By Andrew Masinde
Every year New Vision, in its Woman Achiever Awards, recognises the unsung heroines, those women who have gone an extra mile to improve the conditions in their communities. In the ninth edition, New Vision, in partnership with UNFPA, is recognising women who have made tremendous contributions to education, especially helping girls who have dropped out of school due to pregnancy or other reasons, to go back to school or attain any form of skills training to better their lives
Zahara Abdulkarim dropped out of school in Primary Six. She was rarely in school because she often defaulted on school fees and would not be allowed into the classroom. “I decided to drop out of school to avoid the embarrassment that came with being sent away from the classroom for not paying school fees.
I opted to work at a restaurant at a landing site in Entebbe, Wakiso district. I would leave home early in the morning like I was going to school, but would instead go to the restaurant. I was paid sh2,000 every day, which was enough for me to buy whatever I needed.
One afternoon, Barbara Apio came to the restaurant and I served her food. She asked why I was not in school and when I explained why, she advised me to go back to school, promising to help me get sponsorship,” Abdulkarim explains. Apio got me sponsorship from Kids in Need, an NGO that does social work. “I am now in S.3,” Abdulkarim explains. “Apio still checks on me whenever she comes to school to counsel students,” Abdulkarim adds.
Who is Apio?
Apio was born in 1991 in Katakwi district, eastern Uganda. She went to St. Theresa Primary School in Entebbe, Masese Girls in Jinja for her O’level, Entebbe senior secondary School for her A’level and Makerere University where she is currently pursuing a degree in community psychology. Apio is in her final year.
What inspired Apio?
My mother, Margaret Ongodia, was an LC3 leader in Entebbe. Whenever she would be going to the fi eld for social work, I would accompany her. I witnessed how recklessly some young girls lived, so I talked to my mother and suggested that we help rehabilitate the young girls. However, she did not support the idea. When my mother passed away during my Senior Three, my future looked bleak. In addition, my aunt, who adopted me could not afford to give me everything that my mother provided, so I decided to look for a job.
I approached Kids in Need, seeking a voluntary work and I was given employment “I would go for fi eld work every weekend to talk to girls and encourage them to stay in school. Many did not take me seriously because I was young, but that never deterred me. From my S.6 vacation, I started going to organisations that employ young girls to warn them about employing children,” Apio explains.
I was concerned whenever I would see young girls hawking products, engaging in sex trade and working as waitresses because this exposed them to diseases such as HIV/AIDS. Most girls claimed they dropped out of school because they failed to raise school fees or their parents died
I understood their plight and through counselling, I convinced them to return to school and stay away from bars. I realised it was not enough talking to students, so I also talked to their teachers and parents. In addition, I visited community members’ homes to encourage girls working as housemaids to go back to school.
What others say about Apio
Faridah Nalwadda, a proprietor of a restaurant at one of the landing sites in Entebbe, says she was intrigued when a young girl took her on for employing young people. “Indeed I was guilty because at the time, I was employing a girl aged 13. I had to let the girl go back to school.
I now employ mature women, thanks to Apio’s counsel,” Nalwada explains. Robinah Nantulya, the deputy head teacher of Kigungu Primary School in Entebbe says Apio is a blessing to the school. She is young, but handles issues maturely. When she fi rst came to our school, we allowed her to talk to our girls because the situation was bad. The rate of absenteeism was high because girls would abandon school to engage in business.
Since she started teaching about the importance of going to school, many girls who had dropped out have returned and those who were never involved in co-curricular activities have now joined school clubs,” Nantulya explains. Apio has helped the girls fall in love with school, has boosted their confi dence and empowered them to fi ght for their rights. If we continue supporting her, she could change the face of girl-child education in Uganda.
Apio says when she asks some parents to take their children to school, they ask her for money to buy scholastic requirements. However, being a student herself, she cannot meet such demands.
Apio wants to see all girls in school. She wants to advocate for children’s rights, especially the girl-child
WOMAN ACHIEVER AWARDS 2014: WOMEN IN EDUCATION
Do you know any woman who has mobilised or used her own resources to spearhead programmes aimed at promoting girls education, especially helping girls who have dropped out of school due to pregnancy or other reasons, to go back to school or attain any form of skills training? Nominate her by sending her name, her telephone contact, her area/community of operation, what she has done/is doing and your name and telephone contact to Woman Achiever 2014, New Vision, P.O. Box 9815, Kampala. You can also email: firstname.lastname@example.org; or by SMS type achiever (space) her name and telephone number, and send to 8338