BreW ThaT sAveD heR lifE
At cock crow she wakes up, stumbles upon the saucepans from last nights dinner . She almost falls down but catches her balance with grace. Tio then clears way and makes for the door which she effortlessly swooshes open. Rushes to wash her face before she grabs her hoe to make for the garden, she has only 30 minutes to spare before she has to rush back home before her young brothers wake to tend to their needs before school. She is one of those exceptional Child parents, deprived of her parents at the age of 13 to HIV, Tio was left with no choice but to fend for her younger siblings every need. She is late now, rushing her siblings to her neighbor and good friend mama Andee, to look after them until she comes back home from school at 1pm, Tio can only afford half days of school. School is a luxury to 15 year old girls like Tio , but she remembers her fathers words about how education would take her places, make her see and achieve magic at far off places where there were the tallest buildings and she would be able to cook using a charcoal stove, she and her mother wouldn't have to cry any more from the smoke that came from cooking while using firewood.
She kept going to school until she could not push any more, her dreams were roaming in the morning fog now, coned by passion she lays in bed fighting the urge to puke from morning sickness, as she again swooshes the door to throw up, she curses the devil Lukung is, how he deceived her it would be okay.
I speak from a story of relatively several girls in Northern Uganda where i hail from, my voice is post war era. I refuse to stay like i was 20 years ago, i believe storngly in personal community transformation. Education, especially education for girls is the future.
Statistics of education of girls in Northern Uganda are very discouraging, girls enrollment in school is 24% while the boy's is at 78%, this is at the same level. 75% the girls In Gulu for example can not read or write, a figure that is 40% higher than the national illiteracy rate. which are mainly as a result of social and cultural barriers that prevent girls from attending school.These barriers include: gender-biased social norms where girls are called upon by teachers to perform duties such as fetching water during class time; limited psychosocial support services for girls affected by the war; girls traditionally serving as caregivers and being burdened when illness strikes a family; early marriage customs; high adolescent pregnancy rates; and rampant child labour due to poverty. luck of girl friendly sanitation infrastructure within school.
The impact these barriers to education have had on the community are;
Firstly my community, in northern Uganda is allegedly still recovering from the LRA war that lasted for a period of over 20 years, i say alleged because i believe its high time people moved from dependency on donors . Its not settling in my mind that able bodied men and women can, 20 years on still be surviving on the wishful hand of donors that they have made a lifestyle out of it.
some of these barriers are, dependency on aid when people could actually go to school and get employed or actually tend their farms and make an economy out of it .This has led to continued poverty and backwardness of my community which would collectively work together, to educate, inform , and mentor young children like the youth and encouraging them to go to school and actually go through with it, instead of marrying off young girls, older men spending the best of their day drinking away , fathers and mothers setting the wrong example for the children.
I believe children and youth too can help address the challenges faced in communities as regards to promotion of education, Universal Primary education policies should be implemented through out the community, to instruct schools to admit children without fees and additional levies.
Ensure there are adequate number of schools within safe walking distance.
Government and ministry of education should invest in rebuilding physical education infrastructure like schools, latrines, and employ quality staff to ensure students get the same level of education as those in the rest of the country.
Tio, like many thousand girls in Uganda face such challenges, she was able to have her child, lost 4 years in school while in cohabitation with Lukung, Tio became a brew master and set up a bar that specialized in local brew which she sold on a daily basis and saved up and was able to go back to school. She is a vibrant primary school teacher in Koch Kweyo,Gulu District, and hopes her students can have a better path than she did. She talks to and encourages girls to stay in school, some thing she lacked while in school, counseling and direction. I was privileged to meet Tio and many more women like her while i was doing research in Gulu and most of Northern Uganda, such are the women that really encourage me to see more light in life.