SHIP Creating an Innovative Approach to Girls’ Education and Learning in Uganda
Today October 11, 2013 is the International Day of the Girl Child as declared in the United Nations General Assembly under Resolution 66/170 in 2011. This is in a bid to recognize girls’ rights and the unique challenges girls face worldwide.
The event is organized by the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development. This year’s theme is ““Innovations for Girls’ Education and Learning.” As part of this year’s celebrations, Francis Mondo Kyateka, the Assistant Commissioner in the Ministry of Gender in Uganda’s government said that the process of removing importation taxes on sanitary pads was one of the issues they were persuing to remove as it is one of the barriers to girls education in Uganda.
Research indicates that about 54.1 percent of the women (ever married) in Uganda got married as children (ICRW) and 24 percent of them are already mothers or pregnant by this age (UBoS, 2012). The fulfillment of girls’ right to education is first and foremost an obligation and moral imperative. There is also overwhelming evidence that girls’ education, especially at the secondary level, is a powerful transformative force for societies and girls themselves: it is the one consistent positive determinant of practically every desired development outcome, from reductions in mortality and fertility, to poverty reduction and equitable growth, to social norm change and democratization. We must all join efforts to support girls’ education and their retention in school.
The Monitor Newpaper of today reports that Primary school enrolment statistics point towards gender equality (49 per cent girls 51 per cent boys) and that greater access to schooling is, however, not enough. Fewer girls (less than 30 per cent), who start Primary One, complete Primary education on time and likewise for secondary education. According to the Education Sector Annual Performance Review 2010, secondary education completion rate for girls was only 32 per cent compared to 45 per cent for boys.
So, how can we help girls join, stay in schools and learn?. These should be efforts to address the often cited problems responsible for school dropout such as early marriages, early pregnancies, lack of scholastic materials, lack of sanitary facilities such as gender sensitive toilets and changing rooms in case of menstruation, sanitary pads and changing dresses. It has also been pointed out that girls are also faced with heavy domestic obligations at home which interferes wit their concentration in school.
A bout two months ago Atim (not real name), a 14 year girl in primary school fell victim of pregnancy. Atim, a total orphan lived with her grandmother in one of the remote villages in Teso. She was way laid on her way back home from school and raped. She preferred to keep this to herself for fear of being blamed by society. Little did she know that she was pregnant. It was later on found out that her neighbor was responsible for the pregnancy. Due to the weak laws, the clan took it upon themselves to discipline the perpetrator by giving him some flogs and handed the girl to him as a wife. Atim gave birth but was left paralyzed. This is just one case out of many that happen every day in our communities.
While there has been significant progress in improving girls’ access to education over the years, many girls, continue to be deprived of this basic right. Many girls are still unable to attend school and complete their education due to safety-related, financial, institutional and cultural barriers. Even when girls are in school, perceived low returns from poor quality of education, low aspirations, or household chores and other responsibilities keep them from attending school or from achieving adequate learning outcomes.
The Sexual health education Project (SHIP) in Uganda is reaching out to young people by empowering them
Initiatives such as “Boys for Girls’ Rights club” introduced by SHIIP are meant to promote and encourage boys to raise their voices by promoting and defending girls’ rights. These clubs are introduced so far in Bwambara modern vocational school and St. Mathias Secondary schools in Rukungiri to curb the rampant abuse of girls’ rights by different people such as peers, teachers, parents and the community among others. This is a platform to enable boys to be creative and innovative in promoting the understanding of the issues that affect girls in the society. This enhances interaction, discussion and awareness on gender issues thereby reducing stereotypes and negativity between girls and boys. Boys have also gained the confidence to stand up and defend the rights of girls. Overall communities are getting sensitized on the value of treating girls and boys equally in a society.
It is astonishing to report that the ‘Boys for Girls' Rights' club of St Mathias Vocational Secondary School-Kasenyi in Rukungiri was able to convince a girl who had dropped out of school for marriage to come back to school. These are the seemingly small acts that cumulatively impact on our society.
So for us as SHIP we are using fun and innovative approaches to providing skills and knowledge to young people, thus creating positive changes in the community.
So, each us has a critical role to play in ensuring that we enable girls achieve their full potential in our communities.