The 13-year old girl Christina studying at Usanda secondary school in Shinyanga rural district remains in dilemma whether to go to school or to heed her parents directive. Before she makes decision, her parents introduce the boy to her saying she is ready for marriage.
At school, a suddenly behavior change and poor academic performance of Christina Bundala worries her teachers. Apart from wearing a distressed face, she develops a tendency of walking alone and at times, going back home before school departure time.
One day, one of her teachers called Eva Mungure decided to talk to her to find out whether she had any problem at home. Christina went very open to her teacher and told her that her parents did not want her to continue with school.
Instead they want her to get married so that they can benefit from dowry. Christina attendance to school has never been regular such that even her academic performance has become poorer than before.
As a girl, she faces a turbulent road to successful education. When she returns home from school, her parents have been frequently discouraging her from continuing with her studies.
Last year, the forum for African Women Educationalists Tanzania Chapter- (FAWETZ) in partnership with UNESCO organised and conducted training workshop at the school.
The aim of the workshop was to integrate TUSEME into the safe space clubs in schools at Shinyanga rural district. Christina was among the students who attended the Tuseme workshop.
Tuseme (Let us speak out) empowerment model is one of the FAWE’s interventions which has proved to work best in catalysing school communities (students, teachers and parents) in joining hands or efforts to support student girls and boys to reach their potential and achieve their goals.
It uses a participatory methodology to empower girls and boys to be assertive and able to identify problems hindering their academic and social excellence; analyse them and look for possible solutions. It uses theatre arts to voice out and communicate the identified and analysed problems.
Other interventions include gender responsive pedagogy (GRP), community advocacy and sensitisation programmes among many others.
In the last day of the seminar, Christina Bundala went back to her parents very confidently and educated them. She told them that they will never leave school.
Although her parents did not agree with her, Christina looked happy because she had a support from her teachers and officials from FAWETZ.
Christina revealed that TUSEME seminar had helped her a lot to become confident and self-aware and motivated.
Commenting further, she said that her life had changed significantly since the intervention of FAWETZ. During that time she started improving her academic performance. The intervention offered her several opportunities.
She said that at the moment, the parents are no longer disturbing her again. “Currently, I am confident and committed to performing better than before. I am enjoying the teaching and learning environment than before after being assured of my education,” she noted.
As a girl student, what is happening to me could be happening to others as well. I ask all development partners to ensure they extend this service to other schools so that many underprivileged student girls can access this education support, and realise their dreams,” she urged.
“I think inequalities between boys and girls across the country will be exacerbated by increasing poverty and lack of education awareness and understanding by our parents.
So, these stakeholders like FAWETZ and other development partners can inspire girls, teachers and the entire society to give priority to girls.”
One of her teachers, Mungure admits that Christina’s academic performance has changed drastically and she continues performing better. The committed teachers continue supporting her both in academic and counseling.
“TUSEME workshop has not only helped Christina, but also other students especially child protection and gender issues,” said Mungure.
Citing an example, she said that before, male students were refusing to perform certain activities such as sweeping or fetching water; they thought that such works are for the female students.
But after Tuseme workshop, the students have changed a lot, they are supporting and helping each other in all chores given at school,” she noted.
Furthermore, in terms of learning environment (classroom situation, the sitting arrangements have changed, boys and girls are all mixed up even in their group discussion, said Mungure.
For her part, FAWETZ national coordinator, Neema Kitundu explained that deep rooted traditional and cultural practices have ruined education of many girls. This has resulted to gender discrimination because more efforts is put to boys than girls believing that girls will be married and go to serve other family.
“This was noted to have not been done openly but it is done secretly of which it violets girl children’s right to education” she said.
She also cited lack of awareness among community members saying that many don’t see the importance of education to their children, hence using their children as their means of income.
The forum for African Women Educationalists Tanzania Chapter- FAWE TZ is one of the 34 chapters in Africa that implement FAWE mandate at national level.
FAWE is dedicated to promote gender equity and equality in Education. It has been implementing various interventions to create gender responsiveness in education systems, policies and practices through its four objectives: Policy Advocacy, Community advocacy, Demonstrative intervention and Replication and Mainstreaming of its best practices.