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Empowerment for Girls Education: Supporting the vulnerable groups

By Andrew Masinde

Added 19th March 2020 03:37 PM

Charles Wabwire, the consortium’s leader for Empowerment for Girls’ Education (GEC) project - at Opportunity International says EGE was inspired by SDG4, “To ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all”.

Empowerment for Girls Education: Supporting the vulnerable groups

The Private Education Development Network (PEDN) staff (in blue shirts) receiving an award from Opportunity International UK and Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC) project Fund Management

Charles Wabwire, the consortium’s leader for Empowerment for Girls’ Education (GEC) project - at Opportunity International says EGE was inspired by SDG4, “To ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all”.

By Andrew Masinde 

Teddy Namakula, a mother of two from Kakumiro district says she had failed to take two of her children to school because of financial constraints.  So she let them stay at home until they are of age to trek the long distance to school.

"The nearby schools are privately owned and one has to pay tuition fees, yet my husband who is a peasant farmer, cannot afford it," Namakula explains.

In 2019, she was told by the headteacher of the school where her son was studying at that Private Education Development Network (PEDN) was sponsoring children. Namakula approached one of their officials, seeking guidance on how she could benefit from the initiative. 

"I thought they were paying fees directly to schools. However, I was offered capital to start a business that would help me get money to pay fees and take care of only my daughter," Namakula said.

Namakula who already had skills in operating a salon was given sh400,000 that she used to buy equipment, and pay rent for the new business, of a salon in Kakumiro trading centre.

"This term, using proceeds from the salon, I have paid school fees for my children. The money is meant to cater for girls, but I was lucky that I made enough money to pay for my son in Primary Three as well," she said.

Namakula is happy that because of the salon, she will be able to educate her children up to university level.

From the salon, she plans to rear goats and pigs to grow her earnings.

Organisations involved

Namakula's children are among the many others, whose future would have been bleak had it not been for Empowerment for Girls' Education (EGE) in Uganda.

EGE is a three-year project funded by UKAID and is implemented by a consortium of organisations.

The organisations include Opportunity International as the lead partner. The others are Private Education Development Network (PEDN), OBUL, Teach a Man to Fish (TAM2F), Aflatoun International and Link Community Development (LCD) as key partner organisations (KPOs).

Charles Wabwire, the consortium's leader for Empowerment for Girls' Education (GEC) project - at Opportunity International says EGE was inspired by SDG4, "To ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all". Wabwire explained that EGE project was implemented in 132 affordable private primary and secondary schools in 29 districts in Uganda.

  hildren learn about saving using penguin banks during   project national  closure meeting at ilver prings otel  ampala Children learn about saving using penguin banks during EGE GEC project national closure meeting at Silver Springs Hotel - Kampala

 

Affordable private schools are small, independently owned and are run by local entrepreneurs who are passionate about educating the community.

"The underlying assumption during the EGE founding was that economic challenges, poor quality teaching and school environment, as well as unfavourable societal gender norms in these schools, were the main barriers to girl's education in Uganda," he said.

It is against this background that DFID and Opportunity International started an EGE project to provide girls with avenues that would support them to remain in school and also create ways that would bring in revenue to support their education.

According to Wabwire, EGE supported girls with their caregivers by strengthening their already existing household-based income-generating activities, to guarantee contribution to girls' education costs and improve school attendance.

Wabwire explained that the beneficiaries were selected from among learners who had persistent school fees debt arrears carried over to subsequent school terms.

"We trained them on how to operate their already existing small businesses. For those with no business yet, they were supported to identify viable activities. Some were supported with funding to boost the already existing ventures," Wabwire said.

He revealed that over 29 households trained, have their business running and many are using the profits from the business to pay school fees and other school-related costs.

Others are using the profits for reinvestment in the business, saving with the SACCOS, healthcare and food, among others.

Child protection

Besides financial support, Nixon Ochatre, the executive director for PEDN also said through the EGE project, they undertook a whole-school community approach to raising child protection and safeguarding awareness.

According to Ochatre, they mobilised girls into groups in various schools from which they were trained on recognising abuse, how to avoid risk situations, how to respond to the protection and where to report concerns.

"PEDN also held sensitisation meetings in schools on the role of parents and community leaders on ensuring girls' schooling and safety. Over 820 parents and community leaders were sensitised," he said.

Financial literacy

Amanda Burrows, senior programme manager Opportunity International UK, says through EGE, they are supporting learners with training in financial literacy, business leadership and entrepreneurial skills.

This is aimed at helping learners establish and manage an income-generating enterprise during and after school. According to Burrows, with the guidance of teachers, students identified business ideas, developed them, launched and managed them. These helped them improve their performance in business skills.

"A total of 560 teachers were trained to support 7,505 learners to set up and implement school businesses.

The businesses were also supported with funding and also parental advice," Burrows said. She added that over 132 school businesses were started and have generated over sh19m, with an average profit of sh145,000.

"Learners' survival skills in business, communication and teamwork and problem-solving skills have improved," she said.

Community engagement

Ochatre says in many communities, directors and teachers were not involving leaners in school activities and in how to create a safe learning environment.

To change this, EGE started sensitising the directors and teachers on why learners need to be involved. Over 218 school were trained. In the groups, Ochatre added that 5,998 girls were trained in savings.

Many are practising savings of both monetary and nonmonetary education-related items such as books, pens, pads, for which they would otherwise spend money to purchase.

Hope Nankunda, the executive director for Raising Teenagers Uganda, one of the non-governmental organisations that supported PEDN on helping girls realise their dreams, said they were also trained on sexual reproductive health management.

According to Nankunda, through the training, girls where issued with a start-up kit for the production of reusable sanitary pads. 

Supporting private schools

The trend of private entrepreneurs' increasing role in education service delivery is evident in various parts of the country. However, they are required to operate in built-for-purpose infrastructure and duly qualified teachers.

However, due to low fees charged, the schools are hardly able to raise the funds needed to invest in infrastructure growth, to provide the continuous professional development required to keep teachers updated and to secure appropriate teaching and learning materials and equipment.

To respond to the schools' challenges, Opportunity Bank Uganda Limited responded with financial solutions, tailored to address challenges faced by the schools, learners and households.

The trend of private entrepreneurs' increasing role in education service delivery is evident in various parts of the country. However, they are required to operate in built-for-purpose infrastructure and duly qualified teachers.

However, due to low fees charged, the schools are hardly able to raise the funds needed to invest in infrastructure growth, to provide the continuous professional development required to keep teachers updated and to secure appropriate teaching and learning materials and equipment.

To respond to the schools' challenges, Opportunity Bank Uganda Limited responded with financial solutions, tailored to address challenges faced by the schools, learners and households.

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