Gilbert Goes Global to Act Local
By Grant Henry and June Tran
Americans have an abundance of education, information and resources, a Ugandan photojournalist said in a recent presentation at the Mark Twain House & Museum.
Gilbert Daniel Bwette, 24, offered insight on the contrast between American and Ugandan cultures, starting with schooling.
In Uganda, there is no free public education for children, Bwette said, adding that his grandfather paid for him to attend school.
Bwette was amazed at the opportunities Americans have, especially young people.
In Uganda, primary education is not regulated by the government, he said, and often the teachers and funds are not provided, leading to a discrepancy between the private and public sectors.
Bwette said it’s difficult for students to obtain resources and job opportunities. Only about 35 percent of those who graduate from high school or who have a college degree will get a job, he said.
After completing high school, Bwette spent two years struggling to figure out what he wanted to do with his life.
This was not the first hurdle Bwette faced in his educational career. He said that during high school there were times he failed or when it felt like “it’s not really worth it.”
Eventually, he met the celebrity hip hop artist Babaluku, and became “connected” to him. It was this connection which inspired him to finish school and aim for an artistic career.
Bwette chose to be a photojournalist as opposed to the three ideal careers in Uganda: a doctor, lawyer or engineer.
Although he said his mother “almost slapped” him when he told her his plans to pursue photography, he wasn’t scared of the limited income that his path would take him.
Bwette traveled to the United States as a youth presenter at a hip hop conference in Washington, D.C.
There are Ugandans who aren’t as lucky as Bwette, he said. An economic motivation sometimes isn’t a strong enough catalyst for these youths to push themselves in education.
According to Bwette, there is a rudimentary class division between those that are in power in the Ugandan government and average citizens who are simply trying to make ends meet.
In his work with the Ugandan youth, Bwette helps expose young people to a variety of careers that would afford them a better income while also contributing to their communities.