For Solofia, education is the most important thing in life, for her father, marriage was the most important. A girl with a dream of becoming a Business woman, has never walked a straight life as everything about her has always remained unbalanced because her parents are not only poor but her father also had negative attitude on girl child education.
“I am the first born of my family, my father did not care about my education, only my mother struggled with me for my education. At times I stayed home for even for one month when my mother and I failed to raise school fees. We would dig people's gardens to raise money for school because we do not have enough land, we also cut trees and sold firewood to raise school fees.” she says.
Solofia went on to say that when her shoe could get cut and she would stay home for weeks if she failed to raise money to mend it. Revising books while at home, at night was a burden to Solofia because she had to meet the cost of kerosine on her own. “I did not have money to buy my own paraffin for reading my books, when my father came back from the drinking joint and realized that I was reading using the paraffin he bought, he would put off the candle and begin to abuse me and telling me to buy my own paraffin if I want to read my books.”
When solofia ever requested her father for scholastic materials and other necessities like sanitary towels, soap among others he would answer her back wildly. “I had only one pair of uniform to put on everyday, which became dirty because I walked long distance to and from school, I could not wash and dry it on time for the next day. The shame to put on a dirty uniform the next day would force me to stay away from school for a day because I had to wash it in order to look smart at school. As you know our problems as girls.” she said.
What problems? I asked, “MP” she replied to mean menstrual period. “As you know during MP as girls we suffer a lot, I needed soap and pads to be clean, me I stayed home during my menstrual periods, I could not go to school because of fear of embarrassments. My father drank a lot and when I asked him to buy anything, he became very rude and told me that he did not work in a bank. He even told me that he did not have any money to scholastic materials that parents have to contribute for scholastic materials as designed the RGCM Uganda. "This caused a lot of fear in me to approach him for help as a parent.”she said.
Solofia mentioned other challenges such as too much house work after school that made her very tired and gave her very little time for revision. No light at home for revision at night. On the side of school, she pointed out long distance to and from school. “The school was very far. I walked 16 miles to and from school everyday, by the time I reached school, I could be late for some lessons and also very tired too.”
Lack of lunch at school also greatly affected her ability to concentrate in class. “I could not pick anything when I was hungry. The school provided lunch but it is for only those who have paid school fees, for me they would pay my fees at the end of the term or not at all, as a result I missed tests, and some time exams.”
Any other problem you faced? I asked. “During rainy season around April, I suffered a lot, due to colds and my books and notes also would get wet and spoiled because I walked under rain. I had to re-copy notes from friends who were times not cooperative.”
Like Solofia, all the other 39 girls being mentored and 99% of the rural girls in Africa today share almost the same experiences. Including myself (when I was at school and did not have a mentor).
Thanks to Barb Ruben her mentor for taking solofia to a boarding school in the capital. Solofia enjoys all the privileged she missed while in the rural school.
Her father's habits are also changing and he has started showing interest in her education.
Today Solofia is sitting for her national examinations. Lets wish her good luck together with the rest of the 14 girls. I see a bright future. You could give another girl a brighter future too. Check out how: