Bootstraps Education

Building a Brighter Future for Refugee Children


Changing Fear to Hope

Bootstraps Education is an NGO, not-for-profit program, working in cooperation with Future for Refugee (www.futureforrefugee), teaching English, Math, and Computer Literacy. This service is provided free of charge to refugee children. The program is designed to help these students develop knowledge and skills which will enable them to be agents of their own change, as they move beyond basic subsistence, and beyond reliance on prostitution for basic necessities; to full employment and participation in society, when they come of age, whether that is in their host country, country of origin, or another country.

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Agents of Their own Change

Most children in refugee camps throughout Uganda are not receiving any formal education. 81.9% of children (ages 7-12) are not enrolled in a school, and 85% of children (ages 13-17), are not enrolled in a school. Not being able to go to school was rated as a primary stressor of children, according to a Save the Children, Needs Assessment Report on Child Protection and Education, among Ugandan refugees. Too many refugee children have been forced into the red-light (prostitution), due to the lack of money for basic necessities. Most youth in the world’s refugee settlements, and those living as Urban Refugees, do not believe that a bright future is possible for them, due to vulnerabilities, poverty, trauma, and stigma.

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Inclusive Population

By current definitions in educational systems of first-world countries, nearly all of our students qualify as having special needs due to the level of physical and psychological trauma they have experienced and continue to experience. (These traumas include forced migration, poverty, physical, psychological, and sexual abuse, and being unable to attend school, according to a UNESCO report.) In order for these children to get an education, the school needs to be a safe haven in their community, with adult role models who are aware of their daily struggles. All of our instructors are multi-lingual Ugandan refugees.

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At Bootstraps Education, our goal is to improve life-style outcomes for refugee children, by increasing their knowledge of English, Mathematics, and Computer Literacy; enabling them to be agents of change in their own futures, giving them real hope for furthering their education, leading to future gainful employment. Many of the children speak only regional languages from their country of origin, which will not help them in relocating outside their country of origin. (Conditions in their countries of origin often make returning there, impossible.) With this in mind, our top goal is to teach these students to read and write in English.

Through participation in the classroom, students will also be learning key life-skills of memorization, and self-discipline, as well as, being part of a group with a common goal. All these skills can noticeably increase self-esteem, which is often lowered through a variety of traumatic events experienced by these children. All children in our program live well-below the poverty line.  Other essential goals of our program, include teaching these children Mathematics and Computer Literacy, the concepts of which are international. In addition to the goals listed above, our school will also provide the children with a mid-day meal on school days. (Most students would not get this extra nutrition, if they were not at school.)

What's New?

Wow! We just published this website yesterday and generosity of all types is flooding in! Many, many thanks to those of you who have jumped in to help us establish connections with more NGO partners, and who have given generous donations.

And these much-needed donations couldn't come at a better time. Locals are pleading with Irenge to make space for more students. We are strongly considering adding an afternoon session to our school day, as soon as possible, so that 20 more students can begin learning and working towards creating their own positive futures. 

We are starting the school with 2 classes of 10 students each and plan to keep our ratios low so that the children can really get the help they need to learn. Public schools in Uganda often have 50 - 200 students per teacher, which makes it difficult for the students to learn.

This week Irenge is also working hard to get the school set-up, so that we can start assessing children next week and can hold our first parent meeting next week. The families of our students are really happy about the opportunity for their children to attend a free, safe school; so we want to find opportunities for them to take part in the life of the school. We will be asking for parent volunteers to help with cooking for the students, as well as assisting the school in other ways.

It takes a (global) village!!

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We've Got A Building!!

Irenge was able to find an excellent place for us to open our school in Kampala. It is a house with space for classrooms, a computer lab, a kitchen, and two restrooms; but, the best part is, it has a big, fenced back yard, where the children will be able to grow vegetables that can be taken home to share with their families. (This is a real treat as many refugees do not get fresh fruits or vegetables.) The school is also located in a district with many other schools. 

Marla has been setting up our finances, so that we can receive your generous donations for these deserving little souls. She has also been working on training videos for the teachers about our initial assessment process and will soon be making videos to show the teachers how to implement our English/phonics program. We will be assessing our first class of students next week, so that we can place them in appropriate learning groups.

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Irenge Mbwiriza, one of our Founders, who is also our Country Director for Uganda, and our Lead Teacher, has been busy enrolling students for our first class. He has purchased some beautiful Covid-19 masks for our students and teachers, from an independent tailor in Kampala, and a purchased a charcoal stove for cooking the student's porridge. (This is an important meal for our students, that most can only get at school, as NGO rations of the monthly beans, cornmeal, oil, and salt; have been lower than usual lately, due to scarcity.) Irenge has also been scouting out a two-room rental in Kampala where our first classes will be housed, in addition to talking with other NGOS about our program, and registering our school with the Ugandan government.

Marla McGhee, the other one of our founders, who is a 35-year veteran educator, our Administrator, and our Director of Curriculum, has been working on developing this website, our Go Fund Me page, and our Facebook page, as it is important to get the word out about Bootstraps Education so we can secure much-needed books and other supplies for the school. Marla has also been working on developing our See It, Say It, Read It English program, and developing our Student Entrance Assessments, to place students into appropriate  learning groups. 

Coming Up soon...

We will introduce you to all of our teachers.

We will have a "Yearbook" picture of our first class of students.

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As so many great ideas do, Bootstraps Education started with a few conversations. These conversations were between an adult student who is a Ugandan refugee, and an American teacher. Mr. Irenge Mbwiriza, from Democratic Republic of Congo, was a student in Mrs. Marla McGhee's online English class, who explained the circumstances at the refugee settlement where he lived. He expressed a desire to help the children of the settlement receive an education, to help them move from living below the poverty line, toward obtaining an education which would improve their chances of making a better life when they came of age. This was a perfect match for Marla's lifelong desire to start a school that would really make a difference in the lives of its students.

After a lot of leg work from Irenge and a lot of data-mining by Marla, Bootstraps Education was born! Mr. Mbwiriza will serve as the lead teacher and country director for Uganda. Mrs. McGhee will continue to provide educational guidance, serve as the organization's administrator, and seek sources of funding to continue the program.

Irenge, Marla, our additional teachers (who will be introduced in future blogs), and the excited families of the children who have registered for our first term ever, to begin in August 2020, thank you for taking an interest in Bootstraps Education!



What the school needs to operate

Bootstraps Education is truly starting on a shoestring budget. Marla is designing our initial curriculum, and the teachers are building the furniture.

We are starting with the following:

1 ream of paper, 24 pencils, 20 composition notebooks, 1 white-board with markers, 20 enclosed folders (to keep everyone's pencils and papers separate during the pandemic), benches, tables, a charcoal stove, cornmeal,          1 cooking pot, 20 bowls, 20 cups, and 20 spoons, toilet paper, soap, and paper towels

We need donations to help us purchase the following 



Monthly Rent on our building >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>    $162.USD

Web hosting monthly (paid per year)>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>  S12.USD

Electricity (estimated) >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>      $15.USD

Food: cornmeal, sugar, charcoal (for stove) >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>    $185.USD

Cleaning supplies: soap, paper towels, water bill (estimated) >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>       $75.USD

Masks (for teachers and 20 students) >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>       $25.USD

                                                                                                                                         MONTHLY TOTAL>>>    $474.USD

Once per term

Kitchen/feeding supplies: spoons, cups, bowls, cooking/serving spoon, cooking pot  >>>>>>>>>>    $81.USD

One more whiteboard with markers >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>     $35.USD

School supplies: 

textbooks, crayons, more paper, more pencils, erasers, individual pencil sharpeners >>>>>>>>>>>      $96.USD                                        (THIS $96. USD INCLUDES SUPPLIES FOR  ALL 20 STUDENTS PER TERM.)

                                                                                                                                                    TERM TOTAL>>>    $212.USD

We also need: 

5 notebook-style computers (P.C.s with10-inch screens, please email before purchasing*)   Price TBD

A classroom library (We can get 30 early-reader library books for this price)>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> $42.USD

WiFi bill (price TBD once computers are in place)

Seeds and gardening supplies for out "Take Home" Garden >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> Price TBD

Filing fees for registration in Uganda>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>   $95.USD

Filing fees for non-profit status in the U.S.A. (IRS Form 1023 =$600., IRS Form 1023-EZ + $275.)>>   $875.USD


*Note to Donors: If you wish to donate items, such as computers, to the school, it is suggested to buy them from retailers in Kampala, as international shipping fees are extremely high.


Donation options appear on the next page.


$ 100

Donation Amount

Future Plans

Future Plans
As our website shows we are starting small, but we have BIG plans for the future!

Our first school will open in Kampala, Uganda, in August 2020, and our first class will consist of 20 urban-refugee children, taught by 2 teachers. Once this school is well-established, we plan to open our next location in the Kayaka 2 refugee settlement, near Kamapla. From there we plan to expand to all refugee settlements in Uganda, then to refugee settlements in other African countries; then to refugee settlements on other continents.

Our plan for Uganda, is to educate the students through the Primary (K-6th grade) levels, so they will be prepared to take the Primary School Exit tests, to be eligible for Secondary School. When the time comes, we plan to cover the costs of uniforms and school supplies for those students wishing to enroll in Secondary School. Similar arrangements will be made for our schools/students in other countries.



  • Bootstraps Education, Semakeriko Rd., Kampala, Uganda
  • Visitors are welcome by appointment.

Volunteers Needed

Volunteers Needed
If your experience and expertise match our needs, we will contact you for further information.

Lawyer - U.S.
Accountant - U.S.
Accountant/Bookkeeper - Kampala, Uganda
Grant Writers - Worldwide