“We know education is life changing, but it is also life-saving. Education is thought of as a tool that empowers children to develop and to become successful and independent people.”
The purpose of education is to improve your life, the lives of others, and to leave your community and the world a better place. What about now during the pandemic? In these times, education is even more important, making people less vulnerable to risk and enabling them to understand and apply important health directives, such as those from the World Health Organization.
COVID-19 is a crisis that is already increasing the rate of poverty, household responsibilities, child labor, teenage pregnancy, early marriage, and reducing funding for girls’ education. The world is diverting funds from other sectors to the health sector in order to combat the pandemic. The Tanzanian government and other institutions are doing their best to find different ways to help students continue their education while at home. GLAMI’s (Girls Livelihood and Mentorship Initiative, formerly AfricAid TZ) Binti Shupavu, is doing its part.
Girls globally were already at a disadvantage for receiving an education. The pandemic threatens this opportunity, and the outlook becomes worse the longer schools are closed. Learn more about this issue. The dedicated staff at GLAMI is doing whatever it can to ensure that girls in its programs will return to school when the crisis is over. A main strategy is keeping in contact.
Like the 12 Kisa Project Mentors, the 22 Binti Shupavu Mentors are spending their days reaching out to their 4,800 Scholars and their parents at home. Resilience and never giving up is one of the key Binti Shupavu lessons. Both Mentors and Scholars are living and breathing this lesson at this stressful and uncertain time. Mentors are walking the talk by reaching out to Scholars daily via phone calls and text messages. They are relaying messages of hope, providing educational assistance and materials, giving important health and emotional support, and guiding parents during the pandemic. They are also serving in a public health role, stopping the spread of misinformation about the virus in communities surrounding Binti Shupavu’s 22 Partner Schools.
Staying safe is our first priority in dealing with COVID-19. Mentors have grouped into teams to develop messaging for Scholars in several areas, including academics, health and wellness, strength and resilience, and developing your potential. Once the content is created by a team, it is passed along to the entire group of Binti Mentors and Managers. Binti Shupavu Assistant Project Manager in Arusha, Subira Manyama, explains, “We are diving into the curriculum, drawing out the most pertinent pieces of information that can be communicated in a text, and then, for consistency, we all send the same message to all our Scholars.”
All Binti Mentors are university educated, and the organization is fortunate that two current staff members had health related majors in college. Fatina Mshana, a Mentor in Moshi, holds a diploma in clinical medicine and Zulpha Rajabu, a Mentor in Arusha, has a bachelors degree in health systems management.
According to the United Nations Development Programme, “Pre-existing toxic social norms and gender inequalities, economic and social stress caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with restricted movement and social isolation measures, have led to an exponential increase in gender- based violence. Violence against women and girls is pervasive but at the same time widely under-reported.” Learn more about this issue.
Education promotes the well-being of children by making them aware of their rights and understand how to protect themselves from any kind of abuse. This is especially important for girls when they are stuck at home during the pandemic. A program such as Binti Shupavu gives girls a voice and role models to confide in. As the Mentors ensure that Scholars know their rights, the girls are able to open up regarding issues they are facing in their families and communities and get help from GLAMI. Our two social workers are playing a vital role in meeting the emergency needs of our Scholars.
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.