Nelly dreams of becoming an electrical engineer, just like her father. He used to work as an electrician for the Uganda railways before the government closed the corporation down. He now earns what income he can from electrical odd jobs, but it is not enough to support the education of his four children. The family frequently default on their school fees, forcing Nelly’s father to borrow money or plead with the headteacher to allow his children to continue in school.
But Nelly loves school: she is the monitor for her class, loves playing netball and rope-skipping with her friends, and she excels in science. By becoming an electrical engineer she wants to change the perception among her people that women can’t succeed in science. She also hopes to put electrification programmes in place in remote areas of Uganda like hers. Access to electricity in the rural areas where the majority of Ugandans live is as low as 7 per cent. Uganda currently has one of the lowest per capita electricity consumption in the world with 215 kWh per capita per year – 14 times lower than the world average – which is a major barrier to socioeconomic growth.
The CGEF began sponsoring Nelly in 2015. When she wrote to thank us later that year, she called the CGEF ‘my other set of parents’. Before the sponsorship, the worry and stress of not being able to pay the school fees and cover the costs of uniforms and school materials was taking its toll on her health:
‘All of which made me unhappy most of the time,’ she writes, ‘and I failed to concentrate on my studies. To me, going to the next class was a dream, but I am happy to say that you have made me regain my hope for a better future. Your support for me has helped me recognise my innermost potential and my capacity to help the slow learners in my class.’
With the support of the CGEF Nelly has flourished at school, not only in science, but in literature and languages too. She was awarded a prize for essay writing, and is now able to help some of the other girls in her class.
Nelly sat her O-levels exams at the end of last year, and her teachers expect excellent results. The CGEF will continue to sponsor her through her final A-level year, and help her to realise her dream of becoming an engineer to help her country’s crucial programme of electrification.
‘I am so happy that with the support from you I have had this chance to be the best,’ she says. She signs off her letter: ‘your beloved daughter’.