What you need to know:
- The programme implemented by the Voluntary Services Overseas Kenya and Leonard Cheshire.
- With the project having closed, several recommendations were fronted to enhance the re-entry of girls to schools and their empowerment.
Three 20-year-olds may have different experiences but share one story of hope and resilience.
Alice Mangi Yaah, a resident of Kilifi County, is a plumbing apprentice. The mother of one had contemplated suicide after she fell pregnant and was ostracised by her community. But an opportunity changed her life.
“When I gave birth while in Standard Six at 16, I begged my parents to take me back to school, but they said since I was not serious the first time, there was no chance they would trust me. Because I loved football, I would attend training and one day my coach told me that one organisation was taking girls who had dropped out of school for retraining and skills building. I did not hesitate.”
In Migori County, Lucy Matete had also come across the same opportunity, which she heard about from her village elders. A mother of one, she dropped out of Standard Six. Today she is a building technology apprentice. Her esteem, which had been shattered, has been restored.
“When I was sitting at home wasting away, I felt hopeless. That is why I would go to Mjengo sites hoping to get work. I would be only paid Sh200-250 a day. And so, when I heard I could be trained, I was overjoyed. Now I can do plasters, paint and even instal tiles. I am on my way to becoming a civil engineer, and my future is bright.”
For Hafsa Abdi in Garissa County, patriarchy was the biggest hindrance to her education, but today, she runs the only hair salon in her community. “I had to drop out at Standard Four. My father believed my morals would depreciate if I became well-read. I had forgotten how to read and write. It was difficult for me as I had stayed out of the classroom for a long time. After training in hairdressing, I would still clash with my parents. They would not allow me to plait in the house, but I did not give up.”
Ms Yaah has regained her voice. She has taken her child and youngest sibling to school, and her position in the community has been elevated. Whenever she goes home, she is embraced. She encourages other girls who wear similar shoes not to give up. She shares some of the skills she has gained.
Ms Matete encourages girls who have dropped out of school to find ways to stay busy. That way, they will avoid teen pregnancies while taking up available opportunities.
Ms Abdi has big dreams. She hopes to one day open a spa and salon in Nairobi. She has already witnessed a lot of change in her household. Her father has now allowed her younger sisters to resume learning. He is happy that her small business can support the family.
The three young women were among 5,700 marginalised girls aged between 10 and 19 selected for an ActionAid programme implemented by the Voluntary Services Overseas Kenya and Leonard Cheshire, dubbed Education for Life. The initiative that ran for four and a half years in Isiolo, Garissa, Kisumu, Migori and Kilifi closed officially last Thursday. During that period, the programme engaged 70 per cent of girls who had never enrolled in school, 30 per cent who had some interface with the formal education system but dropped out without gaining basic education, and 30 per cent of girls with disabilities.
Accelerated learning for functional numeracy and literacy was adopted at catch-up classes for six to nine months. “We conducted three classes a week for three hours at temporary centres, where English, Kiswahili and Mathematics were taught. Additionally, we offered psychosocial support, life skills, entrepreneurship training and career counselling,” said Lucky Mwaka, project officer at EFL, through partner organisation Sauti ya Wanawake, Pwani.
“Afterwards, the girls would decide whether they preferred to go back to primary school to continue with their education, to go to vocational centres of training and take up apprenticeship, or to engage in small businesses.
“The programme was also adapted to suit girls’ needs by offering childminders, a feeding plan and dignity kits. Education plans were also individualised based on entry-level assessments with learning materials ranging from the curriculum, facilitators guides, and workbooks tailored to cater to the needs of the girls.”
Of 743 girls who chose vocational training, 36 per cent of girls graduated to self-employment. Sixty-two took non-traditional courses, while 54 took non-traditional courses under the apprenticeship pathway. These courses were ICT, computer packages, interior design, art and design, plumbing and fitting, masonry, carpentry and joinery, electrical wiring and installation, motor vehicle mechanics, welding, building and construction, shoe making and weaving. Ninety per cent of girls of the 573 girls who went back to primary school were retained. Out of 1961 girls who opted for entrepreneurship 71 per cent are operating successful businesses as of January 2023.
With the project having closed, several recommendations were fronted to enhance the re-entry of girls to schools and their empowerment. First, the government should adopt the catch-up centre model for implementing the accelerated education programme.
At the community level, the structures should be facilitated to support girls who have dropped out of school to avail themselves of the available opportunities. The labour market survey should establish the parameters for business coaching and career and psychological counselling at catch-up centres.
Parental or spousal involvement would create ownership of the preferred pathways for girls, as would the involvement of duty bearers in disbursing capitation, school modelling, disability and gender inclusion training. Lastly, monthly spot-checks on the progress of girls admitted to primary schools are crucial, as well as home visits for girls who may have dropped out to help them return to school.