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A Safety Net

Binti Shupavu’s Emergency Fund


“My parents failed to pay for my school fees.  There is a lot of debt since I joined school.  The school cannot take me in anymore, so I have to stay at home.  There is no other means I can use to go to school again.”


These were the words shared by AfricAid’s social worker as an example of how some Binti Shupavu Scholars express their challenge to stay in school as she converses with them during a counseling session.


Being at school and being motivated to stay at school requires much more than just having a teacher and Mentor, parent or guardian.  If the family is unable to meet the basic needs for their student, this can contribute to poor school performance and lack of motivation to stay at school.


This is why AfricAid has an Emergency Fund.  It is the fund set aside specifically for Binti Shupavu Scholars who have extreme obstacles that put them at risk of dropping out of school.  It covers costs related to school fees, supplies, and uniforms, health, food, and more.  So far this year, about 4% of Binti Shupavu Scholars have accessed funds and the organization has spent 5,500,600 Tanzanian Shillings ($2,454 USD).  Based on the request for funds, these girls are coming from single parent households, living in extended families, or are being raised by grandparents.


The overall objective of the Binti Shupavu program is to provide Tanzanian adolescent girls with the support they need to make it to graduation from lower secondary school (i.e. Ordinary Level – through 4th year of secondary school).  The Emergency Fund is a very important resource in meeting this objective.


What is the Emergency Fund?  Why does it matter?  How does is work at AfricAid?  This blog answers these questions about an important safety net for our Scholars.


The Emergency Fund has helped beneficiaries in two main ways:


Academic:  We have supported Scholars with resources that help them academically.  They are able to focus on their studies without the distraction of overdue school fees payments or insufficient school supplies.


Health:  We have provided Scholars with school meals, sanitary towels, and sometimes medication.  Providing clean, newer uniforms and hygiene supplies definitely correlates to their confidence level.


These two factors can make the difference in a girl’s motivation and ability to stay in school.  The support from the Emergency Fund removes the stress and worry on the part of both the girls and their families – and allows them to be present and focus on the other life skills that are being taught by their Binti Shupavu Mentors.


The first step in applying for funds from the Emergency Fund is for the Scholar to develop a relationship of trust in order to confide to someone the problem she and her family are having.  Often, the Scholar begins by sharing her challenge with her Mentor.  The Mentor then connects the girl with AfricAid’s social worker if the challenge requires a professional approach or follow-up.  The social worker gets to work on finding a solution, which may involve parents, teachers, or possibly the government social welfare office.


Learning to ask for help, articulating one’s needs and concerns, and advocating for oneself are key components of Binti Shupavu.  The program teaches confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth, which are the foundation for having a voice.


Binti Shupavu Scholars and their Mentors form such close relationships that the girls really feel they can confide in their Mentors.


So what about the girl who told the social worker that she could not afford to stay in school? 


In July 2018, at Mwika Secondary School, two people sat in the cool shade at mid-day, deep in conversation.  One was wearing a school uniform and the other an office outfit.  They were speaking calmly with soft voices.


After speaking confidentially to her Scholar, Binti Shupavu Mentor Flora referred her to the social worker, who came to visit her at school.  The social worker expertly gained additional information about the girl’s family situation, and asked:


“Why are you not attending Binti Shupavu classes?  Even your general school attendance is poor.”


That’s when the Scholar opened up about the reason why she was out of school.  Clearly, she was a candidate for the Emergency Fund.  The social worker immediately initiated talks with the school administration and the Scholar’s parents.  When she confirmed that the family truly had no other way of getting money, AfricAid agreed to support her as much as possible through the Emergency Fund.  Informing this girl that she would be able to return to school and resume Binti Shupavu classes was a wonderful day.


Happiness is…. overcoming obstacles in order to stay in school.


A Binti Scholar from Langasani Secondary School had a similar experience with AfricAid’s Emergency Fund:


“I have learned to be a strong girl through Binti Shupavu.  I have been helped in many areas, but the biggest challenge I had was not being able to continue with school since my mother had no money to pay for my fee and needs.  This was so stressful for me – until one day, I decided to ask for help.  I told my Mentor, Madame Scolastica, and she linked me with the social worker.  The social worker helped solve this challenge of school fees and material things, and now I can focus on my goals as a girl.  I am proud and thankful that I asked for support.”


The Emergency Fund has a great impact on Scholars’ lives, both at home and at school.  Every Scholar who has been supported by the Emergency Fund is determined to “pay it forward” by studying hard, graduating, and continuing to higher education.  They know that with an education, one day they will be able to help support their families and contribute to society.


Contributed by: Esther Naiman, Binti Shupavu Mentor

Binti Shupavu is a four-year life skills course for lower secondary school girls covering topics such as study skills, personal leadership, health and self-confidence with the goal of increasing graduation rates for vulnerable girls.