My Journey From A Ugandan Village To Harvard – The Huffington Post

Posted May 6, 2012 by Ugandan Diaspora News Team in Featured ~ 5,420 views


By Akandwahano Dominic ~ The cool Friday morning when I got the news that I’d been admitted to Harvard College will always remain etched in my mind. I was both amazed and stunned. For a moment, I paused to think about my situation: How did I, a young man from a small village in Western Uganda, get into what is arguably the best known university in the world?

When I further pondered this, I realized how much I had been empowered to contribute to the advancement of my community and the world at large. I recall vividly my early school days: I would go to school every day and would stay home on weekends, when I would play games with the kids in my neighborhood. The most spectacular of these was the “throwing game.” In this game, we would collect heaps of small stones and throw them away in turns. We would declare the person who could throw furthest the winner. We would also allocate several levels of education to the various points where our stones would fall. We called the furthest possible point “Makerere,” which to us meant University, and I would always strive to hit at that point.

I marvel at the avid interest that my playmates and I had in education.

Luckily enough, I have managed to climb the ladder of education, moving from primary school to secondary school and now to college! When I look back at my playmates, many of them are out of school and have turned into illiterate men and women: squandered human resource. This is not because they lacked the ability to learn, but because they did not have the opportunity to get a decent education. Many dropped out of school after primary school since they could not afford secondary school education. I was lucky enough to get the Kasiisi Project Scholarship.

Over the years, I have reflected on the many things that could have stopped my progress: frequent malaria attacks, lack of school fees and lack of food at school to name just a few possibilities. Bad luck and happenstance stop so many people in this part of the world from realizing their full potential. There have been several challenges, which I have always had to experience.

In primary school, I had to walk five kilometers daily to and from school,bearing the coldness of the morning on my bare feet before turning around and greeting the dangers of the dark. I endured long school days on an empty stomach. There were other obstacles of course, but the most important question is this: How do we, those who are already empowered or are on the road to empowerment, help contribute to the global goal of making education available to all.
In the scientific arena, I am particularly fascinated by the observation that when air is heated and gets warm, it rises. Whenever I think about this observation — I often do — I get amazed and think about an analogy I have dubbed the “get heated to raise community factor.” I am convinced that the form of heat that my community and many others in Africa have been lacking is education.

I believe that this “heat” can be generated by projects like The Kasiisi Project that invest in the education and livelihoods of children. These groups empower people to work towards realizing their full potentials. As I write this, I pause and smile realizing that I am living proof this strategy works.

My getting into Harvard is a life-changing win for me, but only a small win for my community. I believe that small wins do bring success bit by bit. I know that I will have much more to contribute to my neighbors in four years and I can only imagine how much progress our villages could make if more young people have the same opportunities as me.

Akandwahano Dominic was in 1993 in the outside kitchen of his family’s small mud house near Fort Portal in Western Uganda, the sixth of 11 children. His mother, a subsistence farmer who has never had a day of school in her life, made sure that all her children had the best education she could manage. Graduating at the top of his primary school class, Dominic was awarded a Kasiisi Project Scholarship, which enabled him to continue his education into secondary school. An academic star at each of the three secondary schools he attended, he finished 12th Grade as the top student at St. Mary’s College Kisubi, one of the best schools in Uganda and admitted to Harvard University, where he will begin classes in Autumn 2012.

About the Author

Ugandan Diaspora News Team

Ugandan Diaspora News Online is an independent, non political news portal primarily aimed at serving Ugandans who work and reside outside Uganda. Our aim is to be a one stop shop for everything Ugandan and the celebration of our Ugandan heritage.

One Comment

    Rehmah Kasule

    Wow, this is really a very inspiring story. It reminded me a lot of my story. When I tell my daughters about how I walked without shoes for 6 kilometers from and to school they still think it’s one of the old African stories.

    Dominic, your story is a true testimony that “your background doesn’t determine your destiny, the power is in your hands to shape your destiny.” Keep flying my brother, reach for the stars and as you go high into the sky always leave your foot steps behind. And remember to “pay it forward” because “if you walk alone you will go very fast, but when you take others with you, you will go very far.” go into Harvard and make us proud.

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