1. How are the girls selected/What is the application process?
ASSET receives inquiries via email. This has worked well since we focus on University-level education and at that level of education, no matter how rural one’s settings, students will have knowledge of email and will usually go to a trading center to access an internet cafe. Word about ASSET spreads by word-of-mouth from professors and students. Therefore a potential applicant who doesn’t use the Internet regularly would still be directed by others to go to an Internet cafe, to create an email account and to submit an application to us.
When an email inquiry is received, we send back an application which the student fills out and which we then use to assess and choose which student to support. ASSET has a selection committee made up of some board members and some volunteers located both here in the US and in Uganda. We don’t support family members or direct relatives of board members.
2. Where are the girls from?
The girls come from both rural and urban areas. They live in hostels close to the universities so even when they come from far away, they don’t have to worry about transportation costs on a daily basis. The cost per semester comes to an average of $400 – 500 and that covers tuition and room & board at the hostel.
3. Obligation to the program/community
Our students understand that resources are limited. They also understand that the help they receive comes because of strangers who see the potential in them and decide to invest in them. We mentor the students on an ongoing basis and while there is nothing preventing them from taking the help and abandoning us afterwards; everyone understands that the investment that has been made in their education is made with the hope that they too will work in their communities and help those communities prosper. Former students also help in the mentoring new students and they always come back to speak at our annual leadership symposia.
4. Employment in/outside Uganda
While Uganda faces many challenges, it isn’t always easy to leave and leaving isn’t always an appealing option.
Getting a visa to the US for example requires that individuals show large bank account balances and proof of property ownership. These are not things available to the disadvantaged students we support. Overwhelmingly what we see is that when female students are educated in Uganda; they are more likely to stay and work in their communities; advocating for education of other women.
Our mentoring touches quite a lot on career guidance and showing students how to be competitive in the job market. We are also starting to partner with Ugandan companies to place students in internship programs to help them acquire work experience. As I mentioned above, we invite former students to speak at our leadership symposia to encourage current students in various ways — we hold at least one every year. Our hope is that we can build a network of ASSET alumni who support one another in achieving academic success and in accessing employment opportunities. All these are steps we take to increase chances of employment success in Uganda.