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NYAKA AIDS ORPHANS PROJECT: VOCATIONAL SECONDARY SCHOOL

Partner: The Stephen Lewis Foundation

Nyaka Voc Sec School

Background

The Stephen Lewis Foundation has worked with the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project for the past ten years. Nyaka’s new project is the Vocational Secondary School, located in Kanungu, a rural district of Uganda. This is an area where people, mostly subsistence farmers, struggle to meet their survival needs in the context of the AIDS pandemic – a pandemic that has decimated the adult population and left thousands of children orphaned.

Six years ago, the first cohort of children graduated from Nyaka’s award-winning primary schools, which 60 million girls supported in 2012. Nyaka paid the required tuition fees so they could continue their education at public secondary schools. There the girls, who had flourished in primary school, faced barrier after barrier that ended their education abruptly and irrevocably. Some were forced to drop out to work or marry early. Several adolescent girls became pregnant as a result of sexual predation and vulnerability. Compounding this sad situation was the practice at local high schools of conducting mandatory pregnancy tests each term, and then publicly announcing the names of pregnant girls before expelling them from school. Local schools are simply not investing in girls’ education.

After investing so much in these promising girls during their early years, Nyaka was outraged to see secondary school defeating them. So Nyaka decided to demonstrate how to keep girls in secondary school – to create a school that retains girls and prioritizes their education. Nyaka is uniquely placed to do this. Through its experience with its two primary schools, Nyaka has already built vast expertise on how to create a nurturing environment that keeps girls in school. It will transfer, adapt and deepen that expertise to this project.

This project will support this innovative effort to get orphaned girls into secondary school and actively provide the support and resources they need to stay there. It will offer a quality education, free tuition, counselling on reproductive health, room and board, critically important accessible daycare, and an environment that encourages and promotes their education. Pregnant girls will not be not expelled but will be cared for – a policy that will drastically differentiate the Nyaka Vocational Secondary School from other schools in the district.

With an investment of $100,000 from the 60 million girls Foundation, this project will contribute to completing the school’s infrastructure. The project is important, as it will ensure that orphaned girls get the secondary school education that is their right. It will model, to the society at large, a radically different yet replicable educational approach that will raise awareness of the dangers facing girls. This project has great potential for effecting larger social change in Uganda.

Project objectives

This project has three main goals:

    1. To provide quality secondary school education to 109 children orphaned by AIDS, the majority girls (57 children in grade S1 and 52 in grade S2). This project will provide essential, holistic support: equipping classrooms with student desks, teaching students subjects according to the national curriculum, providing three daily meals, providing adult and peer-to-peer career guidance and counselling, and offering tutoring and extracurricular activities.
    2. To retain more girls in school than nearby secondary schools. Above all, Nyaka aims to create a supportive environment in which students will be cared for equally. Nyaka will offer sexual health classes for all students, room and board so girls are not vulnerable to predation on long walks home, targeted counselling for girls, support for any pregnant girls to continue their education during pregnancy and after birth, and crucial educational resources (uniforms, exercise books, etc.). At other schools, children must pay for these materials. Families living in poverty cannot afford the fees and materials for all their children, and orphaned girls are the least likely to be supported.
    3. To build the infrastructure of the Nyaka Vocational Secondary School. This project will commence with the construction of the foundation of a workshop, which will enable the school to offer vocational courses in the future.

Why partner with the Stephen Lewis Foundation?

This is the fourth project we have supported in partnership with the Stephen Lewis Foundation (SLF). Our past experience with SLF has proven to be extremely positive. The organization focuses on effective grassroots approaches to community support. Its staff evaluates not only the sustainability and impact of the projects, but closely looks at the needs and capacity of the local field organization as well. SLF has a long-term approach to community support and development and are open, transparent and strong partners of 60 million girls. We are constantly learning from its vast experience and many partnerships. In addition, we greatly appreciate its deeply held values, its belief in what we are trying to achieve and its unwavering collaborative approach.

We are equally supportive of the Nyaka AIDS Orphans Project since our first investment in its primary schools in 2012. Nyaka’s responsive and comprehensive approach to girls’ secondary school education will ensure that girls orphaned by AIDS are able to access higher education in their community, to remain in school with the support of their families, and to overcome systemic discrimination and poverty, thereby securing greater opportunities and safety in their lives.

In the short term, it will mean that orphaned girls in the community will receive a high school education (even if they get pregnant), and have the support they need to graduate. In the long term, the success of this initiative will provide a sophisticated model of care for orphaned teenage girls that will be both documented and replicable. It will ensure that the barriers to orphaned girls’ education, and vulnerable girls’ education in general, are clearly defined, and the ways in which they must be overcome are documented and recognized. Finally, it has the potential to help shift beliefs, attitudes and, ultimately, the societal supports for the education of all girls.