through a Novel STEM & Entrepreneurship Program
Geoffrey Bwireh is an esteemed educator in entrepreneurship and the bright mind behind the STEM·E Uganda Initiative.
“I want to be a part of people’s success stories,” Geoffrey exclaimed.
A native to Eastern Uganda, he recognized that the region had great potential to benefit from the prosperous economies of neighboring Kenya. Geoffrey was born and raised in a typical household in the rural countryside of eastern Uganda and is no stranger to the challenges and limited opportunities present. Advancements, opportunities, and amenities are strictly confined to the country’s urban areas, thus creating a stark disparity in education based on socioeconomic background. Those from rural areas who went on to pursue higher education seldom returned to the areas, further driving the extensive opportunity gap. Leveraging his background in entrepreneurship, Geoffrey partnered with STEM·E to provide 85% of rural communities in Uganda with STEM and entrepreneurial education. The initiative implements the STEM·E Program curriculum into Uganda through growth workshops, practical training, and speaking engagements that are accessible to all. Many do not have access to technology and lessons must be taught in person, village to village by local undergraduate and graduate students. Language barriers with the unique dialects of each village make implementation of curriculum difficult. The amount of time, effort, and money needed to run such a program is not small. All the barriers that must be overcome are big. But even the smallest effort will make rippling mountainous effects that STEM·E and its Ugandan partners will persevere to see come to fruition.
Geoffrey made an important distinction that guides this initiative’s teaching practices. “This is an initiative that enables you to maximize the aspirations that you have in a more sustainable manner.” Often those who have benevolent intentions in helping Ugandans think of the matter as just that—helping the helpless. It is this very perception that propagates those rural learners to lose confidence in their abilities. Uneducated Ugandans of rural communities feel entrenched in their current situation without access to improved knowledge. The STEM·E Uganda Initiative is different in that it appreciates the skills and resources of Ugandans but encourages them to approach their learned practices with a more entrepreneurial perspective.
“We support [Ugandans] from the resources [they] have to maximize [their] output.”
STEM·E appreciates the brilliant, and motivated Ugandans who are already global entrepreneurs of their own respect. The pieces of actionable advice based upon STEM and entrepreneurship lessons can immensely improve the profits of Ugandans. Rudimentary accounting is one example of the lessons provided, as rural Ugandan entrepreneurs are not always taught to chronicle their profits. As Ugandans are given the knowledge to further their journeys in financial success, it is hoped they may begin microfinancing others to support the prosperity of more villagers. Through market research, STEM·E has determined that this is the only program of its kind.
For the future, Geoffrey is “quite positive.” As a baseline, over 100 potential participants, community members, and partners were surveyed in and around Mbarara. Their concerns ranged from recovering from bad harvests to obtaining drinkable water to lack of network connectivity. While their reasoning may have differed, 100% of Mbaranans surveyed responded with interest in gaining more education. The most prevalent reasons for this response were wanting to set an example for younger community members, starting businesses, becoming agriculturally proficient, enriching the community, and becoming literate. What emerged as evident through the surveys was that there is a definite want for access to learning. STEM·E is crucial in bridging the gap of the challenges identified to providing education, and Geoffrey and the STEM·E team of volunteers, donors, graduates, undergraduates, and executives will continue to “enable people to realize that they have great potential.”
The program has taken a brief hiatus due to the pandemic, but throughout this time STEM·E organizers have been steadfast in their drive to provide accessible education to all regardless of their background, abilities, or socioeconomic status. When resumed, it is only a matter of time before STEM·E changes countless lives through education.
For more information on how to support the STEM·E Uganda Initiative, an NGO in Uganda, visit www.steme.org/uganda.