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On World Teachers’ Day, as CAMFED and TES Global celebrate their new partnership for girls’ education, REGINA NGEREZA, a CAMFED-trained Teacher Mentor in rural Tanzania, brings her work to life.

There are so many students in need here, and so many parents who have never had a secondary education and do not know how important this is. So I have been doing the work of not just educating the students, but the parents, and the community as a whole.

I have been an English and Kiswahili teacher at my school for 10 years. There are about 1,000 students here. We have 240 dormitory places, because many children live too far away to make the journey every day, and many are orphans. Class sizes are big, more than 70 students per class. I have four streams, around 300 students. My days are long. I stay here until 10 in the evening.

In 2010, CAMFED came, and I was chosen to be a Teacher Mentor, mentoring the students who are vulnerable; those supported by CAMFED and others at risk of dropping out. Children in my community face many barriers. There are orphans like Sharifa, who have no chance of accessing school without support. Girls like Grace. Her family did not have enough resources to support her to finish her primary education, and she stayed at home for two years. An aunt and then a community member helped her finish primary school, but could not meet the costs at secondary level. There is Catherine, whose father passed and whose mother had to move away to find work. These girls are now here with CAMFED bursary support. Together we see them through, with their material needs, and also with their emotional needs. Poverty and loss of your parents, it leaves many scars.

Sharifa, Grace and Catherine after a day of classes. On Wednesdays, I mentor students; discuss their problems.

I call them under a tree. We sit, we talk.

After class hours on Wednesdays, we meet; I call students under a tree. We sit, we talk. But if I see that there is a sensitive case, then I find an office and I talk to my student one-to-one. They have individual problems. For example, maybe she has a sickness she doesn’t want anyone to know about. She comes to tell me and I will help her.

Students who do not board at the school, I visit them at home. When I find a situation that is difficult for me to deal with, I share with the other members: the school head master, the district officials, and Camfed. For example, one of our students had to look after a sibling with a disability and immune deficiency. It was hard for her to concentrate on school. We wanted her to stay in the dormitories, but who was going to look after her sibling? I took the student to the head master, then we took the issue to the Community Development Committee so that they could find a place for the sibling to be looked after.

Learner Guides in a meeting at my school. They share experiences and challenges.

Some girls are too shy to confide in an adult. We teachers now have help from Learner Guides. They are young women who completed school with CAMFED support. They come back to give a session called ‘My Better World.’ Learner Guides help students to study, to learn, to plan their lives, and to interact with other people. They build the confidence of the students. They help us to talk with girls who have problems.

Learner Guides are not much older than the students, so girls feel free to tell them any problem. Sometimes it is something simple, but the child is ashamed. Maybe her clothes are very dirty because she has no money for soap. Also, girls may have problems with pressure from a boy. Learner Guides teach them about reproductive health, and about not being taken advantage of. The change in girls can be seen, for example in our Form 2 exam results. Most of the girls performed better than boys. Now boys know that girls can do better than them; therefore they cooperate together, they study together. Now they are aware that women are able.

I always use myself as an example

I use my own story as an example of what educated women can achieve

We also have meetings where I speak to the parents, specifically women, in the community. Women are not always aware of the importance of education. One of the things that I tell them is that girls can do better when they are given the chance to go to school. I always use myself as an example.

Where I grew up there were very few girls getting an education. I am the first in my family of eight children to go to school. My parents did not go to secondary school, but they supported me. People were surprised to see me study. They were always telling my father, “Why do you send just a girl to school? Why? What is the benefit? That girl is going to get married.” But my father knew it. He just told them, “I don’t send her to school just so that she can help me. I want her to help herself.” After I completed, I helped my parents to send my young sisters and brothers to school. I paid for some of them. My parents see the importance of education.

So I say to the mothers here, “Look at me, I am a woman, I have studied, and now I am here. I can do something for my family, for my community, and for my nation as a whole.”

Mothers mobilize themselves; they put their money and their efforts to make sure that girls can perform in school.

I am seeing changes in mothers too. For example, we have three Parent Support Groups at my school. One group involves some of the teachers here. We work together. We are all women. We speak the same language; we have the same challenges; we understand each other. Mothers in the community are now aware of the importance of education, and they are touched by the stories of some of the students here — they want to help. CAMFED helps to organize them, then the mothers mobilize themselves; they put their money and their efforts to make sure that girls can perform in school.

Me with three of the mothers from our school’s Mother Support Group.

Now we are setting up a mushroom business. We have built the building and started to plant. We hope for more profit to support students’ needs.

We have a poultry business. CAMFED supported us to set it up. We keep hens, sell them, get some money. Now we are setting up a mushroom business. We have built the building and started to plant. We hope for more profit to support students’ needs.

For example, we had a student with an eye problem. The Parent Support Group raised the money to buy her spectacles. We also had a girl who has no parents and no one to take care of her. We organized support for her to stay at the school hostel, and during the holidays one of the parents takes care of her.

The mothers are proud to support more children to go to school with the profits from our poultry business.

In 2012 we had a male student; he was supported by his mother. When he was in Form 2 his mother got paralyzed, and he had no one to help him go to school. I went to the group and I told them his story. They decided that they had to help that boy. They brought him here to the dormitories, and then they paid for everything that he needed. Now that boy is in Form 5 — higher learning — and the Mother Support Group is very proud and still supporting him.

So you see, the change is in the girls, the parents, and also the men and boys. It is what my father recognized, and what my male colleagues understand: when you educate a girl, you educate the whole community.

In the office next to mine, our school board chair (left) and second head master (in white) come out of a meeting. These men know the great impact of educating girls.

 


 

At every one of more than 6,800 government partner schools in sub-Saharan Africa, CAMFED trains Teacher Mentors like Regina Ngereza, who look after the psycho-social wellbeing of vulnerable children, providing guidance and counselling, as well as contributing to program monitoring and reporting. They work with community partners — including young women educated with CAMFED support who join the CAMFED Association of women leaders — to ensure that students receive their entitlements, are attending class regularly, and are succeeding academically. Teacher Mentors coordinate professional and community assistance, such as home visits to child-headed households, and help for children with disabilities.

Find out more about the CAMFED Model and support our communities to send more girls to school, allowing them to multiply the benefits of their education.

 

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