For decades, girl’s education around the world has evolved through a series of ups and downs seen its share of challenges. Before the industrial revolution in the 1940’s, it was unheard of for a girl to attend school with the boys.
The situation at this time was one where girls were raised to become experts in the kitchen and child bearers. This was a woman’s ultimate purpose and goal as far as career development was concerned.
Like light at the end of the tunnel, transformation begun. Laws were put in place, women started getting recognized as influential figures in the society who could bring about socio-economic change.
Recognising this, the United Nations under Article 26 of the ‘1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, declared that everyone has the right to education.
Though many countries today especially in the developed world have for long overcome this huge inequality in the education of the girl child, big challenges are still underlying in developing countries.
In Rwanda, a good number of girls withdraw from school for one reason or another before they can attain minimum academic qualifications. To curb this, a number of steps have been taken by different organizations that ensure that girls go through basic education.
The Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE), for nine years has supported girl child education in Rwanda.
According to Oddette Mukazi Mutanguha, FAWE Rwanda’s National Coordinator, besides poverty as the major obstacle to girl child education, other hindrances like; the threat of HIV/Aids, lack of sanitary facilities, cultural bias and sexual harassment make it difficult for girls to remain in school.
“We want all children including girls to benefit through education. In this way they have a chance to contribute to their well being and that of the country,” Mutanguha said.
This was at a recent function at FAWE Girls Secondary School where 36, 937 English dictionaries were given by USAID to 56 FAWE beneficiary schools.
FAWE Rwanda, with support from a number of both local and international organizations as well as the Ministry of Eduction have managed to support over 1,200 orphans and vulnerable girl’s in120 schools around the country through various programmes.
Mutanguha further said, “Of these (orphans) 595 have graduated from high school and 108 are sponsored by the government and are studying in different universities around the country. Six girls have been awarded the Presidential Best Performers scholarship.”
Watching the girls at FAWE Girls School, one could not help but notice the confidence with which they spoke and carried themselves.
The source of this probably lies in the fact that they have a social network called the ‘Tuseme Club’ empowers girls to develop self confidence and also protects them from going through the educational journey alone.
More still, FAWE’s activities not only benefit the girls studying in Kigali. The vulnerable girls too, living in the four different refugee camps of Gihembe in Gicumbi District, Nyabihenke in Gatsibo District, Kiziba in Karongi District, Kigeme in Nyamagabe District have are benefiting from these support programmes.
With this, testimonies of various girls have been heard. Testimonies of how girls have worked hard to overcome educational, social, economic and cultural barriers to achieve success and come out as winners and best performers.
For this reason, The Imbuto Foundation founded by Mrs. Jeannette Kagame to advocate consistently for Rwanda’s girls in the areas of health, education and economic empowerment.
Through various initiatives, like the Annual Awarding Ceremony of the best performing girls in the country, many girls have benefited.
Nineteen year old Alice Musabwa is one of the best performing girls of 2008. From St. Aloys Secondary School in Rwamagana, she came top in Accounting and won a scholarship to the School of Finance and Banking (SFB).
With 12 other girls they were awarded laptops and are currently undergoing a three week ICT training course at the National University of Rwanda.
“I am proud to receive a gift like a laptop. I hardly knew anything about computers but from the training, I can now do most of my reading and work from the computer,” Musabwa said.
Since its inception in 2004, Imbuto foundation has taken the plight of the Rwandan girl child education seriously and has supported over 2000 girls countrywide.
According to Shaduri Umutoniwase, the Education Project Officer in Imbuto Foundation, these awards are, “an encouragement and motivator for Rwandan girls to study hard.”
She explained that the criterion for selection is purely based on performance. The best performing girl in every sector district and province is selected.
Those in P.6 and S.3 are rewarded with scholastic materials while the best S.6 performers are given laptops and sponsored just like Musabwa for a 3 week ICT training course.
With strides more like these that ensure that every girl receives an education, Rwanda is definitely heading towards an optimistic future- a future where the voices of young women are not silent because they are educated and empowered to contribute to the country’s development.