Helping girls learn
Teachers like Christine are providing girls left behind with an education for life.
Christine dreamed of becoming a teacher since she was in primary school. She had been inspired by one of her own teachers, captivated by the way she led her own life and inspired by the way she taught.
When Christine’s family couldn’t afford to send her to school and pressured her instead to stay at home to help with the children and housework, she held on to that ambition to teach. She payed her own school fees by working on people’s farms and finally achieved her dream. Now, she wants to use her experience to help others.
VSO's Education for Life project focuses on girls aged 10 to 19 years old, who have already dropped out of primary school. The project has set up ”catch-up” centres for these girls to attend free of charge three days a week and get the education and support they deserve and need.
Christine now teaches in a VSO catch up centre, ensuring other young girls are not left behind - without hope, opportunities or rights.
“I didn’t want the children in my community to face the same problems as I did. It was a big struggle for me, but I did make it in the end. Some girls have such difficult lives because of poverty – they see their parents struggling and they work in people’s shambas [small farms] for money – so in the end they want to get married so they can fend for themselves rather than their families.”
Christine teaching at a VSO catch up centre
She uses her own struggles to help understand the challenges they’re facing. Girls are up against many barriers such as female gentile mutilation (FGM), the dowry system, early forced marriage, and teenage pregnancy. They often face discrimination and violence. It's crucial girls stay safe and have the skills, knowledge and education to build brighter futures for themselves.
Christina finds that the girls inspire her as much as she inspires them.
“The girls in my class tell me that they want to become hairdressers, they want to open their own business. They have ideas for their futures now. For example, some of the girls didn’t know how to add or subtract, now they will be able to give change to their customers.
“My favourite part is seeing the girls progress and change, seeing how they were when they first arrived and how they are now – it means I’ve done something as their teacher.”
An education for life
There are around 30 girls enrolled in each catch-up centre, together with one or two teachers, three mentors, three community health officers and a group of childminders to look after the girls’ babies so they can focus on their lessons. The centres are open three days a week and two classes are conducted each day. They cover maths, English, Swahili, and life skills.
The teachers are all fully qualified, with additional training from VSO volunteers in engaging and effective teaching methods, such as using flashcards, posters and real-life objects. Peter (pictured) is a national VSO education volunteer who upskills the teachers in multi-grade teaching, curriculum delivery and supports them to use development plans, professional lesson plans, progress records and attendance sheets.
The centres are not schools; they give the girls the time and space to learn and prepare for return back into regular school, or to get a job, learn a trade or set up their own business. They are “catching up” to opportunities they lost when they dropped out of school. They are “catching up” on life. This is so important in helping young girls who have missed so much.