Daniel Ngorok
Photo Credit: Damalie Hirwa

Meet the herdboy in the Karamoja whose life was changed by school. Now he wants to change the lives of others.

13-year-old Daniel Ngorok will never forget the sunny morning that drew him closer to his dream of becoming a surgeon.

While grazing his father’s sheep on a hot dry day in Napak district, Daniel saw strangers in a gathering. A team from Ezekiel 37 Ministry were registering children for school, and that is how Daniel got himself enrolled.

Back in 2019, aged eight, Daniel had never stepped in school. Like many boys in Karamoja region, taking care of his parents’ animals and, in later life, raiding cattle was all he envisioned.

“I’m so happy for this school, I did not know that I would go to school. I was just walking on the village when I came across this school and they allowed me and took my photo,” said Daniel, who is now head prefect at Akigyeno Nursery and Primary School.

Mission Aviation Fellowship partners, Ezekiel 37 Ministry, were led to begin a school in Napak district, in Uganda’s Karamoja region. This school is turning around the life of not only Daniel, but more than 300 young girls and boys.

Ezekiel 37 Ministry director Rebecca Sekamanya says, “MAF flights are very vital, and we could not do without them.”

Karimojong children at their home
Photo Credit: Damalie Hirwa

Karamoja region is more than 400km from Uganda’s capital, Kampala, and is marred with insecurity, stemming from cattle raiding. The most recent attack on UN staff happened in 2022 when they were ambushed by armed cattle rustlers while they were heading to the field. This situation makes road transport insecure, and a MAF flight is a much safer option.

Akigyeno Primary School’s location enables hundreds of children to acquire an education. The other few schools in the area are located across large rivers that cut off villages during rainy seasons.

“There are many children who don’t go to school in our neighbourhood, so it’s a big privilege for me to be in school,” Daniel adds.

“When the school had just started, we were sitting down on the mats to study. But now things are very different. Even when we were at home, we had nothing to eat sometimes, but the school gives us posho (food made from corn), beans and even soap.”

Akigyeno school children
Photo Credit: Damalie Hirwa
Pupils in a classroom at Akigyeno Nursery and Primary school

In a region with a high student drop-out rate, only two children dropped out from Akigyeno school out of the 278 students in 2023. This statistic brings hope that Karamoja’s literacy rate which currently stands at 25% will soon go up. The national literacy rate for Uganda is 80.6%.

While the school would like to enrol nearly all the local children, this is practically impossible.

“Choosing which child gets enrolled is the most difficult thing, but we now pick a child from each home in order to give different families a chance. We work with local councils who help us to identify the children in their villages,” says Rebecca.

Akigyeno school guard talks to parents
Photo Credit: Damalie Hirwa
Parents trying to request for a vacancy for their child at Akigyeno school.

Daniel wants to be a surgeon and knows he must work to achieve it.

“A surgeon is a person who operates on people. I know I should study hard to become one,” he says.

Daniel says he knows many children in his neighbourhood who have no food at home.

“When I grow up, I will help those children when they pay me my salary. I will make sure that I feed those children, or at least buy some maize for them,” he says.

Children at Akigyeno school
Photo Credit: Damalie Hirwa
Akigyeno Nursery and Primary is a Christian based school that accepts children from all religions

Most street children in the capital, Kampala, come from Napak. In February 2024, Kampala City Hall Court sentenced over 100 women from Napak to a one-month community service, for sending children to beg on the streets of the capital.

The school aspires to start vocational training for its students, which can be useful especially during holidays.

“We have got most of the children we have here from kraals (farm enclosures),” Akigyeno Primary head teacher Alex Okello says.   

“Vocational training will help especially the girls to stay busy. We want to keep them from challenges that come with staying at home.”