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Adonyo’s audacity of hope 

ADONYO Emmanuel

A little child in Northern Uganda once saw a ‘caterpillar’ with four limbs that made a lot of noise as it moved. Scared, the child ran home to his savior, just like every other kid: to his mother. This young boy described the gigantic, noisy four-legged caterpillar he had just seen collecting foodstuff in the grazing areas. The mother reassured him that what he had seen wasn’t anything close to a caterpillar (moth larvae), but, rather, a machine called a tractor. “That vehicle is owned by very few rich people who are educated and able to afford living in Lira town,” his mother added, leaving the little boy even more puzzled. He had never known riches or whatever it meant to be different from the life he was born into; a life full of basics and limited hope. However, this young boy wasn’t done yet. As the saying goes, tyke is always tyke, so in this little boy child’s head, ideas were forming fast. “How could he also own such a motorized thing?” “How does one become educated and rich?” He pondered these and decided to put it to his all-knowing mother. “Impossible, my son. In your lineage, no one has ever been to university and, besides, we are very poor,” the mother said leaving the little boy crestfallen but not completely hopeless. This is how the story of Mr Emannuel Adonyo, a Lango Development Forum (LDF) bursary beneficairy begins.

Like many of his peers in the then war-ravaged and poverty stricken northern Uganda, Emmanuel Adonyo was born on September 26, 1988, in the remote village of Aparangwen, Omoladyang Parish, Bala Sub County in the greater Apac district, to a polygamous peasant family where having a meal a day was a privilege to just a few families. With 18 members in his household, Adnoyo’s family subsisted on garden-to-mouth farming with no history of basic education in their lineage. Needless to say, as Adonyo hopelessly pondered how to find the magic bullet to the poverty that ate into his family, Adonyo's serendipitous sighting of a tractor would become a turning point in his determination to rise above the poverty that him and his family were into. He saw education as the only window available. So, at 9 years old, Adonyo was enrolled in a primary school whose rooftop was grass thatched. Unfortunately, for the little Adonyo, the dream he had been nursing would not bring much joy as his mother and father divorced shortly after he had started schooling. “Never was I to set my eyes again on the woman who bore me. I only received the news of her demise in 2010 when I was in Primary Six. It was a terrifying moment but poverty had transited me into adulthood at a very tender age, so I remained strong throughout this predicament.” Adonyo recalls.

With his family breakdown and consequent change in fate, Adonyo had to spend his formative years with his supportive but equally helpless step-mother. Amidst almost yearly dropouts from school due to lack of school fees, Adonyo struggled and  finally sat his Primary Leaving Examinations in 2001 (P7), and surprisingly passed his exams with a first grade (aggregate 11). “But I wasn’t able to join secondary education that year because my parents could not afford secondary tuition fees,” he recounted. “To continue with my education, I had to ‘innovate. In 2002, I decided to repeat P7, but with reduced school time, while I spent most of my hours on farming and eventually hoped to save some money to cover for my secondary education the following year.” Adonyo cultivated about three hectares of farmland, planting cassava, and another two hectares with beans. When the results from his second attempt at P7 were released, he had improved performance, this time scoring aggregate 9. Based on this reult, Adonyo says, with a tinge of pride, "I was admitted to my dream secondary school, Lango College Lira, which was one of the greatest schools in the Lango sub-region".

Armed with savings from his farming activities the previous year, Adonyo hit school in 2003, enjoying a good in the first years of his secondary school education. However, the ugly claws of poverty weren’t going to lie low any bit, so Adonyo found himself at the receiving end again in his second year when his savings dwindled. He couldn’t afford school fees for the second term of Senior 2. “I was sent home to collect the school fees balance, but knowing the poverty at home, it was like I had been sent to squeeze a rock for water. Without hope, I decided to instead linger around the school fence until dusk when I would jump over the fence into the school to catch up with food left-overs from the dining hall and then join the rest of my class-mates in evening reading. Such evenings provided me the chance to copy lecture notes from some of my class-mates.” Adonyo reminisces. The above trend continued, and became the norm. With the school's administration relentless efforts at checking for school fees defaulters, Adonyo had to sadly drop out of school, without any hope of returning to study. Dejected, Adonyo felt defeated and retired to the village, accepting his long-feared fate no one in his ancestral lineage would set foot in a university, let alone complete a secondary school.

Change in fate on meeting the Lango Development Forum (LDF)
Adonyo remembers the day he met with the LDF like yesterday. “It was Sunday, April 17, 2005. I was going for a church service when one of the gentlemen in my village stopped to talk to me. The man said he had listened to a radio announcement by “some” charity organization whose name he couldn’t recall, announcing the availability of a bursary opportunity for under-privileged children in the Lango sub-region of Northern Uganda.” Adonyo couldn’t have heard about it since his family did not own a radio. So, he borrowed a bicycle from his church pastor, and the next morning he rode to Radio Unity FM in Lira municipality to find out more information. The FM radio station was one of the two that the village-mate had mentioned as having aired the announcement. From there, “I learnt that it was a bursary announcement from the LDF. When I reached, I found that the application forms were finished. I heard that the turnout for the bursary was overwhelming. Without wasting any more time, I rode all the way to Radio Apac in Apac Town (some 57 km away). I reached a bit late, but the lady at the reception was very kind and she handed me an application form that she had kept for her son to photocopy. After filling the form and attaching all the required documents, like my termly report cards, recommendation from the local council officials and the church pastor, I submitted it back to Radio Apac.

After five months of waiting, marked with prayers and optimisms, a period that felt like eternity, Adonyo was again informed by his neighbours with a radio that they heard his name on Radio Unity as one of the lucky beneficiaries of LDF bursary scheme. “The news brought jubilations not only in our household but also in the church and among village friends. It was phenomenal that LDF was taking me back to school. With the little harvest from two rainy seasons, I bought a pair of shoes and school uniform, and stationary. This was a new lease of life and I was fully prepared to go back to Lango College in 2006 and fulfill my dreams”. Says Adonyo, who never disappointed his sponsors, the LDF, by excelling in his school performance. For the Uganda Certificate of Education that he sat for in 2007, Adonyo passed with flying colours, getting a first grade. LDF was so pleased and Adonyo’s bursary support was automattically extended to cover his Uganda Advanced Level education (A-levels).

Impactful LDF Mentorship Support and School Visits
As Adonyo reintegrated into school, he ruefully realised that his former classmates were more steps ahead of him, and soon became worried about how he would be able to maintain good grades and discipline so that the bursary was not withdrawn. The Bursary had the daunting clause that read, “The bursary will only continue upon your satisfactory steady academic progress. You are therefore advised to maintain high discipline and a good performance. Should you be discontinued for whatever reason, the bursary will similarly be withdrawn.” “My relief came during one of the LDF’s school visits, where students received motivational speeches, guidance and counseling, especially from Mr. James Oyena, Dr. Caroline Abeja, Ms. Jane Acilo (Dr Abeja’s daughter), and Mr. Steven Ayeny, who sang for us inspirational songs,” Adonyo recalls. After the career session and motivational speeches, his stigma (of poverty and repeating class after having previously dropped out) disappeared.

Later on, Mr Oyena introduced Dr. Abeja to him as a mentor. “We discussed some of the challenges I was facing and how I could overcome them. Having spent much of my early years in the remote village, where few people spoke English, the English language remained one of my biggest challenges. Nontheless, my mentor then, Dr. Abeja  comforted and encouraged me to work harder. She bought for me some literature books to help me read and polish my English skills. My favorite book, among the ones Dr Abeja brought was “Tears of Hope.” This book is a collection of inspiring stories of orphans and widows from western Uganda. I loved it because the stories were in simple English and a reflection of my rural settings.” Dr. Caroline Abeja would come two or three times every term to check on my progress in school. In fact, I always looked forward to her visits, not only for the motivational advice she gave but also for the pocket money she would offer me to meet other needs. “When the results of UCE came out in 2007, I had scored aggregate 24, a success I owe to Dr. Caroline Abjea for the sacrifice of time and encouragement she gave me, and to the LDF members for financing my school fees.

In January 2008, armed with good results in UCE exams, and an extended LDF bursary to cover my A-Level studies, I set on a move to visit for the first time and see Kampala, the capital of Uganda. This journey was also to take me to my A-Level school, Busoga College, Mwiri in Jinja. Although a bit disappointed, having missed out on admission to my first A-Levels school of choice, St. Mary’s College Kisubi, I soon realised that Busoga College Mwiri in Jinja, eastern Uganda, was just as good as the school I wanted for my A-Levels. I travelled on my own, and on arrival in Kampala, I spent a night at Kampala’s Central Police Station since the phone of the contact person who was to receive me couldn’t go through. The next day, I proceeded to Busoga College Mwiri to pick up my admission letter. On returning to Kampala, I called Dr. Caroline Abeja, who answered her phone from Nairobi, and she promised me that another member of the LDF would call and pick me up. That is how I met my second and eventually the most important mentor in my life, Mr. Kenneth Otim.

Mr Otim took me to his home, a place that was later to become my second home in Kampala. Kenneth warmly introduced me to his family members, including the pets. In Kenneth’s household, I didn’t only find a kind and committed mentor but a father; in his wife Margaret I had found a mother; in his children Agie and Charlie, I had found siblings; and in other family members such as Aunty Betty and Benson, I had found relatives. The way I was welcomed, inducted and comforted into the family of Mr Kenneth Otim made me realised the true kindness that exists in him and among his family members. In Mr Otim’s home, I was fed, housed, clothed and, above all, groomed just the way a family child should be treated. He catered for all my basic and scholastic needs, including school visits. Kenneth taught me how to read and understand novels, building on the foundation that Dr. Abeja had helped me with. I soon learned how to comprehend and think critically, and of course, behave respectfully. Throughout my A-level and University Education, I literally forgot the poverty in my village because I spent my holydays in Kenneth Otim’s home and only visited my ancestral home for a few weeks in a year.”

In 2010, after his A-levels, Mr Emannuel Adonyo joined Makerere University to pursue a BSc. in Software Engineering and graduated in 2014 with a second-class-upper division. Currently, Emannuel works as a programme officer, alumni Information Systems Management for young people at Restless Development (www.restlessdevelopment.org).

Mr Emannuel Adonyo’s Advice to Young People
“I truly encourage young people to always stay focused. If you are currently in school, always work extra hard; you must read, consult and share knowledge through discussions with fellow friends. Observe maximum discipline, for it is wisdom. If you are disciplined, your parents and teachers will be very happy of you and chances are high that you will excel in academics. And if you are not in school, remain disciplined and look for more opportunities. Always be prepared and take opportunities as they come.

Thank you LDF!
Emmanuel Adonyo says he will forever be very grateful to Dr Caroline Abeja, Mr Kenneth Otim and the entire LDF family members for their volunteer contribution to help less privileged students like him succeed academically and eventually help others still entrapped in poverty and disease in the greater Lango Sub-region of Northern Uganda. He further says, “I am very thankful and obliged to LDF for enabling me achieve this millstone, not only in my life, but also for my family members. I am the only person to have ever acquired a university education in my lineage.

I am grateful to LDF for allowing me realize my dreams. My future plan is to continue with further education. I would like to study for a Masters and eventually a PhD in the near future. Because of what LDF has done for me, I owe a responsibility to give back to my society and future generations. I therefore pledge to remain a committed member of LDF and to push for its course; which is promoting education in the Lango Sub-region and beyond. I would like to see that young people are at the forefront of community transformations and poverty eradication. I would love to see every child acquire a formal education no matter their background. This is the legacy I would wish to create and be remembered for!”