NDIGD takes first steps toward building a primary school in Uganda

Author: Michael Sweikar

A group of students and faculty from the University of Notre Dame completed research in a poor, underserved area of Uganda as a first step toward building a primary school there. 

Notre Dame’s Initiative for Global Development (NDIGD) is working with the not-for-profit organization Building Tomorrow to help make this new school a reality in the village of Kongota—one of the poorest communities in the Rakai District of Uganda.

Through surveys of local households and interviews with key stakeholders, the Notre Dame students―in partnership with students from Uganda Martyrs University―conducted a survey of schooling models for community development. The students visited several existing schools in Uganda, collecting background information from community leaders, teachers, and parents on school programming, design, and community participation to better determine what variables best predict school success and sustainability.


The team also helped Building Tomorrow digitize their school needs assessments through the use of iPod touches and survey software training, which can be used to collect data based on Building Tomorrow’s approach to Access & Learning


The research team included Notre Dame political scientist and Ford Family Program in Human Development Studies and Solidarity Fellow Jaimie Bleck, Notre Dame students Liana Cramer, Megan Reineccius, and Meghan Gallagher, and Uganda Martyrs University students Fiona Zawedde and Prosper Niwagaba. The student team’s blog, the power of maama, highlights some of the experiences they encountered while conducting the study in Uganda. 

Their completed study will help determine which factors promote the success, sustainability, and sense of community ownership for the new University of Notre Dame partner school that will be built in Kongota. 



“We are excited to provide Building Tomorrow research that can help them in their mission to improve educational opportunities for children in Uganda," said Professor Bleck. "Our students at Notre Dame and Uganda Marty’s University have been fully committed to this project and look forward to continued interactions with the new Notre Dame School that will be built in Kongota.”
Children currently living in Kongota must depend on neighboring schools that are located miles from their homes. This inefficiency has affected the children’s education, with some of them dropping out of school because of the long distance they have to walk.
Building Tomorrow has worked closely with the Ugandan government for several years to improve the level of educational services in poor, rural communities such as Kongota. Historically, community members provide unskilled labor and other assistance to the various building sites, while the Ugandan government buys textbooks and furniture and provides ongoing maintenance support for the schools.
Michael Sweikar, NDIGD managing director, said “We’d like to thank Tim and Diane Madden for providing a generous gift to the University of Notre Dame through their family foundation. Their support has enabled Notre Dame students to complete this research project prior to building the new school in Kongota.”
NDIGD, based in Notre Dame’s Office of Research, is a multidisciplinary enterprise on the Notre Dame campus. It leverages the University’s signature strengths to help develop solution-oriented research focused on rigorous, data-driven impact evaluation and assessment; the design and planning of development projects; and training.
Click here to view a video about the Building Tomorrow project.