By Billy Bayo
The African culture is one of the most generous societies in the world. It attaches a lot of meaning to generosity because it is a product of a social consciousness with which Africans proudly identify, guarded by the principle of communalism.
At Uganda Christian University (UCU), an example of how this generosity is the student-driven initiative called Save a Buddy.
The program is aimed at helping needy students who are unable to clear tuition and successfully sit for their semester examinations. Students contribute to help their less-fortunate peers through collections of money at the campus entrance gates, serving food in the dining hall to students, and car wash fundraising.
These activities are carried out in each of the three (January, May, and September) semesters at UCU. The current September (advent) semester Save a Buddy program runs from 15th – 26th October 2018.
Recipient Expectations and Appreciation
Through the Financial Aid office, those chosen to receive Save a Buddy funds have their accounts credited with money in exchange for work two hours a day for the semester.
One such recipient is Trinity Ochen, who will graduate with a Bachelor of Business Administration from UCU this Friday, October 26. Ochen was meeting his financial obligations until his supporter, an older brother named Daniel Odinga, was critically injured in a bomb blast from a building in Myanmar.
“Tuition was more challenging,” Ochen said. “Whenever the tuition deadline was due, I would beg from friends. Because of Save a Buddy, I didn’t have to do that during my last semester.”
Another student, Justine Nanyanzi, echoed appreciation for tuition assistance.
I was working for my sponsor, but instead of paying me, she was paying my tuition,” said Justine, a year two student pursuing a Bachelor of Procurement and Logistics Management. “However, things changed when her hotel building was taken, and I lost my job. She sold beds and mattresses and paid my tuition for the first year second semester. Then, my sponsor lost her father, and things became more difficult.”
Justine was considering suicide before the financial aid arrived. She is grateful.
A third student, Ivan Muteesasira, was “saved” from worry about where he would find food to eat. With financial assistance, he is able to better concentrate on his studies related to Civil and Environmental Engineering.
Student loan option under exploration
According to Mr. Walter Washika, a financial aid officer at UCU, the fundamental objective of the financial office is to coordinate different scholarship programs that benefit students.
“Besides giving hope to the students, there is mentorship,” Washika said. “I am happy people worldwide are contributing towards this noble cause.”
With the growing need for financial support in the university, the financial aid office is undertaking steps to launch a student loan scheme to ease the hardship and help more students attain their education.
“We should have a student loan option soon so that our needy students can borrow and repay the money later,” Washika disclosed.
Other Scholarships at UCU
Apart from Save a buddy, UCU has a number of scholarships. These include:
- Biological scholarships:- These benefit children of full-time staff at UCU. This is given to the students until they complete their program of study.
- Sports scholarships:- This is mainly awarded to exceptionally good sports students. Most of these students take part in playing games for the university.
- Theological Scholarship:- The university gets two students from each diocese across the country under this scholarship.
- Needs-based scholarships:- Needy students work throughout the semester to get money accredited to their account commensurate to the amount of work done.
- Merit-based awards:- This award is based on academic performance of students. It targets best performing students who are unable to pay tuition at the university.
- Designated scholarships:- This scholarship occurs from the outside community through partnerships, including from UCU Partners.
“I am now performing very well because I do not have sleepless nights any more,” said Muteesasira. “There is food for me at the university as opposed to the past.”
Nanyanzi’s disappointment was turned around by the UCU financial aid office that “have helped me carry on. UCU is the best place and has moulded me spiritually. I thank God I joined UCU.”
“There is a lot of commitment from the lecturers towards teaching the students, giving students the best platform and knowledge,” Ochen said. “I am happy for the opportunity to study at UCU.”