The British organisation Africa Educational Trust (AET) has learned that female role models in South Sudan, “School Mothers”, make everybody listen: The officials from the Ministry of Education, the Parent Teacher Organisations and the local authorities. But most importantly: The girls go to school.
“According to the County Director of Education in Lakes State ‘it is because of School Mothers that girls are now coming to school’,” Africa Educational Trust’s Country Coordinator, Julia Finder, says, quoting the director from a recent report.
The School Mother Initiative was designed in 2008 to address challenges girls face in accessing and completing school, especially in areas where there are very few female teachers.
The Kavli Trust recently began a partnership with the Africa Educational Trust on providing training for 70 School Mothers in literacy, numeracy, leadership and livelihoods education in Central Equatoria and Lakes states in South Sudan.
“The term “School Mother” equates to a female role model or mentor for girls whose job is to encourage their continued enrolment and retention in schools. They are not mothers of girls in the schools, but rather women who are nominated by their community in consultation with officials from the state Ministry of Education”, Julia Finder explains.
The project aims to develop a sustainable approach to addressing gender disparity in school access and retention through focusing on negative attitudes towards girls’ education, the lack of female role models in schools, community involvement and government accountability.
A previous project with School Mothers noted that community members report changes in attitude not only towards girls’ education, but also towards girls’ rights in general.
“Schools with active School Mothers have reported that fewer girls are being taken out of school to be married and fewer girls leave school due to early pregnancies. Communities on the whole have continued reporting a change in attitude towards forced marriage of young girls and relate this to the work of the School Mothers”, Finder says.
The key activities in the Kavli Trust-supported programme include:
- Weekly school visits to support girls through counselling and guidance on sexual and reproductive health, hygiene and the dangers of early marriage.
- Home visits to follow up on girls at risk of dropping out of school and to work with parents/guardians to help ensure out-of-school girls have the opportunity to return to school.
- Providing a voice for girls (who often don’t have the chance) at both school and community level
- Providing School Mothers with training in functional literacy, numeracy and vocational skills so they can assume a larger leadership role within their communities.
- Community advocacy activities such as involvement in radio talk-shows, event days and engagement meetings between communities, especially PTA members, and education officials.
- Working with relevant ministries to advocate for and support government initiatives to improve girls’ education and gender equality.
- Advocating for increased involvement of men and boys in primary education, specifically the promotion of girls’ education
Learn more about Africa Educational Trust