- She is an award-winning author, founder and young leader.
- Her Read Us Africa initiative has since expanded to 10 African countries and 40 universities worldwide.
- Later this year, she will join other youths from 14 African Countries in Nairobi for YALI RLC EA Fellowship.
Passion is the fuel that ignites a fire within, but purpose is the compass that guides us toward our goal—and for one young leader, the journey from passion to purpose has been nothing short of purpose.
Today, we delve into Agatha Akullu’s insights into a future of an Africa full of readers.
Born in Kole District in Northern Uganda, Ms. Agatha is the firstborn of 5 and the only girl.
Unlike many, she didn’t study kindergarten, P1 and P2.
Ms. Agatha did homeschooling and started studying from P3 at Naranbhai Road Primary School in Jinja until P5, later finishing her Primary Leaving Examination (PLE) at Bright Future Primary School in Kumi District.
PLE is an important national examination that students take after finishing their primary education at the age of around 12 or 13.
Before joining Makerere University, where she is currently finalizing a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Education, she went to St. Mary’s Girls College Aboke for O’level and Jeressar High School Soroti for A’level.
She has also done short certificate courses with Educate!, and the Uganda Atlas Network.
Ms. Agatha’s works
She is a poetess and spoken word artist, author of Arrow of Destiny and co-author of Dead Manners, a Read-Us Africa collection that features 50 poets from 10 African countries.
She has also been featured in publications like Listen to Africa magazine (Botswana), Muna Kalati (Ghana), Writers Space Africa (Nigeria), and Story of Fame.
Ms. Agatha is the Founder of Read Us Africa, an award-winning, youth-instigated organization that is changing reading narratives in African communities through book club establishment, writing competitions, annual African Readers Conference, and a book donation drive, among many others.
Since its inception, Ms. Akullu and the team have expanded to over 10 African countries and 40 universities worldwide.
What makes her tick
What makes her tick is reading and the deep inner curiosity to learn/know and be so many things in one.
In 2020, she worked with Educate! Uganda as a Youth Mentor until 2021.
That same year, she also sat as a Board Member of Creative and Inspirational Writers of Africa (CIWA) Limited.
Between 2021 and 2022, she worked as a freelance columnist with Mt. Kenya Times, Scholar Media Africa and Diaspora Times Global newspaper.
This August, she will be joining Fountain Publishers as a full-time intern.
Her job entails coordinating and overseeing the smooth running of the organization, among many others.
“Being the vision bearer, it can only be fair that I have to be flexible as far as executing duties and responsibilities in the organization are concerned.
I oversee the book club establishments, literacy championships, annual African Readers conferences, and many others,” she says.
What they do
Every year, Read Us Africa hosts the annual African Readers Conference (ARC) in September to commemorate the International Day of Literacy.
Annually, ARC physically and virtually unites minds in African governments, civil society, academia, and the private sector that envision promoting a strong reading culture in this technologically fast-growing generation of young people in the African Continent.
It calls them to act as a springboard for the renaissance of the consciousness that they have a contribution to make for Africa to see her glory days in the literary world.
The first ARC, themed Changing Reading Narratives in African communities, was held virtually due to Covid-19 and had attendance from over nine African countries.
The second ARC, themed Maximizing Africa’s Literacy Potential for Digitalization, was held at Makerere University, with physical attendance from five African countries.
This year, the conference is returning bigger and better at Hive Colab on the theme of Reshaping the Literacy Agenda for Inclusion, Financing and Digitalization.
This will happen on September 30, 2023, in partnership with HiPipo, the Ministry of Gender, and other stakeholders in the Government, the private sector, education, and FinTech, among others.
Mid-September 2022, Read Us Africa launched its Book Donation Drive during the groundbreaking 2nd Annual Africa Readers Conference.
The success of the program established partnerships with many reading clubs in schools and community libraries in the country.
Captioned #10kforLiteracy, the book donation drive entails lobbying for reading materials from institutions, individuals, and other entities that serve to benefit literacy beneficiaries.
They donate them to the different reading clubs, communities, entities and libraries experiencing hardship in acquiring adequate access to literacy materials that are so helpful in shaping the Knowledge space of citizens and thus developing society.
In January, the organization lobbied over 1000 books in cash and kind and visited over 2000 youths in the first quarter of the year in the districts of Kampala, Entebbe, and Jinja.
Ms. Agatha highlights that the poor reading culture of Africans has indeed presented a significant fallback.
“As the common adage goes, ‘If you want to hide something from an African, put it in a book’ because it is a known thing that Africans read only when they can’t avoid.
It’s the same story for Africans elsewhere, from government officials signing bills they didn’t read to students reading at the last minute for a test/exam.
A poor reading culture is a chronic disease that has been rooted in us since time immemorial, and this presents a significant challenge to anyone who tries to change that narrative,” says Ms. Agatha.
To Ms. Agatha and the entire team at Read Us Africa, the COVID-19 pandemic was more of a blessing in disguise because it was during the period that the entire idea was birthed.
While schools, institutions, and workplaces were in lockdown, many students became redundant at home with no hopes of ever going back to school.
Read Us Africa exploited the booming online engagements that were the only mode of engagement at that time, and the team formed online reading clubs.
Soon, the reading club grew in membership and the team felt the need to expand to different countries and Universities. Today, Read-Us Africa ranks as one of the best literacy agencies in Africa—thanks to Covid-19.
Hard work is always rewarded with accolades and applause, and it has opened wider doors for Ms. Akullu in her endevors.
Agatha’s first award was Best Playwright at the 5th Annual Radio Wa Drama Script Writing Competition in 2014, followed by Overall Winner of the 6th Annual Radio Wa Drama Scriptwriting competition in 2015.
In 2017, her play won in the Regional Wildlife Competition Gulu under Dr. Obote College Boroboro.
In 2018 under Jeresssar High School, she also wrote an award-winning skit and poem for the school in the Regional SWAS competitions.
In 2021, she won the International Women of Impact Awards held in Nigeria by Save the Girl Child Africa, which is a special recognition for African women in leadership.
What followed was the Global Edu Leaders Awards 2021, New Delhi, India, for educationalists who are changing the literacy agenda.
That same year, she was nominated for the Common Wealth Youth of Excellence Awards.
Last year, Read Us Africa received the Mulher Forte African Literature Awards in Botswana for the best book club category.
In between these awards are also adjudication recognitions like:
Chief Adjudicator of Engineer Writes Competition of Kyambogo University 2020; Deputy Chief Adjudicator of African Readers; Writers and Arts Competition 2020; Judge of Creative Mind Challenge 2020;
Judge of WARRAID Arts Competition 2021; Judge of ESI Anti-Corruption Poetry Challenge 2022; Chief Adjudicator of the 6th UDA National Inter-University Innovations Expo, Poetry and Debate Championship on Climate Change at Kyambogo University for poetry genre.
Her most recent award is the UNICEF Youth Innovation Challenge 2023 for youths below 24 whose innovations mitigate the effects of climate change.
Later this year, she will join other youths from 14 African Countries in Nairobi for YALI RLC EA Fellowship.
To young people
Ms. Agatha advises the youths to change the status quo because that’s where their comfort beds lie.
“They admire to be great but are not willing to pay the price. They want things presented to them in silver plates because they think that they are still too young to be or do this and that,” she explains.
Ms. Agatha stresses that they need to be consistent because that’s the only thing that could transform average into excellence.
She hints at the need to develop a culture of integrity, honesty, and accountability as the vibrating energies of your youthful lives.
If she were granted 20 minutes, Ms. Agatha would spend them with her dad.
“For the same reason, any teenage girl would want to bond with her long-lost father.
My entire life, I have wondered about the man who played a part in bringing me into this world. I would ask him what led him to be absent for all these years,” recounts Ms. Agatha.
Although she can’t repair all the broken pieces in 20 minutes, Ms. Agatha believes it would help her find closure.
If she were to live someone else’s life, she would enjoy reincarnating her firstborn (daughter).
“Growing up, I have learned that certain things like reading, writing, and financial literacy, among others, are better taught to children when still young. I was these things by the age of 7, which to me is still a much later age,” she explains.
It would thus be thrilling to see a younger version of herself.
No one knows what the future holds, but for every ambitious soul, the future can be determined.
Ten years from now, Ms. Agatha prospects to be a fully established writer with an expansion of her organization across Africa.
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She intends to build community libraries within Africa and expand the publishing arm of Read Us Africa.