Empowering Girls Through Education: Inspiring Stories from Tanzania
By Dr. Aimée Bessire, Africa Schoolhouse
Only 1 percent of Tanzanian girls complete secondary school. The numbers are not much better for boys, but it is clear that girls have a much harder road to travel to get an education. Girls face great obstacles to their education including unaffordable school fees, families privileging sons education over daughters, expectations of hours of household chores and being responsible for younger siblings, and high dropout rates with pregnancies, to name but a few. It is even more difficult for girls living in rural communities where there are often great distances between schools.
Africa Schoolhouse is embarking on a new project with local villages and Tanzanian government to construct a boarding school for girls in Iteja village. The Milembe Girls School will be the first girls’ boarding school in Misungwi District and will provide a safe haven where young women can successfully complete their studies and become the healthy, empowered, independent adults they have the right to be. Through our research, we have heard devastating stories about the difficulties girls face in obtaining an education, including accounts of girls being sexually assaulted on their long walks to school. Understanding the statistics of how educating one girl can help reduce poverty and change the lives of generations to come, it is inspiring to hear the stories of girls and women who have beaten the odds to gain an education.
Mageni Francisco Wille is a Form 1 student at Mwaniko Secondary School. Her mother and grandmother did not have access to school in the rural area where she was raised. She is the first of her seven siblings to attend secondary school and she dreams of completing Forms 5 and 6 and becoming a high school teacher. Mageni said she knows that when she has a family “I will make sure my children are going to school like I did.” Milembe Joseph, a Form 4 student at Mwaniko, is also the first of her seven siblings to attend secondary. As one of the youngest in her family, she, too, has beaten the odds. Milembe hopes to become a doctor one day and when asked where she saw herself in ten years, she said “I will try to educate other women to send their children to school. Education is so important!” Sisters Elizabeth and Esther Kisusi are in Forms 2-3 at Mwaniko. Their mother attended primary school through Standard 4 and their grandmother did not have an opportunity to go to school. They are the first of their seven siblings to attend secondary school. They both value their education and dream of becoming doctors despite their mother’s struggle to pay their school fees after the death of their father.
These girls are the 1 percent who will graduate from secondary school. They deeply understand the importance of education and will educate their own daughters and sons one day. They will inspire other girls to become educated. They will help end the cycle of poverty. Eventually these are the girls who will change the world. Africa Schoolhouse wants to honor these girls and provide a school where more girls can become educated. Their stories inspire us to continue our work on the Milembe Girls School creating a safe space for girls to become empowered through knowledge, a space to luxuriate in their education full time without the difficulties of long distances to walk to school or hours of chores to do at home. Girls have the right to their education. We want to see the 1% become 100%.
To learn more, please visit: www.africaschoolhouse.org
Photo Caption: Girls at Mwaniko Secondary School, Misungwi District, Tanzania.
Dr. Aimée Bessire is the Founder and Co-Executive Director of Africa Schoolhouse.