Ntege Paul, an 18-year-old from Uganda, always believed that school was important. That's why when his parents couldn't afford to send him to school, Ntege got a job in a rock quarry earning only 73 cents a day, but it was enough for him to attend school part time.
Although he was absent for many days, Ntege's grade on his Primary Leaving Exam (taken after the seventh year of school) was one of the best in the country. An article was written about him in his local newspaper, and it sparked the interest of Stephen Shames, founder of L.E.A.D. Uganda.
L.E.A.D. Uganda is an organization that exists "to give hope to kids who had no future, to heal their pain, and [to] make their dreams come true." The organization places forgotten children in prestigious schools. It trains children in Uganda to become leaders.
Ntege visited Buffalo recently to drum up support for L.E.A.D. Uganda.
Ntege grew up in a culture very different from the American culture. He belongs to the majority tribe in Uganda, the Baganda tribe. Ntege is bilingual, fluent in both Luganda and English.
In Uganda, school is extremely different. Everyone must pay to attend school, and better schools are more expensive. Primary school lasts for seven years; high school is six years. The school year starts in February and ends in November. English is taught every year, but high school students may also learn German, Italian and French. Cellphones are illegal at his school because they are considered a distraction, and any student caught with one is expelled.
Ntege currently is in 11th grade. He said he hopes to go to college and become an "oil engineer."
He said it is important to "prevent all of the money in the petroleum industry from going to politicians." He said he hopes that Uganda will not end up like neighboring Nigeria, which has an abundant supply of oil but is extremely poor.
He knows that Africa has many problems, but by becoming a businessman he hopes to "help Africa develop and [to] help fight the poverty that keeps us backward."
Ntege said if he ever earns any extra money, he plans to donate it to L.E.A.D. Uganda.
"I believe students like me, like them, need to go to school," he said.
Kelsey Auman is a sophomore at Orchard Park High School.