A 2010 report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) dubbed, ‘School Dropout: Patterns, Causes, Changes and Policies’ indicates that among the major causes of dropping out of school is ‘hidden costs’.
Another report released by Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) in 2014 after the census indicated that there are 23,154 girls aged 6 to 12 in Moroto, but only 4,786 of them (20.7%) are currently attending school.
From January 2014 to April 2015, according to their head teachers, 445 girls dropped out of school in Moroto and 752 girls dropped out in Kotido and this was attributed to poverty as data collected from 20 schools showed that the main barrier to girls’ education is limited finances, and that struggling parents see their daughters as a vital source of income.
But this could change following the release of Airtel funds towards girl education in Napak and Moroto.
Airtel Uganda’s partnership with the International Institute of Rural Reconstruction (IIRR) through which the two organisations are fundraising to keep young girls in the Karamoja region in school was announced at the former’s head offices in Kampala.
As part of the partnership, the telecom company has handed over Shs11 million for the purchase of 100 goats that will be handed over to girls in Moroto and Napak districts.
“Since goats mature and reproduce very fast, each girl will be handed two goats from which she will obtain income to pay school fees and purchase scholastic material. Upon reproduction, she will be required to give the first two kids to another girl for the process to continue and benefit other girls within the community,” a release states in part.
Speaking during the handover, Airtel Uganda Managing Director Mr. V.G Somasekhar pledged Airtel Uganda’s support to ensure that school-going children in local disadvantaged communities have access to quality education, which will benefit them, their families and their communities.
“Girl child education is not a priority in many local communities across Uganda. At Airtel Uganda, we believe that it is critical for the empowerment of women and are therefore committed to ensuring that girls in the most disadvantaged communities get equal opportunities to access quality education and realize their potential, he noted.”
On why they had chosen to donate goats, Somasekhar noted that the initiative is not only supportive of ensuring that the girls stay in school but also ensures economic empowerment that is much needed to bridge the socioeconomic gaps witnessed across the country.
According to United Nations’ Girls Education Initiative statistics, literacy rates for young females still lag behind that of young boys by five percent, and nearly half of all girls in Uganda are married before the age of 18. In Northern Uganda Karamoja region, girls take on women roles faster because they cannot afford to go to or stay in school due to economic challenges.
Meanwhile, Pamela Nyamutoka Katooro, the IIRR Uganda Country Director, appreciated the partnership with Airtel and stated that this would go a long way in improving education outcomes for disadvantaged girls especially in pastoral communities.
“Since 2015, IIRRs Goats4Girls model has successfully been used to support over 2000 girls to enroll and stay in school. The initiative inhibits the practice of forced early marriage and empowers girls with not only educational benefits but also economic independence that enhances their self-worth, dignity and confidence, she commented.
For over five years now, Airtel Uganda, as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility efforts, has been working closely with the Ministry of Education and other partners to ensure increased access to education across Uganda.
Through the Adopt-A-School program, Airtel Uganda has refurbished old classroom blocks, built and stocked libraries, provided internet access, built sanitation facilities and counselled students in St. Ponsiano Primary Kyamula School in Makindye, Sseke Primary School in Lwengo District, Ndeeba Church of Uganda Primary School in Kayunga District and Nanfugaki Primary School in Iganga District.