The status of the girl child is critical to achieving women’s quality and dignity which is in many ways a litmus test for the maturity of a society.
However, girls in districts of Kanungu and Kisoro especially girls from Batwa tribe one of the indigenous tribes in these areas face various forms of discrimination, attitudes and practices which include early marriages and teenage pregnancies- 75% of girls in this area marry before their 18th Birthday.
This is because of the many cultural norms among the communities in this area especially Batwa who believe that when a girl goes into menstruation, she is ready to marry so that parents get bride price, sexual exploitation and rape, child labour in neighboring communities in tea gardens, lack of easily accessible primary schools and extreme poverty in their families. These many hotspots and myths in girls’ education bring gender gaps in the quality and quantity of their education.
In addition, gender biases and stereotypes and narrowly defined gender roles place girls on the lowest rank of the social and family hierarchies, rendering them marginalized and most times socially invisible.
One of the evidences that show that few girls complete school in this area is the absence of female teachers in most of the primary schools especially in Mpungu Subcounty.
Primary schools in Mpungu Sub County in Kanungu district have failed to attract female teachers. Only Buremba primary school, one of the five primary schools in the Sub County, has one female teacher.
The remaining schools including Kanyashogyi primary school, Karambi primary school, Kashenyi primary school and Katembe primary schools lack female teachers. The absence of female teachers is being blamed for the increase in the girl child dropout especially those at puberty stage due to lack of guidance.
What Teachers Say.
A teacher at Buremba Primary School told Mr. Tumusiime Edison our Education support Officer at Cherie Wilshire Foundation on condition of anonymity that the absence of female teachers in most schools has forced male teachers to play the role of female teachers and sensitize girls on how to handle their body changes.
He however, says this has very little impact, because female pupils are uncomfortable with male teachers and can’t open up fully. He also says that male teachers feel shy to provide the girls with the most vital information. It is very difficult for a male teacher to give practical knowledge and advice to female pupils on how to handle themselves during menstruation.
What Parents Say.
Mr. Tumwesigye, a parent from Kashenyi primary school in Mpungu Sub County also says that the absence of female teachers has led to an increase in the dropout of female pupils in this school too.
He says that the problem hasn’t spared Mpungu Community Secondary School in the same Sub County, which lacks female teachers. Tumwesigye says that even the available male teachers only teach on Tuesday and Wednesday. He says the problem of lack of female teachers in the Sub County has existed for the last 11 years.
Mr. Tumusiime Edison the Education support Officer from Cherie Wilshire Foundation one of the Organizations that advocates for Batwa says, education of the girl child in Mpungu Sub County remains a huge challenge due to lack of female teachers.
In order to eliminate the myths about girl child education which has lasted for many years in Batwa regions, problem of few female teachers and few female professionals in these areas of Kanungu, girl child discrimination, gender-based violence, exploitation and abuse, Cherie Wilshire Foundation has undertaken interventions to empower the girl child.
Through our project of recruiting out of school children and enrolling school going age children into neighboring government schools in the area, we have provided them with scholastic materials which has increased the participation of girls in formal primary education, completion and achievement rates in primary schools thus lowering barriers to girls’ education.
Through this education program and recruitment project of children especially girls, schools are transmitting knowledge and teaching girls essential life and livelihood skills, such as financial literacy, menstrual health and how to overcome different challenges like rape and early pregnancies.