Transition from Primary to Secondary School

March 2, 2020

Research has shown that gender barriers conspire with other forms of disadvantage and discrimination to particularly affect girls and women negatively.

Culture which has a very strong hold over most communities in Mombasa, for example, has created a trend of male dominance leading to marginalization of young girls and women. The women and young girls are left to take care of children, perform household chores and engage in casual labor to feed their families. Cases of FGM, early marriages and pregnancy are rampant. Once a girl becomes pregnant, she is quickly married off to save the family from ‘shame.’

Transition from Primary to Secondary school for girls in the Coast Province has been very low. The few girls in the past who were able to finish Primary school did not get the necessary support they needed to further their studies. Some of these girls performed exemplary well in school and would have benefited greatly with alternative options to education.

On our recent visit to two Mombasa schools, we realized that most of the schools are day schools as opposed to the schools in Nairobi which have a high number of boarding schools. Mombasa is predominantly a Muslim town which keeps a very keen eye on women and young girls. Though the culture may not favor educating the girl child, the community likes to keep the females close to their families; boarding schools are therefore, not favored. The principles of the schools we visited were happy to have a girl’s club at the school. Like any other girl’s school, they have challenges that they cannot solve on their own. One of the principles lamented that parents have completely abandoned their responsibilities towards their children’s academics. They do not take the time to sit and look at the children’s schoolwork. They don’t attend school meetings to assess their children’s performance. The same issues we reported from the schools we mentor here in Nairobi were echoed at the schools in Mombasa. Teachers are having a hard time trying to teach students who do not get support from their parents.

There are many issues affecting the girls that they are not able to share with either their teachers or parents. Most of the girls have stopped sharing personal information with their teachers because the same teachers will share the information in the staff room with the other teachers, and suddenly, it becomes public knowledge. They would rather talk to someone they can trust to keep their secrets or to help them without announcing their issues publicly. We ensure the girls at The Choice Club meetings that we handle every bit of information with confidence unless the student’s life is in danger. In that instance, and with their permission, we will involve other parties, like the school heads, so that the girl can get the help she needs.

As we form the Choice Club activities in the two schools that we identified, we’ve decided we will initially work with the girls to see how they feel about themselves, how they feel about school, how they relate with those at home, and lastly, how they relate with those in their community. By the end of the year, we hope to have girls who will reject influences that would cause them to run away from school, to instill confidence so each girl will learn she can speak up for herself, become a role model to the other girls and those in her community, and finally, a peer educator who can champion education for the girls within the community. Our goal through the courses we’ll be teaching is both to boost self-confidence and aspire the girls to learn and gain self-actualization.

An African proverb says, “If we educate a boy, we educate one person. If we educate a girl, we educate a family – and a whole nation.” By sending a girl to school, she is far more likely to ensure that her children will also receive an education. Education is a vehicle that breaks the shackles of poverty thereby, leading to transformation, development, and progress.

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