Our Girls’ Education Initiative Program Keeps African Girls in School
Our Girls’ Education Initiative (GEI) program begin in 2011 with just 19 fourth to sixth grade girls from the nearby government school in Cubu parish. At that time, these were the only girls who had advanced to that level from Agwata village and most were of the younger age. Girls were either not attending school or were dropping out very early, even at second or third grade often to help their mothers with gardening or child rearing at home. If girls did make it to higher levels in school, they often dropped out at the fifth or sixth grade level because of poor performance and/or lack of support at home. Often, these girls would then get married at a very young age simply “becasuse there was nothing else for them to do” according to community members.
With the support of our women’s group in Cubu, our women’ group coordinator began meeting with the girls and with their mothers to encourage them to stay in school and be attentive to their studies. Gradually, the numbers of girls increased so that in 2014, we hired a full-time on site person to run this program and to meet every week with the girls. There are now over 95 girls in the program from second grade to sixth grade. Six girls completed P-7 (sixth grade) in 2014 and all have continued their education in 2015 with the help of our sponsorship program. Enrollment of girls is now much higher in the upper classes of fourth to sixth grade. In 2015, thirteen of the twenty-eight sixth grade students are girls.
Key Components of the Girls’ Education Initiative Program to Keep African Girls in School
Our GEI program has five key ingredients which we believe are critical to the success of our program:
- Full-time staff person on site to run the program and interact, monitor and inspire the girls.
- Specific curriculum materials which are presented to the girls in a weekly meeting which has the training component along with an opportunity for fun and socialization amongst the girls. Outside speakers are periodically brought in too.
- Periodic presentations to the parents and to community members relative to their involvement and support of girls’ education.
- Follow up with girls who are having issues at home or school, and/or who are not showing up at school or at GEI weekly meetings.
- Knowledge that scholarships and sponsorships are available through Outreach Uganda for those girls who pass well in P-7 so that they can continue their education.
How Can You Help Our Girls’ Education Initiative Program Accomplish Even More?
Since its beginning four year ago, our GEI program has made much progress and grown substantially. We want to keep that momentum going and both solidify and expand the program to more girls. In the next couple of years, provided donor funding is available, we would like to split the girls into two age groups and formalize the curriculum for each group. This will also allow us to provide this curriculum at other interested schools within our sub-county, and also allow other groups to use our curriculum for girls’ program throughout Uganda. We are currently seeking a volunteer with a writing or teaching background to help us write this curriculum.
Further down the road and if donors can be found, we would like to provide a small boarding section for those girls in P-6 and P-7 who need more study time and stronger support to stay in school. This would involve constructing either a large thatch hut or a smaller cement block building and the hiring of a matron to supervise the boarding section.
Our Other African Girls Education Efforts Which Complement the Girls’ Education Initiative Program
Besides our GEI program, we provide several other programs which complement the GEI program or target other groups of children such as children of our Jinja beaders to keep them in school. Such efforts include:
- Our child sponsorship program which now has over 200 children sponsored from Nursery age through vocational and university
- Wood bead bracelet program to provide limited scholarship assistance to specially identified students in the advanced level of secondary and university or vocational to allow them to complete their program
- Holiday tutoring program for selected groups of sponsored students
- Special scholarships and sponsorships to qualified students, especially girls, completing P-7 at the Cubu Primary School in Agwata to allow the students to continue their education beyond primary
- Field trips and end of year awards to recognize students’ achievements
- Supplemental assistance provided to the Maranatha Schools in Mityana