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
By Andrew Masinde
Rose Kanyesigye is a senior girl–child at Nkumba Secondary School. Although she is just in Senior One, she was tasked to identify girls who need counselling and report them to the senior woman teacher, Hellen Ntambi for assistance.
Kanyesigye’s appointment was strategic. She is a typical example of one of those bad girls that has turned full circle for the better.
“I used to misbehave when I was still in primary and I almost dropped out of school,” says the soft spoken Kanyesigye.
“I used to dodge classes and go with boys all the time. I did not know that this was dangerous because no one had told me,” recalls the 14-year old Kanyesigye.
Thank God, when she joined Nkumba, she found the senior woman had regular sessions with girls who were going astray.
“She sat me down and talked to me. I am now the senior girl–child at our school. I help Ntambi identify girls who need counselling,” Kanyesigye says confidently.
Kanyesigye is one of the over 120 girls that have been rehabilitated by Ntambi.
Ntambi has dedicated her time to seeing girls in the villages and the different schools where she taught gain a high self-esteem, which she says, is the only way they can have a bright future.
As a senior teacher at Bulamu Seed School in Mityana, she noticed that some girls had many challenges, which was affecting their studies.
“I used to find some of the girls with letters from boys. I would then take them through counselling sessions about their bodies, how they can react to the changes and how they can keep away from boys until they complete school,” Ntambi explains.
She adds that in the different sessions the girls would open up to her.
“I realised sometimes the problems were from home; parents had no time to talk to their children, so I started engaging parents on visitation days,” Ntambi says.
She adds this has had a great impact on these girls and their parents. Ntambi does not only stop at counselling; she also supports the desperate ones who cannot afford school fees.
"I started mobilising these girls in groups and advised them about self-control. I give them free life skills on how to abstain"
Eleven-year-old Margaret Nanono is one of the beneficiaries. She used to sell pancakes on the streets of Nkumba in Entebbe.
Nanono’s stepmother, runs who a stall near the university could not afford to provide for her all the requirements. “Selling pancakes, made me repeat class almost every year. All the friends that I started with are now in Primary Seven. But I am grateful to Ntambi who talked to my mother about giving me time to concentrate in school,” Nanono says.
Like Nanono, many children in Nkumba are involved in activities such as selling sugarcane by the roadside which keep them out of school.
Ntambi teaching pupils at her daycare centre Photos by Andrew Masinde
Ntambi says after she got married and started having children, she nearly lost one of them due to careless handling by the househelp.
“The maid almost killed my child. She used to treat the child as though she was an adult. She would deny her food and by the time I realised this, things were so bad,” she recalls. Because of this incident, she knew many babies of working parents were suffering the same pain.
After talking to a few parents, she hatched the idea of a day care centre. Although the idea was good, it later proved a big challenge as some parents were irresponsible. “Some parents would bring their children in the morning and pick them the following day. Some parents would spend days without picking their child,” Ntambi says.
Because of this, she came up with the idea of training maids on how to take care of children. Ntambi says instead of the parents dropping the children off, she would advise them to bring their maids for training on how to take care of the children.
Helping rural girls
Ntambi says in one of her visits to the villages in Masaka, she discovered that the area had many teenage mothers.
“I started mobilising these girls in groups and advising them on selfcontrol. I gave them free life skills on how to abstain and how to look after their babies even without having to go to look for men for money,” she says.
Ntambi adds that she would give them entrepreneurship skills, which has helped them improve their livelihoods. “Some operated small businesses but were not saving. I advised them to start saving the little money they were earning. This has greatly helped improve their livelihoods,” Ntambi explains.
Who is Ntambi?
Hellen Ntambi was born in 1979 in Mitalamaria in Mpigi district. She attended Jalamba Mitalamaria Primary School and later St Balikuddembe Mitalamaria Secondary School. Ntambi later joined Nkumba University for a bachelor’s degree and in 2005 she went back for masters in management and planning at the same university.
Ntambi says, she makes sure every girl she trains can do something for themselves. “It is not good to have a dependency syndrome. I make sure whoever goes through my hands, changes for good and I monitor the progress,” she says.
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