17 year old Agnes Mbambu is a senior four student of Saddex High School located in Muliba sub-county, Kasese district. Her parents wanted her to marry early so as to educate her brother. Agnes has become an ambassador for girl child education in her school and community. According to her teachers, she has been responsible for encouraging girls to stay in school. Recently, she convinced Kabawo Jesca; a pregnant S.3 student to continue going to school when she had lost hope for education.
According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, (UNESCO), Uganda has the highest school dropout rate for females in East Africa. Many communities especially in rural Uganda traditionally prefer educating boys compared to the girls because ‘boys continue the family lineage whereas girls are married off and join another family; so why invest in girls?’
Many years back, Agnes lost her father to sickness and grew up with her mother and siblings. Due to financial challenges, the mother preferred to educate Agnes’s older brother. Fortunately for her, she came to know about NAYODE, a partner of IDF that promotes girl child education in Kasese district. After an interface with the promoters of NAYODE, she came to understand that she had the right to education and her parents were responsible for ensuring her fees was paid. Subsequently, she gained confidence and reported her mother to the local council leaders of the area as well as the police, who summoned the mother and advised her to pay Agnes’s school fees. This happened for a while but after facing difficulties, Agnes’s mother failed to raise her fees. Agnes decided to relocate to Muliba subcounty to live with her brother, a family man and a nursery school teacher in Ibanda. Today, Agnes still faces difficulties in paying her school fees. Occasionally, she appeals to her brother, relatives and friends, who provide only a small fraction of her fees .When the Democratic Governance Facility (DGF) team met her, she had been asked to leave the school due to outstanding fees arrears amounting to ugx 150,000. Although NAYODE has tried to address her plight, Agnes does not have a clear solution to her school fees challenge. Looking forward, there is some light at the end of the tunnel, Kabarole Research Resource Center (KRC) is to mentor and empower NAYODE and its beneficiaries, with this, it is hoped that Agnes will realise her dreams of become a professional teacher.
Agnes Mbambu is 21 years old and stays with her parents in Ibandra 1 village – Kasese district. They live in an extended family of eight, five of whom are children of school going age. Agnes shares her experience and how she overcame the traditional connotations on girl child education.
“When I completed my Primary seven, my mother told me that they could not afford to pay school fees for the girls at home. And since I was the eldest and had reached ‘higher classes’ they decided that I stay at home so that they could have enough money to pay for the younger ones especially my brother because he is a boy. So I dropped out of school for about two years until a member of our family came and supported me with fees, but it was for only one year and I had to drop out yet again in my senior two. While my hope of ever going back to school was quickly diminishing, Tom Kamuhasa from NAYODE (project supporter) during one of his community activities came to my home; I told him my story and how much I wanted to go back to school. He talked to my parents about it but they said they didn’t have money for a girl’s education they only wanted their son to study. After his negotiations with my parents were futile, Tom then reported my case and my parents were summoned to police. Police gave them only three months to ensure that I was back in school. They accepted the terms and took me back to school and I am now in senior four. Tom has since continued to monitor me and my school progress and is also mediating with my parents who now completely believe in me and are ready to support my education. NAYODE gave me hope and I can now see myself as a future grade III teacher.
I really wish NAYODE would continue with their programs and reach all those girls like me in our community. If it wasn’t for their efforts, I would surely have got pregnant just like many other girls I see in my village; most of them just don’t have the right information. Now I have a lot of knowledge that helps me avoid such situations. I want to help extend this knowledge to every girl in my village; that is why I am one of the community human rights defenders under NAYODE and also part of a drama group where I help mobilise and sensitize my fellow girls about their rights, gender inequalities, abuse, sexuality, and abstinence.”