During his first case conference in Rakai district, Andrew Kasigwa, a social worker heard about Robert (not real name) a notorious 9 year old petty thief in Kyotera. Andrew got interested in Robert’s story because he felt that at 9, Robert needed guidance before he progressed to even bigger crime.
Andrew rode his motorbike to Kyotera, about 22km from his duty station, to meet Robert. He found a dirty little boy who seemed to be looking for means to cope with the situation at home. Robert’s parents separated while he was still very young. His Father was unemployed and spent his days at home looking for bits of property or household items to barter so that he could get food for his children. Robert’s mother owned a bar where she sold cheap alcohol to locals. Neither parent was able to care for all their eight children.
Robert with Rose (Right) and a CRS Official
With seven (7) siblings, a small house and not enough food in the house, Robert resorted to petty crime in the village. He broke into people’s houses and cars to pick items for sale and steal food from neighborhood gardens. At time them when Andrew first had a counseling session with him, the Kyotera district Probation Officer had recommended that Robert be sent to a remand home. However, the remand home refused to register him saying that he was still too young. This was a blessing in disguise. Andrew asked Robert what he wanted to do. He responded immediately that he wanted to go to boarding school. Unfortunately for Robert, the education subsidy under TASO Sustainable Outcomes for Children and Youth (SOCY) project funded by USAID through the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), which Andrew is implementing does not cover Kyotera and it is strictly for girls.
Robert with his Father (Left) and social worker Andrew
Robert’s luck changed when Andrew presented his case to a team from CRS and TASO Headquarters who were in Rakai for support supervision. Andrew was trying to interest CRS to take up Robert’s case and enroll him in school. However, due to the nature of funding, CRS was unable to commit. Rose Gamisha, a Senior Accountant with TASO Headquarters took interest in his case. When they visited the home, he asked for a bicycle in addition to being given a chance to join boarding school. The father told them that a few months before the visit, Robert had gone to sell mangoes at a market about 12 km away from home. While there he met a friend who had a bicycle. Robert offered him UGX 1,000 with a promise to ride it around the market. However, Robert rode the bicycle back home. His Father reported the matter to the police station and had the bicycle returned to the owner.
As soon as Rose got back to her duty station in Kampala, she sent Robert a bicycle which was delivered by Andrew. Andrew found a boarding school willing to give Robert a partial scholarship as long as the other half was paid. Rose offered to pay the other half for a year and Robert was enrolled into boarding school.
At only 10 years old now, Robert has turned a new leaf, while he is still struggling to overcome the habit of stealing, he is doing well in school and is among the top students in his class. However, what will happen to him after the year of school comes to an end?
Robert with his dormates at his new school.
Robert is one of many children who need someone to believe in them and help contribute towards the improvement of their lives. You can help by becoming a TASO Subscriber Member. Alternatively, you could contact Robert’s family through TASO Headquarters on firstname.lastname@example.org.