Jan 21, 2015
I was born in a hilly community In south western Uganda. The community a very cold place at the time, barefoot we would walk on our toes because the stones would sting our feet as we went to school. I am from a average home able to survive moderate lives – without plenty but also with enough. My mother primary school teacher and my father a secondary school teacher.
In my family education was a given, all of us were allowed to school till we either passed failed, the sky for us was the limit. However this wasn’t true to many other community families. In Uganda girls are seen merely as meant to be married off and a source of wealth in families. Unless families are empowered to make a different argument, girls are often left out of school to do housework while their brothers go to school or for gainful employment. They are married off at 13, 14 and 15 years of age.
A number of girls have been to school and attained a degree, diploma or even a certificate but for me the biggest barrier to high achievement that I have seen among he women and girls I exchange with is life skills. These are coping skills to help people overcome challenging situations. These schools are many times not taught in school since academics have become the order of the day. Children on rote learning from as early as nursery school. Children do not relate what I learnt with real life but cram to be able to pass exams.
The other big challenge in our formal education for girls is the high drop out rates in primary school. Girls drop out of school more often than boys despite the fact that there is universal primary education. This also has some connection with poor life skills, without which many girls and indeed women continue to live under oppression and abuse
These skills include: assertiveness, - Self awareness, Self esteem, Negotiation, Effective communication, Empathy, Friendship formation, Peer resistance , Coping with emotion/stress, Critical thinking and analysis, Problem solving, Creating thinking, Decision making
These life skills play a big role in as far as they avert fear and promote confidence for girls and women to meeting the challenges as they come. Staying in school longer takes a lot of energy especially among the poor households. Girls have to stand their ground and insist they want to remain in school. Girls especially the older ones stop coming to school due to menstruation and poor sanitation in schools. We have a school in Western Uganda of 700 children using a single latrine that is unisex and multilevel, pupils and teachers, boys and girls, men and women share this toilet.
Many girls cannot withstand this unless they are strong willed and confident to wade the waves. And this skill is often not in born it must be learnt from the family, peers and environment we live in sine in money ecsonomies its survival for the fittest – girls and women must be passionate and fight for their inclusion and protection.
Our effort in the community has been to firstly to mobilize children and train them on life skills during holidays. We also provide technical services to many organizations regarding life skills foe school going and out of school youth but also have been providing the same especially positive parenting skills to primary teachers, young people with HIV, carers and parents of children with HIV. We support these categories of people to understand that education in not only for getting high grades but for better livelihoods. The like skills education is demonstrated on how it utilizes academic staff to ensure a future that is protected
Secondly we mobilize funds for children from poor households to remain in school. We have been currently supporting 25 children in universal primary education and also providing 20 women and children living with HIV with transport to go to hospital for check up and get more ARVs and medicines. Parents contribute 22 US $ per child in school. We have been meeting this cost for these children. However in on March 7th 2013 the donor Dr. Kaori Izumi (RIP) from Japan and human rights defender for a long time in Eastern and Southern Africa attached to UN FAO Southern Africa passed on and therefore the continuity of these children education and access to health services lies in limbo.
In Uganda laws to ensure children access school are in place but the enforcement has been ill managed, the country is rocked with high levels of corruption and the laissez faire attitude in most government law enforcement agencies, so we are looking for other ways of challenging the status quo in exposing children to life skills education as early as possible to build them into strong assertive, confident and able to make critical decisions in the future.