It's 11 am. It is a beehive of activities at Okere Mom- Kok village in Okere Parish in Adwari Sub-county Otuke District. Voices of little children repeating the letters of the alphabet can be heard from a
Community members especially men are busy
constructing more classroom blocks and guests houses while women are busy
preparing shea butter- a social activity graced with traditional songs and tales passed on from generation to
This is the daily life in Okere City, a community-driven development project geared towards the elimination of poverty and
promotion of education in Okere Parish, Adwari Sub-county, Otuke District. The carefully crafted grass-thatched houses
amidst planted trees give the city its beautiful green scenery.
The city, which
sits on a 500- acre piece of land began in 2019 at the time when the community members were disgruntled due to a lack of basic necessities like clean water sources. The nearest primary school and health center were about 10kms away. Donnas Ojok- Okello, an Economics graduate, and
development expert is the brain behind the Okere City Initiative, which he started in Okere Mom- Kok “a baby
should not cry” his ancestral home village.
The idea is meant to transform the area, which was ravaged by the over 20 years of the LRA insurgency into a
green town where community members are responsible for the growth and
development of their area putting education, health, social enterprises, and the
protection of the shea tree at the center.
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The city, which is solar-powered now has an Early
Childhood Development Center, a primary school, a clinic, a village bank with 600
members, and a community hall that also serves as a cinema, church, and nightclub.
All these activities are facilitated and managed by community
members as a way of encouraging community participation in rural development.
However, there are limits to what local members can contribute especially when
it comes to finances, according to Ojok.
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Parents also realized the importance of education
for themselves and their children and as such brought the idea of adult learning in a District, whose illiteracy level stands at 72%. Close
to 100 members who have registered for adult classes and have been learning
since October last year are mostly elders of 50 years and above with a few
“Remember the 72% illiteracy rate is among the adult
population so if we do not make sure that our grandparents, our mothers, our
fathers can read and write and comprehend certain things then life is
continually going to be horrible because there is no way an illiterate person
can take pride and invest in educating their children, says Ojok.
These people had never set foot in class but
with a few months of receiving basic knowledge in reading and writing, they are
able to not only successfully run their village saving groups but also start up income-generating activities.
Scovia Abwongo is a member of the Okere City
community. She never
had a chance to go to school although she wanted to. Abwongo then invested her
energy in educating her 3 children thinking she would achieve her dreams
through her children. But then an opportunity presented itself at Okere
City where she is learning
with a big dream of becoming a teacher someday.
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Jennifer Ogwang, another member of the FAL class, says that domestic chores such as rearing cattle, babysitting, and cooking for the family stopped her from going to school in her early years. However,
she is excited that from the FAL classes she now can read, write and
successfully count money. Her hope is to start up a business and become a local
councilor in the near future.
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The fact that most members of the adult classes are women
gives Ojok the conviction that children will be educated because their mothers
know the value of education.
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David Apule, a security guard at Okere city is
excited about adult learning to the point that he would love to join their
class despite having traveled places and knowing basic English words.
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Okere Village Bank is the engine upon, which the city ensures financial inclusion
through the already existing local Village Saving Groups (VSLA). The Village
Bank provides loans to the VSLA who interim gives it to its members to enable them to grow small
Maxwell Atine, a community member is happy with the Okere
City initiative because it is not only providing services to them but also
giving the community members an opportunity to learn new ideas like
On the other hand, there is Okere shea butter, a
product which came on the market in August 2020. Shea trees that grow
naturally in Okere village are one of the trees on the International Union for
Conservation of Nature (ICUN) red list of species on the verge of extinction. But Okere has started a cooperative society of 120
members to fuel the conservation of shea trees and the City’s shea business
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On special occasions, mostly weekends, Okere city
organizes community tourism trips featuring the traditional Okeme dance, shea
butter massage, poetry, and tales among others. Prof. Opio Okaka Dokotum, the Deputy Vice-Chancellor of Lira University spent his weekend at Okere
city during one of the Tourism trips where he had his first every shea butter
enjoyed my first shea butter massage from the professional masseur at Okere
city. I had no idea shea oil was the best for massage. Tin anino bala okere!
(today I will sleep like a baby),” he wrote on the Lango Tourism conference
forum. The dream for Okere city is to have a modle village where
individuals and governments can learn from especially now that Government is
implementing the Parish Development Module.
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Betty Amongi Akena, the Minister of Gender, Labour
and Social Development
is satisfied with the Okere City project in regard to the implementation of the
Parish Development Modle and tasked Ojok Okello with the responsibility of
training Trainers for the program.