As 409 students graduated at Bishop Barham University College in Kabale last Friday, one student stood out.
25-year-old Scola Tumwebaze from Kashasha Batwa Community settlement in Rubanda District graduated with Second Class Upper degree in Social Work and Social Administration.
According to the Bwindi Mgahinga Conservation Trust (BMCT), a local non-governmental organisation which educated her, MS Tumwebaze is the first female graduate sponsored by the organisation from the minority Batwa community.
Ms Tumwebaze’s achievement is a stride worth celebrating for a community that has for long lagged behind in education and development.
“Being an orphan, living in a marginalised community of Batwa that are despised by because of being short and landless is a big challenge. I thought I would not have a bright future. It was the mercy of God that I was able to attain a university degree besides all the social challenges that surrounded me,” Ms Tumwebaze said at the graduation.
Bishop Barham is a constituent college of Uganda Christian University Mukono with its campus on Rugarama hill in Kabale Town.
BMCT has been sponsoring the education of many Batwa children for over the years.
Sponsored Batwa children have been dropping out of school before completion and going to do odd jobs in the local communities.
“My appeal to my fellow Batwa youth is that they should seek scholarships from NGOs instead of receiving handouts. Those that are already in school, please ensure you complete university education so that you can compete for jobs and properly advocate the rights of the marginalised community. The government should also buy land for the Batwa. It is the government that chased Batwa out of Echuya Forest Reserve in early 1990’s without allocating them an alternative land for agriculture and economic development,” Ms Tumwebaza added.
She promised to use her university education to advocate for the right of the Batwa people.
The Uganda Christian University chancellor, the Most Rev Stanley Ntagali, presided over the graduation ceremony. He was franked by the university vice chancellor, Dr John Senyonyi.
Mr Ntagali advised the graduands not to underrate particular jobs and asked them to be of sound morals.
The state minister for finance, Mr David Bahati, who represented Prime Minister Ruhakana Rugunda, said government plans to provide more funds for the students loan scheme to help more needy students to pursue university education.