Back in 2007, when we piloted the programme, I was working with Ashoka fellow Emmanuel Nehemiah on a project to consider the potential for biofuels to alleviate poverty in remote rural Northern Nigeria. Kaduna, where I was located, had an oil refinery, so it made a lot of sense to uncover local enthusiasm for such a project. When people talk about Nigeria, then it is viewed sometimes as a rich country, which can solve its own problems with the money it derives from oil revenues. That may well be true, but on the ground, the rural areas are more disadvantaged than anywhere I have been in Uganda, where the government has been more open to outside visitors. During our research, we decided to question groups of men, women and children separately. I said I would also like to travel to a remote area and so Akurjini was added into our itinerary.
Akurjini was extremely unusual and a two hour motorcycle ride from the main road. The village somehow had its own grinding machinery. It was selling specific crops which produced high value and low weight for transport. For instance they ground up cayenne pepper. When we visited the children in the village, they were confident,
eloquent (in Hausa) and had a certain steel about them, with impressed. One boy, who was 15 stood up and said he was fed up of his life in the village, where every day things were the same. He and his friends needed something more than this life. I had hoped we could run our project in Nigeria, so we decided to pilot the programme in this area and we invited a number of children who we had met for a testing programme, to find out their capabilities. We recruited six children to go through the esting process and what we discovered was really quite astonishing.
Dogarra (previously mentioned) was 15 but could not write his name, but he was a talented leader . One of the girls we talked to was determined to be the president of Nigeria and another was angry about her lack of quality educational facilities. Another boy, who was one of 20 children in his family, was incredibly brilliant academically. So in this group was a microcosm of the change that Nigeria needed for the rural areas. However, there was no project around that was taking this talent and mobilising it in a way to nurture the children to “be te change” that they desired so much. So, when we moved to Uganda, I decided to do something similar and root out children who wanted to be the change and thus the Butterfly Project was born.
I found a potential NGO partner in Lyantonde District, which is about 150 miles to the West of Kampala. Lyantonde has been devastated by AIDS, as it has many prostitutes and therefore there are many orphans in the area. In advance of the project, I had started recruitment for the Kampala programme and four children from the slum district looked like potential candidates for the programme, so we travelled with them to Lyantonde to see their reaction to and comments on rural life. At the same time, I was also looking for another Dogarra, who was a changemaker and determined to find a better life for himself and his peers in the village.
Francis has always clearly been that person and from the outset was determined to succeed in every pursuit that was offered to him. In time he has started evolve visions for his own projects and at the moment, he has 3-4 projects that he feels are important – biogas, “Vision for Change”, Project Circulate and a new boardgames project for children in villages. If you want to know more about Francis’s projects, he has blogged here extensively and eloquently.
At the moment, though, Francis has no sponsor for next year’s school fees. And no one to support him in his endeavours to be a changemaker in his village. Why is this? Like in Nigeria, few people are recognising the inherent potential for creating change in the villages themselves and children are being forced to put aside the morals that they have grown up with just to survive. Our project helps them become changemakers and no one is more determined than Francis to achieve his aim.
At the Primary School where we found Francis, the Maths teacher either failed to appear at school or arrived drunk. In the rural areas, this is very common and many of the Butterfly North members concur that their teachers were similar. As a result, Francis performed poorly at Maths, achieving perhaps 25% in his exams. Once we had moved him to a more distinguished school, then he was determined to succeed and managed to move to 75% in one year of attending. As I write, Francis is taking responsibility for the accounting for the Butterfly Project – so that is progress!
If you would be interested in supporting Francis into next year, then please contact us at this email address.