Rosemary Nyirumbe

St. Monica Girls Training Center, Gulu, Uganda

Rosemary  Nyirumbe

Rosemary has been teaching in Uganda since 2002 – a challenging setting for any teacher. Political unrest in the country has created many obstacles, not only for education but also for ordinary living. As a result, Rosemary’s chief aim has been to empower young women and their children whose schooling was cut off due to abduction by rebel fighters. When she began teaching at St Monica’s Girls Training Center in 2002, she first took time to learn about what skills and knowledge would practically help young women in the region. Since then, she has enrolled more than 2000 women aged 15-20 in her vocational school to learn business skills, secretarial studies, sewing and catering. These skills all help her students to become economically self-reliant – a hugely important form of independence – and many of her graduates have subsequently found good employment in the high-end hotel industry.

Over the last decade, Rosemary has shown consistent ingenuity in creating projects that benefit both the school and its students. She started a restaurant on campus to teach catering skills while also generating further income for the school. The Sewing Hope Foundation is a nonprofit she founded to rehabilitate child soldiers from the civil war, aiming to change the mindset of people who have experienced conflict and transform them into peacemakers through education. She has also created a kindergarten for her students’ children that began as a space under a tree and now takes place in a new building that can accommodate 250 people. Further innovations have included building houses and infrastructure out of leftover plastic bottles, and manufacturing pop tab purses with her students – which are now sold worldwide to help support the other programmes.

Rosemary was listed as one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in 2014 for the work she has done empowering women and children in Uganda. She has travelled around the world to explain her approach and has been awarded four honorary doctorates, while pursuing her own doctoral qualification in Structural Education and Leadership. She has also contributed to panels at the World Economic Forum, established partnerships with Notre Dame and Oklahoma State universities, and won the 2007 CNN Heroes award.

If Rosemary wins the Global Teacher Prize, she will use the prize money to build libraries in all her schools and support students who cannot afford learning materials. More ambitiously, Rosemary would use some of the funds towards her current project to build an agricultural college, which will boost the production of crops to sustain the school and raise further income.