Wealth in having little

Wealth in having little

Against all odds he graduated from Makerere University in Uganda with a First class degree, something only 1.2% of the students accomplished. Poverty encouraged me and gave me self discipline, says James Kamukama, a new Master student in Development and Resource Economics (DRE).

Wealth in having little

[PHOTO MISSING]The road is seemingly a long one from a poor village to the highest academic institution of higher learning in Uganda, but James Kamukama struggled, and has experienced that sometimes there is something good in being poor. It might sound a bit strange, but being poor gave me a sense of direction, it encouraged me and gave me self discipline, he says.

The courses are better than the weather
Is this winter? he thought when he arrived at s on a rainy night in the beginning of August. Fortunately there are better reasons for studying at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences (UMB) than the Norwegian summer, and after a month as a student in the Department of Economics and Resource Management (IR), James was confident that he was in the right place.

Before he came to Norway, James was impressed by an almost immediate response to an e-mail he sent late at night from Uganda requesting for information. The dialogue with academically responsible Arild Angelsen was very good even before they had met, and James decided to go to the University in the high North.

- I heard about UMB from a fellow student at Makerere and decided to check it out. My friend recommended Plant Sciences, but I later chose this Agricultural Economics related course because there are few with this background in Uganda, he says.

Education the only way out
Uganda is mainly dependent on agriculture, and James village is one of the many surviving on a hand to mouth agricultural economy. The crops are mainly beans, peas, corn, and bananas that are used primarily for personal consumption. Overpopulation has led to only small patches of land being available for the poor.

- In a way I was lucky. Those who have more money in Uganda are more likely to start working in their dads firm, and dont care about education. For me, education was the only way out of poverty. If I had not worked hard with my studies I would still be in that situation.

James used to walk 17 kilometres on foot every day to get to school, and his family was short of money for most things. Quite often he could not do his homework because there was no money for paraffin or reading light. Still, James was the best student at his Primary School, and he was the only one to reach Secondary School.

Going back to help
His father managed to provide the school fees for Secondary School, but the final payment was also the last thing he could do for his son. Unfortunately, his father died before he saw James as a proud University student with a government scholarship.

James kept up the good work at Makerere University, after which he was awarded a scholarship for study in Norway. Now he is a student at UMB at s - ready for more education and hard work.

- Uganda is a naturally rich country, but still there is a lot of poverty. I can see that there is a need for the qualifications I am getting, and I want to go back to my district and work to improve the situation, concludes James Kamukama.

Published 2. September 2014 - 10:20 - Updated 23. May 2017 - 19:49