Norah Omal, Communications Officer at Restless Development Uganda, shares the next story in our special International Youth Day series ‘1 in 1.8 billion’. Celebrating the power of young people around the world.
It’s a Wednesday afternoon and I am nervous, with good reason.
I’m about to meet Gastervus Kakaire. He is the Founder of Enjuba Spelling Bee, District Registrar Uganda National Commission, Chairman of the National Debate Council and Talk Show Host.
Gastervus grew up in a rural community in Jinja district, Uganda. Both his parents were poor, but they were able to make just enough money to send Gastverus to school. Getting to school was not easy, his siblings gave up and dropped out but this did not discourage him. Every day Gastervus walked 10 kilometers to and from school. He was constantly late and yet he had to leave early to help with household chores, this meant missing out on revision classes. He needed money for a taxi to ease his journey to school, his parents however were already overwhelmed with providing basic needs for him and sibling.
At the age of 15, Gastervus decided to leave his home and move in with an Indian family that lived close to his school. The agreement was that Gastervus would take care of all their household chores, including laundry, cooking and babysitting, in exchange for a room and food. Gastervus lived and worked happily with his employer for 5 years until he finished secondary education.
During his vacation, Gastervus joined Restless Development as a volunteer peer educator, rather be unproductive at home. For 6 months he taught life skills and other subjects to primary school children in Soroti district, miles away from his home. He engaged with local government officials in the district and moblised his peers to participate in development processes.
Gastervus was supported through university by the family of a friend he met during his time as a volunteer. While in university Gastervus displayed a high level of confidence and organisation, he soon became the class’s favorite to represent and coordinate them. During his second year in university Gastervus ran for the post of Guild president, it was difficult, unlike his opponents, Gastervus had no money to campaign. None the less he was able to convince the student body to elect him into power. Gastervus realized the power of his voice, he started using it make money and build networks, and often he was chosen to make presentations at conferences nationally and internationally.
Reflecting back to his childhood, Gastervus realized that there are many children with potential just like him, all they need a little push and reassurance. Gastervus began to use his story to inspire young people in schools. He later co-founded Enjuba Spelling Bee, the first of its kind in Uganda, with the objective of giving young people in rural school an opportunity compete with those in urban schools and ultimately boost their confidence.