BALAMU FOOTBALL ACADEMY.
In March 2016, we took a group of scouts zip lining. We passed through Wasswa Village and decided to do an activity to unite our scouts with the local community. During a football game between the scouts and the local kids, the local kids beat the scouts 3-0. It was then we realized these kids have talent but no opportunity to develop their skills. This is how our program began.
The Balamu Football Academy is based in the rural area of Wasswa Village, which is a very isolated community nestled in the Mabira Rain Forest. The children growing up there have less access to education because of its unfortunate location. The majority of the community are very poor and find it difficult to raise the money needed for school fees and therefore cannot send their children to school. Even those who go to primary school don’t typically carry on to secondary education because they are not able to afford the costs involved. If a family is struggling to simply afford food, there is little hope for money for an education. In rural villages such as this one, girls are seen as a source of income in terms of bride wealth and married off at young ages, preventing them from furthering their education. A lack of youth education also contributes to the alarming rates of deforestation in the surrounding area.
Our goal is to increase skill development for both boys and girls from 5 to 17 years of age so they have a chance to earn equal opportunities as their city counterparts through bursaries (scholarships) for upper primary and secondary education.
According to our culture here in Uganda, girls are not allowed to play football, especially in rural areas where the cultural norms are very strong and hard to challenge. It is a big victory for us to get girls involved in our program and even better to help challenge the gender disparities that girls often fall victim to.
The Football Academy contains 2 major elements:
Talents and Skills – We begin training the children as early as 5 years of age. Through football, these kids are able to learn many things such as social skills, responsibility, and self-esteem. These children gain confidence knowing they have an opportunity to make their life something more. Our program teaches kids how to manage their time and become young professionals with a sense of gratitude.
Education – Not only does Balamu Football Academy offer education in the sport of football, the intense training these children receive can lead to bursaries needed to attend upper primary and secondary education by being scouted by local schools who are interested in their talents. By providing these youth with bursaries, the children are able to move to the city for an education, increasing their chances of a better career after school and helping break the cycle of poverty that village living often brings.
In our first year of operation, we had 7 children offered bursaries. 5 boys and 2 girls are now getting to go to school in the city and are continuing to improve their football skills.
Additionally, this year another 5 boys and 4 girls have been scouted and given bursaries for upper primary schooling, currently we have 26 kids both boys and girls who have secure scholarship in our shortest period we have been in operation.
The end goal of our program is to put as many children in school as possible. By working hard on developing their football skills, children can also play a critical role in their future successes through education.
Click here to view the athletes hard at work.
Girls can play football too!