Against the backdrop of colorful dresses reserved for special occasions, the drums blared, the community sang, and the kids eagerly listened for the details of when they could begin enjoying classes in their Building Tomorrow primary school in Kyambogo, Uganda. The celebration-commemorating the ground breaking on the organization's 50th site in Uganda-was full of exuberance, jubilation and reflection.
Ten years in, Building Tomorrow, along with its partners, has undoubtedly made an impact here. More than 10,000 students have been enrolled or re-enrolled in primary-level studies as a result of the organization's efforts in construction and through our Building Tomorrow Fellows program. These milestones are a testament to a relentless and resourceful team wholeheartedly convinced education has the potential of altering the trajectory of underserved children.
Yet I can't shake a line I learned five years ago sitting in a similar situation. Henry, our head Community Development Officer, delighted upon hearing that we would soon invest in some light construction equipment, looked at me with a smile so wide and vivid I can still see it.
"Thank you, but more."
Today, it is a line Henry and I will often joke about each time we see one another. But sitting amongst our team at Kyambogo, it hit me that it's a line we must find a way to help the world to take more seriously. Especially the end. But more.
For some time, organizations like ours have been pressed to 'create an impact.' We replaced annual reports with impact reports, we track data sets that prove our intervention's success and we relate anecdotes from the field. We've scaled our growth by many measures and as a result have reached even more communities. And at the end of the day, when the dust settles, 'creating an impact' will forever be a mere rest stop on the way to actually solving a problem.
The problem, this problem-ensuring access to quality education for every child-must be one of humanity's greatest silent crises. Worldwide, 123 million children are out of school, half of those in sub-Saharan Africa. Over 250 million children who've been in school for a thousand days can't read, write or do basic math.
It gets worse. In Uganda, a recent study by the Uganda National Examination Board found that roughly 80% of graduates at the country's teacher colleges are illiterate and are not proficient in basic numeracy skills. A shockingly high 71% of students who enter primary school never complete a full cycle of schooling. In addition, more than 700,000 children are believed to be out of school entirely.
Solving this problem requires much more. It requires more investment in public-private partnerships, more political will on the part of leaders at the local and national level, and more heels digging in for work unable to be achieved overnight. It demands more acceptance of education as a human right to be afforded every child no matter their gender or disability, more priority as a global key to prosperity, and more support for a field that currently receives less than 2% of all humanitarian aid.
For every community such as Kyambogo that we reach, we estimate there to be dozens more without access to even the most of schooling. And while starting work on Building Tomorrow's 50th school brings great joy to a proud team, there's far, far more work ahead.
Ten years, 50 schools, and 10,000 students later, the message is quite simple; thank you, but more.
BT Founder & Chief Dreamer