INTERNATIONAL DAY OF THE GIRL!

WHAT DOES GOING TO SCHOOL MEAN FOR OUR GIRLS?

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In Uganda a girl’s education is not considered a priority. Girls come up against barriers such as traditional gender roles and poverty in wanting to receive an education. Girls as young as 6 years old can miss out on going to school because they are needed for full time work. 52% of girls have to drop out of school as they are unable to sustain the financial burden of education. Girls are often forced to marry young and pregnancy rates are high with 35% of girls dropping out of school because of early marriage and 23% dropping out due to pregnancy.*

Education makes a significant change not only to girls and women in their own right, but to their children, families and communities. When you empower a girl with education, a whole community benefits. When women earn an income and are empowered to make educated decisions within their families and communities, they create more peaceful societies and sustainable economies.

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On International Day of the Girl Child we are celebrating some of the amazing girls who attend School for Life. Their dedication to receiving an education and creating change within their communities is inspiring and deserves to be recognised today and every day!

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Meet Jane

12 years old in Primary 4

I am energetic and sporty and I can’t wait to play netball at lunch time with my friends every day! Last year my family home burnt down in a fire which took all of our possessions. I now live with my mother, my grandmother, my uncle and his three children. I love to eat matooke (mashed bananas) and rice. At school my favourite subject is English, especially reading stories. I study hard at school because I want to go to University and study to become a doctor.

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Meet Sandra

10 years old in Primary 5

I am happy at school and enjoy learning all subjects but I really love spending time reading - it teaches me so much about the world! At lunch time I enjoy any meals that include rice and after this I play netball with my friends. At the end of the school day I walk to my house where I live with my mother and 3 siblings. My father used to live with us but he passed away last year. This means that I have to help my mother more now, and my chores each day include fetching water and firewood, cooking and washing utensils. I hope that when I am older I can be a teacher and continue to help children get an education.

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Meet Joselyn,

7 Years old in Primary 2

My teachers praise me for being confident in class and I love to show them my understanding by writing answers on the board when I can. My favourite lessons are reading and learning English. At the end of the day I return to my village where I live with my aunty who is a hairdresser and my father who is a teacher. My father helps me with my homework to ensure I am doing well at school. My job is to wash my uniform so that it stays clean and looks nice each day. I am so proud to wear my School for Life uniform! I also wash utensils after each meal. I work really hard in class so that I do well at school. I want to be a pilot when I grow up so I must continue to study and be the best that I can.  

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Meet Phiona

10 years old in Primary 2

I live at home with my mother and father who are farmers. My 5 siblings live with us too so home life is very busy! We all help our parents by doing chores before and after school. My job is to wash the utensils after each meal. I am happy when I'm at school and really like reading books. The library is my favourite place and I like to visit at lunch times with my friend Margaret.

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Meet Sophia

11 years old in Primary 5

I am new to Katuuso school but am enjoying my new friends and my teachers. My teachers praise me for being a good listener and for being helpful to my peers. I love the way we sing lots in class and my English is already improving because of our lessons here. I enjoy reading and spend my lunch times either at the library with books or playing netball with my friends. I live with my aunt and grandmother who are both farmers and I help them by fetching water each day and mopping the house. When I grow up I would like to be a nurse as I like helping others and it is horrible being sick without help.

 

Be part of the change this International day of the Girl and sign up to sponsor a child NoW! 

Your sponsorship provides quality education, healthcare, clean water, 3 nutritious meals per day and all educational materials required. Educating a girl can break cycles of poverty in just one generation. You can find out more and sign up HERE

* statistics UNICEF, 2008-2012

Jinja Field Trip

Last week, 72 of our Primary 5 and 6 children arrived at school bright and early, piled into buses with our teachers, and set off for the beautiful city of Jinja, Eastern Uganda. For most of our students (and some teachers), this was their first time visiting Jinja, an area best known for being the source of the Nile River, the longest river in the world.

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Our first stop along the way was the Mandela National Stadium in Kampala, where our students were able to tour the grounds of their national soccer team and race around the tracks. As football is the most popular sport in Uganda, the students were particularly excited to see where the Cranes (our national team) compete. Their eyes were wide as they looked at the impressive buildings surrounding them; some asked the teachers how apartment buildings didn’t collapse even though they were, “houses stacked on top of each other." The bustling city of Kampala is far different to that of the peaceful village from which they live.

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From there, we jumped back onto the buses and drove a further hour and half east, passing rolling hills, beautiful tea plantations and picture perfect landscapes. Our second stop was Bujagali Falls, where our students were able to take their first ever trip on a boat. Albeit a little nervously, all 72 children and 10 teachers dressed in life vests and boarded the boats; within seconds everyone was giggling and enjoying the beautiful scenery of Lake Victoria. 

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From there we drove to the Source of the River Nile for a picnic lunch and historical tour of the grounds, before heading to our accommodation for the night. As it was one of our student’s birthdays, we celebrated with cake, sparklers and happy birthday songs before the children closed their eyes from a long day’s journey.

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The next morning, the children awoke early - some as early as 3 am (they’re used to waking up so early in the village to do chores before school!) After their morning bucket showers, we had breakfast and tea before setting off for the Kakira Sugar Factory. We had a guided tour of the grounds and the students were able to see the manufacturing and packaging of one of the country’s largest sugar producers. After sampling some sweets, we ventured to our last stop, Nytil Textiles. It was in this impressive factory that we were able to see cotton seeds turn to cotton, then to threads, then to fabrics before being dyed and turned into clothes! It was a remarkable factory and the highlight of the field trip for many of our students.

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After two magical days, we boarded the busses and started the journey back to Katuuso village. Words can’t describe how happy our Primary 5 and 6 students were to have had this wonderful opportunity to explore their country.

Thanks for all your support and lots of love from Katuuso Primary School!

GEORGIE GARDNER & HER DAUGHTER Bronte VISIT OUR SCHOOLS IN UGANDA

Recently we welcomed our Ambassador Channel 9's Georgie Gardner and her 12-year-old daughter Bronte to visit our schools in Uganda. You can watch the full story here and read below in Georgie's own words why she wanted to take her daughter to Uganda and how this trip has changed both of their lives forever.

I am staring at my 12-year-old daughter, mystified by how she’s leapt from childhood to adolescence in what feels like the blink of an eye.

So confident and capable, so independent, intelligent and so incredibly strong-willed and determined to carve her own path.

She frustrates me and amazes me in equal measure. We have much in common and yet we're very different.

 Bronte and Georgie arrive at Katuuso Primary School

Bronte and Georgie arrive at Katuuso Primary School

Is it normal that at times I already at times feel somewhat redundant as her mother?

I decide to extract her from her comfortable world and thrust her into an environment is confronting and challenging, but also hopefully enlightening and uplifting.

Uganda is an African nation of roughly 40 million people, where poverty is common place and electricity and running water are luxuries. 

As ambassador for School for Life – an organisation that builds schools in rural Uganda – it’s been a dream of mine to go and see the schools and students for myself and get a better understanding of how they are run and the impact they are having.

Taking my daughter with me would make the experience even more valuable.

"Brontë," I ask casually, unsure of how my request will be received. "How would you like to come on an adventure, to Uganda?"

Her response was immediate and enthusiastic.

"Yes please," she said.

“Could we take skipping ropes to teach the kids to skip?”

 Bronte stays close to her Mum's side at the first government school they visit in Uganda. 

Bronte stays close to her Mum's side at the first government school they visit in Uganda. 

I could not have been more heartened by her excitement and knew we had a golden opportunity that was impossible to turn down.

Flights were booked, vaccinations were had and we read up as much as we could.

Through Brontë's school, we disseminated a wish list of education items most needed in Uganda and classmates were quick to come onboard and donate.

It was an amazing show of support and Brontë was proud to play a part in getting her school community involved.

Leaving day finally arrived and I'd be lying if I said I had no concerns; some trepidation about safety, contracting malaria and how Brontë would cope in such a foreign and confronting environment.

I had to trust my instincts that this would be an enriching experience that she would carry with her forever.

 Bronte and Georgie get to know our students at school

Bronte and Georgie get to know our students at school

Touch down at Entebbe International Airport and immediately we are confronted with foreign faces, everywhere, and so many. Our fair skin and blond hair almost feel like neon lights and we have never felt more conspicuous.

We are in the minority among a sea of people.

We hit the road to drive to the capital, Kampala, and the traffic is insane. Bumper to bumper and for long stretches, barely moving.

We traverse a so-called sealed road sitting in endless traffic as locals go about their day. Thousands of people walking, doing business, tending to their children. On a journey that should 45 minutes, we drive for well over two hours and we sit and we watch and we ponder.

It is sensory overload.

The buildings, the landscape and the goings on could not be more different from Sydney. It is vibrant and colourful and exciting and Brontë - who's usually never lost for words - is quiet and reserved as she takes it all in.

Our hotel is comfortable and offers respite from the heat. That night we sleep soundly, anticipating what the next day would bring.

We rise early to the din of traffic and pull back the curtains to look outside. Below is full view of a main road, jam-packed with vehicles of every description and people walking to work or school or university.

No-one is going for a jog or walking a dog. No-one is carrying a takeaway coffee.

We dress quickly, devour breakfast and hit the road, arriving at what is a typical Ugandan school.

It is a huge eye-opener.

The building is run down and decayed. The classroom concrete floors have potholes and there are torn and faded posters pasted to graffitied walls.

Classroom resources don't exist and the teacher is writing on a decrepit blackboard with a tiny piece of old chalk.

The children are engaged but distant. They look at us with curiosity or is it confusion? They are very focused on Brontë, who I sense is uneasy and stays close to my side.

After observing class for a while we thank them and I gift them a large packet of balloons.

There is a probability they won't know what a balloon is and I worry my gesture might have missed the mark.

Next stop Katuuso School, built and run by School for Life, and the contrast is stark.

It's lunchtime and children are everywhere - running, playing, laughing. A group of pre-schoolers descend on us, reaching for hugs, stroking our skin and vying for our attention.

They are adorable and happy and by all accounts healthy.

 Sunglasses are always a hit with our young students!

Sunglasses are always a hit with our young students!

Here, the gift of balloons is a hit.

I am seeing for myself how the program is providing so much more than an education and it is as remarkable as it is uplifting.

The afternoon is spent observing lessons and interacting with students and teachers. The appetite to learn is obvious as is the gratitude.

Every student is so happy to be there and you get the sense they don't want to waste a moment. We pull out skipping ropes and they go nuts with excitement and it's the ice-breaker I was hoping for.

Brontë is among them, no language is required, just jumping and giggling and it's making my heart sing!

 Bronte reading to some of our younger students

Bronte reading to some of our younger students

The following day we're invited to a student's home. Her name is Esther and we are told she is 13. She lives with her parents and six siblings.

Esther is reserved yet friendly, with a cheeky laugh. English is her favourite subject and her dream is to become a nurse so she can help other people.

Their home is considered one of the best in the area as it has some rendering and glass windows. It consists of four small rooms with minimal furniture and there is no electricity or running water.

 One of our students Esther shows Georgie her home in the local village. 

One of our students Esther shows Georgie her home in the local village. 

We ask Esther to show us where she collects water from. She hands Brontë an empty container and we set off along a dirt path with the girls ahead of us chatting to the extent of Esther's English.

Her mother Rose doesn’t speak any English so we walk together in silence.

Then, she takes my hand.

Motherhood. The universal leveller. Nothing needs to be said. Our connection is cemented.

I walk, smile and wipe away tears, immensely grateful for this moment.

 Rose, Esther, Bronte and Georgie 

Rose, Esther, Bronte and Georgie 

And so to life back in Sydney where we quickly immerse ourselves into work and school and our busy lives. Our challenge is to hold onto the amazing experience we’ve had together, and to never lose sight of what’s important in life.

As a tween Bronte’s journey has only just begun and I know there is still time and opportunity to guide her and hopefully set her on track to lead a happy and fulfilling life.

One that has a purpose bigger than herself.


If you would like to embark on a similar life-changing adventure with your child, we are now taking applications for our first TRAVEL4GOOD trip to visit our schools and fundraise for girls education in July 2018. Click below for more details