Education initiative offers Ugandan girls a better future

Participants in the Viva teacher training

A new education project in Kampala is providing more than 4,000 vulnerable girls with a hope for the future through innovative Creative Learning Centres.

Urban growth, rising costs of living, and traditional family structures are each contributing to statistics that show four in 10 girls live below the national poverty line in the Ugandan capital. 

According to children's charity Viva, most are considered a lower priority with regards to education in comparison to the men of the family.

Just 25 per cent girls in Kampala complete primary education at the expected age, and less than one in five go on to secondary school education. An estimated 15 per cent of adult women in the city are illiterate.

Many young women are vulnerable to harassment and abuse in the Ugandan culture, while marrying and pregnancy at a young age also often result in a premature end to schooling.

In response to this growing need for education for girls in Uganda, charities Viva and CRANE have partnered with the UK Government's Department for International Development to launch an education initiative that hopes to see a transformation in these statistics.

Twenty Creative Learning Centres which aim to re-integrate vulnerable girls into upper primary and lower secondary school through non-formal education have been opened across the city.

Nearly 2,000 girls aged 10 to 18-years-old have enrolled.  They are given the opportunity to learn about a wide range of subjects and will graduate from the centres after one or two terms before returning to some form of education.

A further 2,300 girls are to receive teacher training and family mentoring, and will take part in educational working groups, while the project will also train and resource mentors and teachers to work with pupils, their families and the wider community.

When the project was first initiated last July, Viva's chief executive Andy Dipper called it "a landmark moment", noting that it would give a real opportunity to "positively impact the lives of thousands of girls in Kampala".

"I hope and pray that it will be a springboard to us gaining further funding for other network locations around the world," he said.

Martha is one of the young women being educated through the Learning Centres.  She had to leave school after falling pregnant at the end of primary seven, the final year of primary education.

"I came to this centre to acquire the practical skills taught here and also to learn English," she explains.

"After leaving, I plan to use what I have learned here as a stepping stone to what I want to become. I plan to pass on these knowledge skills to my siblings and other people so they can be like me.

"My dream is to become a teacher," she finishes.

Viva's Network Consultant for Uganda, Miriam Friday, said she was delighted with how the education project is working out so far.

"We are really excited by the way the first girls have responded to being in the centres," she said.

"From hopelessness they are now confident and looking to the future. We hope this work will really demonstrate alternative ways of educating Uganda's children that will help them to become more independent."

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