Irene Mutumba

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 2004


This profile was prepared when Irene Mutumba was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2004.
The New Idea
Like many nations, the fate of Uganda lies in its youngest generations. Irene believes that if Uganda is to thrive, it must reform its education system and begin training the entrepreneurs of the future. In sharp contrast to the current rote-learning style instituted by colonial Britain, Irene has developed youth clubs that are action-oriented and student-centered, encouraging children and youth to take initiative, pursue their own ideas and dreams, use their creativity, and develop the kinds of life skills that cannot be taught in the classroom.
Irene has created a series of “Young Entrepreneurs” clubs in secondary schools and “Aflatoon” clubs in primary schools to provide a new space for learning, where children and youth can discover and develop their talents, and even create and run small business projects. Unlike the traditional classroom, where creativity and individual thinking are often stifled, Irene’s clubs are driven largely by the motivation of its young members. In this environment, there are no test scores and no standardized curriculum. Rather than being groomed for specific roles in a racially and class-divided society, youth are groomed to seize opportunities, be confident, and find their own path as they mature into competitive and productive individuals in society.
Already, Irene and her clubs are having a significant effect. A large community of diverse stakeholders—from students and parents to educators and government officials—has taken notice of her approach and has begun integrating some of her practices into the school system. Teachers are being trained to create a less regimented classroom, and volunteers from the business and citizen sectors participate in the management and growth of the clubs. They recognize that a long-term change in Uganda must begin in the schools and in the minds of Ugandan students.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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