Nov 6, 2020

Ashinaga Uganda's Online Preparation Camp Update

Ashinaga Uganda Kokorojuku Activities

Every year, the Ashinaga Africa Initiative (AAI) runs a preparation program in the regional African offices based in Nansana, Uganda, and Dakar, Senegal. Ordinarily, at Ashinaga Uganda, the new cohort of selected candidates arrives in Uganda in July to begin the study camp where they will attend in-person classes to study for IELTS and SAT, work on university applications, and develop important leadership skills alongside their peers and with the ongoing support of staff. This year has become exceptional in multiple ways. Yet, even in the face of closed borders and airports across much of sub-Saharan Africa, the Ashinaga Uganda Kokorojuku (AUKJ) has decided to host a remote study camp for 14 talented Anglophone and Lusophone students. In the couple months leading up to the camp’s start, the AUKJ focused on finalizing recruitment and selection of this year’s students as well as supporting the previous cohort to either depart for their destination country or take a temporary leave of absence until universities’ spring semesters due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Beginning on October 1st, 2020, this year marked the first time the study camp has been conducted entirely online. The camp is composed of students from across sub-Saharan Africa who are bound for Japan, Brazil, the US, and the UK, with classes taught in two languages: English and Portuguese. Now completing the fourth week of remote study camp, AAI Candidates have now mostly settled into a schedule made up of IELTS and SAT English and Maths classes taught by professional tutors, weekly bonding sessions with all of the Ashinaga Uganda staff, and alternating academic workshop, Ashinaga class, and mental health sessions. Brazil-bound students join in on the group bonding sessions and similar activities while attending their own classes taught in Portuguese by qualified interns.

The weekly bonding sessions have been a particularly invaluable aspect of the study camp as students have a chance to interact with their peers and staff in a less formal, but still educational online environment. Each week has a theme, so far including a kokorozashi (life ambition) sharing session, a cultural exchange, and Ashinaga jeopardy. This week’s activity took the form of a seminar and discussion on climate change, where students engaged with the science behind climate change as well as brainstormed possible solutions related to efficiency, innovation, and community action.

Feedback for the taught-classes and other camp activities has been given with an encouraging amount of enthusiasm, passion, and students’ overall dedication to improvement and success. For many students, COVID-19 has made daily lives for themselves, family, and friends much more difficult, with social distancing requirements and various levels of lockdown preventing many sectors of informal work from operating. While studying from home, AAI Candidates must also work hard to balance family obligations and work expectations which would not to be present at a typical in-person study camp. Despite these challenges, this cohort of students has and continues to prove that they want to work hard to achieve their ambitions.

To support students while they study remotely from their home countries, AUKJ sends study support funds every two months. These funds, made possible by Ashinaga’s many generous donors, or Ashinaga-san, cover the costs for internet data bundles, use and travel to internet cafes, transportation to take the SAT and IELTS, and funds for necessary procedures like getting vaccinations, applying for passports, and sending documents via DHL. This year, Ashinaga Uganda has also transferred funds for students to purchase necessary equipment for remote studies, such as a laptop and a calculator.

The camp is flying by and the end of October means the completion of the first month of remote study camp. Classes and activities will continue through November and early December, until the year’s end closing ceremony on December 11th. By the end of the remote study camp, we aim for students’ to have not only improved their exam scores, be well on their way to or have already submitted their university applications, but to have made new friends and cultivated new skills personal, professional, and academic alike. As future leaders of their communities, countries, and the African continent, we realize this is just the beginning of their journey, but we have high hopes for what they will achieve. This may be a rockier start to the preparation year than usual for this cohort of AAI Candidates, yet all our students are ready and capable of so much growth.

Oct 2, 2020

Online Internship Update

Lateef during his internship
Lateef during his internship

Thanks to all who supported this project through GlobalGiving, nine Scholars from the Ashinaga Africa Initiative were able to participate in virtual Internships this summer. Out of these nine Scholars, six are studying in the USA, two are in Japan, and one is in Brazil.  


We spoke with two of the AAI Scholars studying in Japan about their internship experiences. They have both enrolled in a virtual internship program and then matched with companies and positions that are relevant to their plans and major. 




“Being an intern at Japan Switch has helped me improve not only professionally, but also academically, and personally." 


third year student from Ghana studying at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, Lateef was matched with Japan Switch, a Tokyo-based company that provides language classes in Japanese and English. He is currently midway through the internship, having started on the 24th of August and will finish it on the 24th of October. 


His role is in customer service, so he works closely with the students to both keep their motivation levels up and assist them in improving studying methods. Tasks include the creation of study decksmaking vocabulary flashcards in both languages, “challenge sheets,” which are real-life encounters that students can do to improve their ability, and publishing three articles online. From this internship, Lateef has become more confident in his ability to communicate professionally and manage his time.  


Learning to better manage his time in particular helped him in juggling this internship, his schoolwork, his part-time job, and his personal Japanese classes. Being introduced to productivity tracking platforms changed the way he operates. Now that he is nearing the end of his internship, Lateef is thinking about majoring in Human Resources management rather than Finance or Banking.  




“Through this internship I realized that impact investment can bring many positive changes to the world and this has brought me a new perspective into what I can do in my career.” 


Omar is an AAI Scholar from Somalia, and also a third year student at Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, majoring in Environmental Sciences. He was matched with a company called Read the Air, a Vizane KK initiative that aims to bring sustainable business transformation through impact investment. It utilizes SDG targets to evaluate business models. The internship period is August 10 – October 10.  


His responsibilities include research about impact investment, finding grants to be used for their project, and creating reports related to agriculture, health, and the environment. He has check-ins with his supervisors twice a week, where they provide him with constructive feedback. Since beginning, Omar’s time management, reporting, and writing skills have vastly improved.  


Thanks to this opportunity, Omar gained real-time experience that will propel his future career and taught him about alternative ways to achieve his goals of giving more wide-spread access to education for children in Somalia.  




Both Lateef and Omar have had very positive experiences with their online internships. Lack of in-person interactions and not physically going to work may be the new normal because of COVID-19, but both Scholars have gained a lot from this opportunity to learn online. 



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