Bill Poole’s trip to Uganda

A recent Trip to Kenya and Uganda

My name is Bill Poole and I first heard about Leadership Advancement International (the original name of Leaders for Africa) in 2006 from founder Ivan Lumala when he was representing Microsoft Corporation at Seattle University and other Pacific Northwest universities. I was a professor of computer science at SU and later hosted an LAI fund-raiser and joined the Board of Directors. It has been a genuine pleasure to get to know our students and some of their families, board members, and other supporters
For several years my wife, Clara, and I knew that we wanted to visit Uganda and Kenya, the homelands of our Leaders for Africa students, in order to meet their families and friends and to see the countries. We finally succeeded in arranging the visit in July and August of 2011, combining the trip with a Rotary International water project in Mbitini, a village in Kenya, and a safari in the Masai Mara.

We began the Leaders for Africa (LFA) part of our trip in Embu, a central Kenyan city of about 35,000 people where we met Kenneth Gitonga, the father of one of our students, Amos Gitonga. Amos is a senior Business student at Washington State University who has been “adopted” by Clara and me. He was living in our condo in Seattle and working an internship while we were on this trip.
Rotary International friends from Nairobi dropped us off in Embu. Amos had attended high school boarding school in Embu several years earlier. We rode with Amos’s father, Ken Gitonga, to Meru, the home of the Gitonga family. Both of Amos’s parents are serious educators, currently working on Master’s degrees, and excellent parents of two elementary school age children. Meru is a city with about 250,000 people. It was great fun meeting Amos’s family and friends. We had dinner with the Gitonga family, toured Meru National Park and visited Ken’s school with them. We also met a good candidate for LFA support someday who is the self-supporting computer expert at a conference center and Amos’s close friend. Enjoying some fun times in Kenya

Our time in Uganda

After three days in Meru, we returned to Nairobi, flew to Entebbe, and took a taxi to our guesthouse in Kampala, near Makerere University. Dr. Joel Okullo (the father of James Okullo, an alumnus of Seattle University and the University of Washington) and by Sheila Kyobutungi (more about Sheila later) arranged most of the details for our trip. They took very good care of us. Thanks to both of you so much.

We visited several professors and administrators at Makerere including the Chancellor’s Office, the Engineering School, the Computing School and the Uganda Cancer Institute, where former LFA Board Member Addie Boone has worked. Makerere University has about 40,000 students. I think there are good opportunities for academic cooperation between Makerere and LFA but they need to be developed further.

I want to highlight one professor who stood out in our visit: Dr. Moses Musazi of the Faculty of Technology at Makerere University. I consider his projects as excellent examples of Appropriate Technology (AT), first described by Dr. Ernst Schumacher in a 1973 book entitled Small is Beautiful. AT is generally recognized as technology that is small-scale, labor-intensive, energy-efficient, environmentally sound, and locally controlled. We spent much of one day with him and some of his projects. His most widely recognized project produces inexpensive sanitary pads for schoolgirls and women – they are the major provider to the United Nations. Almost all of the materials are natural and locally produced.
Another project conceived by Dr. Musazi uses stabilized-adobe block-making machines which press a mixture of clay and Portland cement into a block creating an inexpensive substitute for the local bricks. People can build houses, schools, other buildings, water tanks and grain storage facilities around Jinja, Uganda. Makiga Engineering Services Ltd., a company that Clara and I visited in Nairobi, manufactures the machines. My Seattle Rotary Club is supplying two of the machines to the village of Mbitini in southwestern Kenya. This is just a sample of the projects that Dr. Musazi has created. An internship with him would be an excellent placement for any of our students.

Sanitary Pads Production – Uganda

I interviewed several excellent candidate students for LfA, for education both in Uganda and North America. They included Julius Ssali (interested in Health Information Technology and working at the Uganda Cancer Institute), Tesi Uwibambe (interested in Public and Global Health), Andrew Max Ogwok, Kenneth Arap Wasawas (a student at Seattle Pacific University) and his father, John Kaykuwa, and George Douglas Torach. I wish we could support all of them – they each have the possibility for leadership in Uganda.
Clara and I had a little time to see the country. We attended church services in the Masai Mara and in Kampala (with the Okullo family), watched the Ndere Dance Troupe with Sheila and her 3 siblings. We met the parents of Sarah Bwabye Namugenyi, and met the whole Okullo family and friends at a wonderful meal at their home (thank you so much, Joel and Esther). We appreciated many rides provided by Dr. Okullo and Sheila’s sister Brenda and brother Seth, our main driver.
Thanks so much to everyone who helped make our trip a success. We truly had a wonderful and transforming visit.

Observations about Higher Education and Leadership

Leaders for Africa has a vision of empowered African communities that benefit from economic development, social, and political progress. Our role in enabling this vision is to assist students with their university education and ethical leadership training.

In the past, we have focused on undergraduate education and leadership training in North America. My observations and experiences in East Africa last summer have led me to consider a relaxation of both of those policies: to consider supporting graduate education and to support education in Africa and, perhaps, in the UK and Europe. On my trip to Kenya and Uganda, I had the good fortune of meeting, primarily in Nairobi and Kampala, with various leaders of education, business, medicine and Rotary International, a major humanitarian organization. Here is a summary of what I learned.
When LFA was formed 10 years ago, an undergraduate degree was a “ticket” to success in many African countries. Since then, many African students have completed undergraduate degrees in their home countries, in North America and in Europe. But there have been major changes since then. Now there is a “surplus” of young people with undergraduate degrees for the applicable jobs. For example, a BS degree in Science is no longer a guarantee of employment. This is no different from many other countries around the world.
There was general agreement among the African leaders I met that the “new ticket” to success in Africa is a graduate degree, whether a Master’s or Doctorate degree. I interviewed about 10 student applicants for LFA support and they generally agreed with this observation. There were several applicants for graduate school support and the undergraduate applicants understood that they would need further education. The Board of Directors of LFA understands this also and is now considering the possibility of supporting students in graduate school.
Regarding the location of the education, there was general agreement, among the African leaders whom I met, that there were good undergraduate programs in Africa. Because of the difference in costs, several undergraduate students can be supported in their home countries for the cost of sending one to North America. The LFA Board has had discussions on this topic for the past year and has agreed to start supporting students in Africa. As we continue to learn over time, we will continue to make changes to make our work more effective.
On a related topic, I also heard from the African leaders of the importance of students participating in internships in their home countries through businesses, government agencies and international organizations. This is very important, almost critical, for one beginning a career with leadership potential.

A Success Story for LFA

While in the Kampala area, Clara and I spent quite a bit of time with Sheila Kyobutungi, a Leaders for Africa student alum and graduate of Portland State University in Oregon with a major in Community Development. Before returning to Uganda, Sheila earned a Masters in Community from Oxford Brookes in the UK. Sheila has since returned to Uganda and works for World Vision, a Christian humanitarian organization headquartered just south of Seattle. She and a fellow worker educate women on health issues in the villages in one region of Uganda. Sheila was a very big help in arranging our trip to Uganda. Clara and I were extremely impressed with the closeness of Sheila and her three siblings. Her sister, Brenda, and brother, Seth, were very helpful with driving us around the area to meet appointments. We thoroughly enjoyed their company. We were impressed with the closeness of all of the families we met.

Left to right; Sheila Kyobutungi, Clara Poole, and Brenda

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I hope this gives you an idea of what the vision of LFA is and what we try to do. You can find contact information for LFA on our website.

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