The Motivational Kits
I often felt frustrated and ashamed and felt like leaving school, I can now feel proud going to school – Victorine, refugee schoolgirl in Chad.
Victorine Milamen feels very lucky to have two parents who encourage her to stay in school, rather than marrying young. But as a refugee teenager living in the southwest corner of Chad, she also sees how much her parents must struggle to keep eight children at school. She has often known the humiliation of going to school without necessities.
Education in Chad is costly — and barely affordable — for large families with tiny incomes; the schooling of girls is particularly at risk in these circumstances. UNICEF therefore stepped in with financing from Education Cannot Wait (ECW), to provide refugee and returnee children in southern Chad with school supplies, and with dignity kits for girls. This has made an enormous difference to Victorine, and has motivated her to keep studying.
An estimated 10,500 people have found refuge in southwestern Chad since 2013. They are mainly women and children who have fled ongoing conflict in the neighbouring Central Africa Republic. Victorine Milamen belongs to this wave of refugees. She is a 15-year-old girl in her last year of primary school in Dotogo, in the Logone Oriental province.
Poverty and the scarcity of basic necessities make education a luxury for a refugee population often unable to afford school-related expenses for their children.
Victorine comes from a very large family, so finding the money to pay for schooling has been a constant struggle. She is particularly grateful to her mother: “My father decided to pay for the schooling of my six (6) brothers, so my mother pays the school fees every year for my sisters and myself”.
Despite her gratitude to her mother for sending her to school, Victorine used to have mixed feeling about school and resented the lack of basic essentials. “I was jealous of my friends with their notebooks, and I often felt frustrated and ashamed and felt like leaving school.”
Sometimes, Victorine didn’t have any notebooks because her mother can’t afford all the expenses of sending four (4) girls to school, as she earns only a little money from her sales of porridge on the market.
Parents bear a significant share of the costs of running Victorine’s school in Dogoto: “the Government couldn’t send us enough qualified teachers,” explains Victorine, “so the Parents Association recruited community teachers whom they pay from their own pockets”. This demonstration of parental commitment to education, despite enormous challenges, sends a strong signal to young Victorine of the importance her parents’ generation attaches to education.
She is mindful too that parents sometimes send their girls to be married rather than encouraging them to go further in their studies. “My father and mother encourage me a lot with my schoolwork”, Victorine says gratefully, “and they advise me not to abandon my studies for marriage”.
As well as the common obstacles such as poverty, the lack of trained teachers and poor school hygiene, girls face additional difficulties including the absence of facilities to accommodate their needs during menstruation. To her great delight, Victorine benefitted recently not only from school kits, distributed by UNICEF with ECW funds, and which include notebooks, pens, geometry sets and schoolbags; but also from the simultaneous distribution of dignity kits for girl students, which make an important difference to Victorine as a young woman.
“I used to be absent from school for about five (5) days every month when I had my period (menstruation), but the training we received from the Mothers Association and the dignity kits that have just arrived, allow me to look after myself at school now, and I won’t be skipping classes like I used to do”, beams Victorine with a big smile 😊.
The kits from UNICEF, also allow Victorine to spare a little money for clothes and shoes. She is able to feel differently about herself too: “I can now be proud going to school, like other children that I see on television, and I’ll be really motivated to keep studying to help my family in the future”.
Thanks to Education Cannot Wait 185,890 Chadian children (including 83,016 girls) benefited this year from the distribution of school materials, in the provinces most affected by crises in three neighbouring countries:
· Nigeria (children affected in the Lake Chad area),
· Central African Republic (children affected in the provinces of Logone Oriental, Logone Occidental, Moyen Chari and Mandoul); and
· Sudan (children affected in the provinces of Ennedi East, Ouaddai, Wadi Fira, Sila and Salamat).
In addition, about 15,000 girls benefitted from the distribution of dignity kits.
Also in these regions, Education Cannot Wait (ECW) and USAID have funded the construction this year of 174 fully furnished classrooms in 52 schools*. By end-November 2018, 24 of the classrooms had been delivered in nine (9) schools, with the remainder still under construction. Supported schools include water points and separate latrines for boys and girls.
*ECW 126 classrooms; USAID 48.