I am a 38 years old Ugandan man. As a child, I saw girls in our community failing to advance with education to higher levels, this practice included males but in 1980’s it was the males who remained in school. This included my own sister who could not complete Primary school. Since she wasn’t in school, she eventually got married ahead of me. As I write this, she got infected with HIV and now living positively. Later I got to learn through interactions, that parents did not trust their daughters to study as they would get married before completing a certain higher level and therefore investment in their education was a waste of resources, most of our elders were forced to renounce their religion, Islam, before being accepted in schools. This led to many Muslim parents to look at secular education as being coercive and it abused their rights. Our religion (Islam) also encourages early marriages; many parents also saw investment in a girl’s education as non beneficial. Other parents thought that if such girls got married, their family would not benefit, instead it would be their in laws who would. Since many parents also stopped in Primary school here in our area, these factors eventually resulted into many teenage marriages and marriages; thus the circle of a primary school dropout marrying another primary school dropout continues.
This circle of event has resulted into very many of our people not being in formal employment but working as casual labourers. Many of our community members are polygamous with very many children, an average of 6-7. When I grew up, in 2001, we started a primary school called Noor Islamic Primary School here in Moyo District, Uganda. I started as a volunteer teacher with other friends, after about eight months, I became the Chairman School Management Committee and worked up to December 2012. Our objective among others was to make sure, Muslim women who had lagged behind in education, should get an opportunity to study in their own school where they feel safe and the terms of the education can be modified in such a way that it suits the locals. This has helped in keeping very many girls in school. It has been consistent that from the inception, the girls in this school have been more in number than the boys. For example, the 2013 figures show that out of 507 pupils from P1-P7, there are 280 girls. This school was started by the efforts of the parents they put up two class rooms. We handed the school to Government in 2002 but retained the docket of foundation body so that what is done in the school is in line with the aspirations of the parents. It has both Muslim and Christian pupils under the Universal Primary Education Policy of the Government of Uganda where the Government employs the teachers and pays their salaries. We overcame some of these barriers through hard work and sacrifice.
Take action! This post was submitted in response to Girls Transform the World 2013.