One of the key ingredients that helps girls to stay in and finish school is parental support. A number of academics have noted how important parental advocacy and encouragement is, and this is something that was confirmed by our own research findings. A girl who has a supportive, enabling and engaged parent(s) or guardian is much more likely to finish school.
AfricAid, therefore, aims to engage parents directly in the process of helping girls to stay in and finish school, and encouraging parents to become advocates for girls’ education more generally. To this end, we plan to hold parent engagement events annually at each Binti Shupavu Partner School as a key part of the program. Wherever possible, we will bring several schools together so that parents can learn from and inspire each other, and develop a sense of being part of a movement bigger than themselves.
Our very first parents’ event was held on the 20th of May. It brought together parents of Binti Shupavu Scholars from Langasani and TPC Secondary Schools. Given that most parents work at least 6 days per week, and go to Church or the Mosque and take care of chores at home on the seventh day, we were really pleased that 31 parents attended.
The event included an introduction to Binti Shupavu from the Project Manager, a focus group session on the importance of girls’ education, and performances by Binti Shupavu Scholars. One Scholar made a speech about how Binti Shupavu had helped her so far, others did a skit about the challenges girls face in getting an education, and another group recited a poem about gender discrimination and its impacts. We were thrilled to see girls demonstrating new skills like confidence and courage just four and a half months into the program!
The event was well received by the parents, all of whom were very engaged in asking questions of the staff (as pictured above). A number of them shared their thoughts publicly about the importance of educating their daughters. Mama Esther spoke about how difficult it can be to raise an adolescent girl and how she believed it was up to parents to protect and guide them. Another mother noted how times have changed and that this generation is very different from her own. She said that maintaining a close relationship with one’s daughter is essential to knowing what is going on in her life. Many thanked AfricAid for developing Binti Shupavu, and pledged to support their daughters’ educational endeavors as best they can.
The Binti Shupavu team is now preparing for events at the other Binti Shupavu Partner Schools, and are excited about the potential gains that engaging parents can bring. Holding these events is a first for AfricAid, and we are learning a lot!