In mid-October we recognized and celebrated International Day of the Girl Child. Supporting girls through primary education has always been a key priority at IGF. Experience shows that too many girls in Uganda continue to drop out early and not finish primary school, often leading to early marriages, increased number of children, and higher likelihood of remaining in poverty throughout their lives.
Sponsoring a child through IGF is one way that you can support a girl to finish primary education. Some research suggests that each additional year of primary education creates a 10 to 20 percent increase in a woman’s wages later in life. Education lowers the risk of disease, and a child born to a literate mother is 50 percent more likely to survive past the age of five.
Jennifer is just one of many girls at IGF who will soon finish primary school, having been given the opportunity to continue studying. Jennifer started in Primary 1 class at IGF’s main primary school in Kitgum back in 2012, and next week she will sit for her Primary Leaving Examinations (PLE). It hasn’t been an easy path for Jennifer as she has dealt with responsibilities far beyond her age, but with the support of her mum and a sponsor from Australia, Jennifer is beating the odds to remain on the path to achieving her full potential.
Until this year, Jennifer was responsible for looking after her younger sister while her mother was away working to earn a small income. The challenges of earning an income have forced Jennifer’s mum out to a village where she digs in the field and plants crops for someone else. During the planting and harvesting seasons, her mum can be away for weeks at a time, only returning home briefly to check on the children before leaving again.
Each day Jennifer would get herself and her young sister ready, and they would walk together to school at IGF. After school Jennifer would go to the market and buy food with the little money that her mum had left with her. She cooked for her sister and herself, washed their uniforms and completed her homework in the little light that was left before dark. Jennifer stayed with her sister in a small room made of mud bricks with iron sheet roofing. The rent cost less than AUD $4 a month, but it was a lot for their single mum to afford. Jennifer’s father had died when she was only young. Jennifer’s mum admits that without Jennifer’s sponsor at IGF, she wouldn’t have been able to keep her daughter in school.
To her credit, Jennifer continued attending school despite the extra work at home, but it did impact on her performance, and last year she had to repeat Primary 6 class. Jennifer’s mum wants her to go to school so that she can have a better future than she had herself, and has realised that the extra pressures and responsibilities she has placed on her daughter are impacting on her education. There have been some changes at home this year, and as the final exams approach, Jennifer has had her chores lightened so that she can focus on doing her best at school.
Jennifer isn’t the only girl facing such challenges and responsibilities beyond her age, but we are hopeful that other girls will continue studying and aiming for better opportunities in their futures. It can be hard to balance the need for a parent to earn an income, and the extra responsibilities that many place on their children, particularly girl-children. Child sponsorship provides opportunities to continue education which many children would otherwise not have.