Absenteeism in G.S Kamabuye and Mayange A secondary schools in Bugesera District has drastically dropped following the launch of an initiative that offers special reproductive health and ICT facilities for girls.
The two schools are among the beneficiaries of the Connect To Learn initiative launched in 2010 by the Earth Institute of Columbia University, Ericsson and Millennium Promise, a Non Governmental organisation.
John Mugabo, the project’s education coordinator, said students from vulnerable backgrounds have received sponsorship and ICT facilities which have assisted greatly in research and keeping girls in school.
“Through the scholarships granted since 2012, girls from all backgrounds have access to quality education. There has also been interventions to reduce the dropout rate and absenteeism. Reproductive health of the girls has been catered for by providing facilities in the schools to cater for girls’ reproductive health needs, especially during menstruation,” Mugabo explained.
Mugabo said unlike in the past girls do not miss school during their menstrual cycles.
He was addressing a visiting delegation of 18 representatives from Silicon Valley based companies who are part of TechWomen, a mentorship and exchange initiative that supports the next generation of women leaders in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) from Africa and the Middle East. The schools are under the United Nations Millennium Villages project.
According to Unicef, one in ten schoolgirls in Africa miss classes or drop out completely due to lack of sanitary pads during their periods, and substitute pads or tampons for less safe and less absorbent materials such as rags, newspaper or bark.
According to Mugabo, the girls have special rooms where they are taught more about reproductive health, access sanitary pads, resting rooms to reduce the days they would have spent away from school in a month because of lack of such facilities.
“We have witnessed a change in their academic performance since they spend more time in school and also it has reduced absenteeism greatly since the girls do not have excuses to stay out of school,” Mugabo added.
The Connect To Learn initiative, under the theme, “Educate a girl, Change the world” aims at scaling up access to secondary education, particularly for girls.
It has been providing scholarships and facilitating Information and Communication Technologies to the schools.
A total of 1311 secondary school students in Bugesera have so far benefited from the project.
These are part of over 38,000 students worldwide who have benefited since the inception of the programme.
Eugenie Mukantagara, the principal of G.S Kamabuye, said from the facilitation and assistance received, they have been able to ensure access to quality education for learners as well as reduce the dropout rate.