better place.