Increasing access to education in Uganda

Increasing access to education in Uganda

The Kupata Project was born out of a BBC World Service documentary from Uganda. A stark fact jumped out at us. Ugandan school girls miss 25% of their education due to being too poor to buy sanitary pads. So. A massive problem with a very simple solution. Could we find a way to make a difference? Maybe we could. In November 2017, we visited Kabale Province and established a relationship with Kanuganguzi Janan Luwum Memorial School. 250 girls and 250 boys from families getting by on a couple of dollars a day. Every girl we talked to backed up the World Service story. We bought six months of 'Always' pads and waited to see what would happen next.

The results have been pretty stunning. Levels of absenteeism and infections have fallen steeply. There are still 250 boys on the school roll. However the number of female students has risen to 412, a 60% increase. The people at the school say this extraordinary rise is entirely down to the availability of sanitary pads.

These results were enough for us to establish the Kupata Project in the spring of 2018.

We have made two further deliveries of pads and we now have a further six schools hoping to receive our support. Our new charity is a bare bones affair. No office, no paid staff, no overheads whatsoever. Two great young volunteers keep an eye on things down in Kabale Province.

Raising funds has been hard going. We have generated just over £6000 from an online funding page and a couple trusts. Our application to the Department for International Development was unsuccessful. One of their reasons for knocking back our bid back was particularly galling: they said we hadn't insisted on the girls finding an environmentally friendly way to dispose of their pads. These girls have as  light a carbon footprint of anyone on earth. They live in houses without power, they never never ride on a bus and they are lucky if they eat meat twice a year. Denying them the chance of 25% more time in school on such grounds seems like western hypocrisy at its worst.

Our latest fundraising initiative is a book. 'The Last Valley'. It is my 25th novel and it might well be my best to date. Maybe. I am probably not the person to say. The story is a 2019 reboot of Joseph Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness' and Francis Ford Coppalla's 'Apocalypse Now'. It is my effort to join up Scotland with the heart of Africa. Hopefully a mix of paperback sales (£10 a book) and digital sales (£5) will raise enough for us to keep the girls going for another six months or so.

If you would like find out more about 'The Last Valley', please visit

Some final thoughts? Well, this is going to be a tough nut to crack. The girls we are helping are not starving to death. They are not hanging by a thread in the wake of a vast catastrophe. They are not in a war zone. We are not promising the chance to save a life. Instead we are asking potential donors to make an investment in a better future. Education is the key which can unlock the door of the future for the young people of Africa. Can we convince enough people of this? I guess only time will tell.