education

Trying to cross through a flooded section of road in South Sudan. {Photo credit: E. Polich/MSH.}Photo credit: E. Polich/MSH.

“We’re going to try to drive through that?”

After spending nearly two years working in South Sudan, I was on my way with two colleagues to one final meeting. The USAID-funded second phase of the Sudan Health Transformation Project (SHTP II), led by Management Sciences for Health (MSH), ended activities on July 31, 2012, and three of us needed to travel 360 kilometers (220 miles) to a results dissemination meeting. A flight booking mishap meant we had no choice but to drive --- during rainy season.

With a key bridge washed out.

And it rained --- down poured --- for over an hour the morning we left.

After passing several toppled trucks, overtaking pickups irrevocably mired in mud, and crossing through a river, we came across the point where I uttered the above quote (“We’re going to try to drive through that?”).

Seven-year-old Ladi Muhammed. Nigeria. {Photo credit: S. J. Garlora / MSH.}Photo credit: S. J. Garlora / MSH.

Seven-year-old Ladi Muhammed wants to become a teacher. The third of five children ranging 3 to 20 years old, Ladi and her family live in a poor Nigerian village.

The likelihood of Ladi attending primary school is low.

Public primary education is free in Nigeria, but Ladi’s parents can barely afford to feed their children. The children supplement their parents’ income with menial jobs, such as street trading, which leaves little time or energy for schooling.

Her father, Ahmadu Mohammed, wants to send all of his children to school, but does not have the financial means to do so. “It is my heartfelt desire to send my children to school, but I can’t support them due to the meager salary I earn from my work as a gateman. Our situation is tough; we can barely feed ourselves,” says Mohammed.

Without an education, Ladi’s desire to one day become a teacher appeared a distant dream.

Girl from Uganda. {Photo credit: MSH.}Photo credit: MSH.

The press statement title caught my attention: “Members Continue Efforts to Protect Rights of Women in Developing Countries.”

With piqued interest, I read on:

Congresswoman Betty McCollum and Aaron Schock have once again introduced legislation to stem the devastating impact of child marriage on young girls in developing countries.  The McCollum-Schock International Protecting Girls by Preventing Child Marriage Act, House Resolution (H.R.) 6087, promotes and protects the rights of girls in the developing world.

I was pleased to learn that H.R. 6087 establishes a strategy to prevent child marriage and promote the empowerment of girls.  The legislation also integrates the issue of preventing child marriage into existing US development programs, and requires that relevant agencies collect and make available data on the rates of child marriage and its impact on meeting key development goals.

Ms. Apegnon Akpene, a family planning client and role model, in Diguegue. {Photo credit: Niagia Santuah/MSH.}Photo credit: Niagia Santuah/MSH.

Apegnon Akpene is a 20-year-old mother of three children: four-year-old Joseph, two-year-old Romance, and one-month-old Akou Jacqeline. Since attending USAID's Action for West Africa Region, Phase II (AWARE II)  community health worker training, she has become a client of family planning -- and a role model for family planning in her community.

Akpene is one of three community health workers in Diguegue, a small village of about 800 people in the hills of the southwestern forest separating Togo and Ghana. Distance and difficult terrain are major hindrances to accessing health care for the inhabitants of the village. Diguegue is 47 kilometers from the nearest health facility, a small clinic, in the Prefecture of Tchifama. The village is served by a 12-kilometer dirt road that winds through the thick forest.

Akpene attended school for eight years. When she became pregnant at age 16, she was forced to drop out. She gave birth to three children within four years.

Godgift and his caregiver receiving educational supplies from the Executive Director of Synergycare Initiative. {Photo credit: Anayo Chike Charles/MSH.}Photo credit: Anayo Chike Charles/MSH.

Early one morning Mrs. Fred woke up and found a boy outside her house. Alarmed and curious, she asked him why he was there. Godgift, as he identified himself, told her that the continuous appearance of a snake where he lived forced him to abandon the place he called home, after numerous futile attempts to frighten it off with pepper. Highly disturbed, she arranged for him to eat in a nearby restaurant whenever he showed up by her house.

The boy, Godgift Henshaw, is 13 years old. Godgift's mother took him along when she left her husband and eloped with another man. When the burden of care got too heavy, she left Godgift with her mother in Agbia community, Bayelsa State, Nigeria. Godgift’s grandmother beat and neglected him. Most of the time he went without food and often slept outside the house. Finally, she labeled him a wizard and abandoned him, fleeing from their home.

The landlord evicted Godgift when there was no one to pay the rent. He took refuge in an uncompleted building in a nearby bush, completely at the mercy of the elements. Abandoned and stigmatized (following his identification as a wizard), he fed himself by doing odd jobs.

Cynthia Isioma, Nigeria

In the village of Owa Ofie, Nigeria, Cynthia Isioma, a young girl who has survived enormous odds reclaimed her dream of secondary education.

Cynthia lost both parents at the age of two and was left in the care of her grandmother who died three years later. Cynthia’s situation grew more challenging when she was then moved to her blind grandfather’s home at the age of five.

Rather than receive care, Cynthia had to take on the responsibility of caring for her grandfather who could not afford to send her to school.  Cynthia became a child caregiver, providing for herself and her grandpa. Her daily duties included going to the forest to collect cocoyam, palm nuts, snails, and waterleaves to sell and for household use.

Cynthia’s situation changed when she was 13 years old and Rural Linkage Network (RULIN), a community-based organization based in Boji Boji, visited Owa Ofie to identify orphans in need of support. RULIN is supported by the USAID-funded, MSH-led Community Support for OVC Project (CUBS).

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