Educating Uganda’s Future Community Leaders
Fueled by his passion to use public health and education as a change agent, Walden alumnus Richard Kara founded the Tara School, Inc. for youth in Namutumba, Uganda.
To Richard Kara, receiving an education is a privilege, not a right. In developing or resource-constrained countries like Uganda and other African nations, early childhood education is mostly an afterthought, secondary to providing basic needs for the family, and is seen as an opportunity only afforded to the wealthy and those living in major cities. Richard founded Tara School under the premise that parents should not have to choose whether their child receives the long-term dividends of an education.
Growing up in Uganda, Richard spent his early years living in a remote village before his family moved to the city of Jinja, where he enrolled in a primary education program. On weekends, he would travel with his uncle to Namutumba, a village east of the city, to buy groceries. Each trip left Richard feeling confused by the number of children that lined the side of the road selling groceries. “I’m going to school,” he thought. “Why do they have to sell groceries?” A decade later, he would encounter a familiar scene, this time in Zambia.
Richard’s passion for education brought him to the U.S. where he received a bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University. Shortly after graduation, he began working for a medical device company. Selected to participate in the employee volunteer program, Richard traveled to a village in Zambia to teach basic public health practices including safe laboratory techniques and the proper disposal of medical waste. He met several children, all of whom had tremendous potential and natural leadership abilities but no access to a formal education system or institution. Richard left Zambia asking himself the same question, “How can I help these children so that they can succeed and affect change as leaders in their communities?” Richard knew the answer combined public health practices and education, and he enrolled in Walden University’s PhD in Public Health program, graduating armed with the additional knowledge and tools needed to affect real change.
Richard’s vision was simple – inspire, succeed, and transform. In 2013, he founded the Tara School in Namutumba, the same village he had visited a decade earlier looking for groceries – a community that still viewed education as a privilege, not a necessity. He understood that changing the perception of the importance of childhood and primary school education was multifaceted and complex, so he enlisted the support of village leaders, residents, and government representatives to develop a school that reflected the local traditions while introducing proven educational best practices.
Over the past five years under Richard’s leadership, the Tara School has enrolled over 200 students, and in 2017 graduated its first inaugural class of six students who passed the Uganda National Examinations with highest honors and accepted into some of the best secondary education schools in Uganda. While the vision for Tara School is to expand to as many deserving locations as resources permit, Richard hopes that they can impact just a few children to be social agents and leaders in their communities. “Most people think the inspiration is coming from me, but the inspiration comes from the kids. They inspire me, but I also inspire them by providing the tools they need to lead. Transformation is a paradigm shift for me. I want them to have the ability to give back and to be change agents for their communities.”