In October 2015 we carried out a huge consultation with 2,000 adolescent girls about the barriers they faced to accessing education. These are their answers, and our responses.
THE ISSUE: poverty, poor parenting and peer pressure were all raised as factors influencing an increasing number of pregnant young girls. Pregnant teens are discouraged from being in the classroom due to the problematic perception that they’ll be a bad influence on their peers. Returning to the classroom after the birth of a child is rare.
OUR RESPONSE: Support 500 teen mothers and their families - helping girl mothers to stay in education through livelihood support for their families
We shall offer targeted support for 500 girl mothers, with a direct focus on their ongoing education and their child’s development.
THE ISSUE: girls complained that parents were not supportive of their education generally, and specifically in these times of greater-than-usual poverty. For many families, girls are seen as a commodity, to be sold or used for free to help the family out of poverty. Girls described being expected to work at home or in the market instead of going to school, forced into early marriage, or made to support the household by selling sex in exchange for money or goods.
OUR RESPONSE: Advocacy and targeted social work
We shall carry out community education around girls' rights to education, and the value of that education to the entire community. We shall also offer counselling and specialist care for girls who have experienced violence such as child sex abuse, to help them recover from their experiences and return to school ready to learn.
...BETTER SCHOOL & TEACHERS
THE ISSUE: teachers were highlighted as a major issue in terms of poor teaching quality, bad practice, and abuse of power. We heard cases of teachers forcing girls to pay to have exams marked or exchanging marked papers for sex. Where a lack of local schools forces girls to travel long distances, they also face increased risk of abuse.
OUR RESPONSE: Teacher training and school refurbishment - including gender-sensitive and child protection training for teachers and the community.
We shall design a teacher training program with a specific focus on gender sensitivity and accountability - alongside better access to learning materials and improved school facilities such as private toilet stalls for adolescent girls who are more vulnerable to abuse.
THE ISSUE: girls told us they felt unsupported through the challenges of growing up, particularly at pressure moments, like exams, or at times of crisis, like the loss of a parent or caregiver – a problem heightened by the recent Ebola outbreak. Without support, these are the moments that can drive a girl from school or even from her home.
OUR RESPONSE: Investment in quality social workers - targeted support for pressure moments
Street Child wants to give girls access to social workers able to offer safe adult support and guidance to ensure they remain in school and off the streets.
THE ISSUE: income poverty was overwhelmingly identified as the largest barrier to girls’ education. Inevitably, poverty has hugely increased as a result of the recent Ebola crisis, and the death of parents and caregivers has left thousands of children orphaned.
OUR RESPONSE: Help with the cost of education - school fees and business support
We want to make sure that girls are not just going to school, but staying there. Our appeal will help a girls’ family create a secure business through grants, training, and mentoring, so that families can fund their daughters' education long into the future.