When 15-year-old Sharon from northern Uganda lost her parents, she and her five siblings struggled with financial hardship and a lack of support. An orphan left in the care of her uncle, she was pressured to work and to get married, causing her to drop out of school as a teenager.
Unfortunately, Sharon’s situation is common in many countries where children, particularly girls, face immense barriers to education, including poverty, gender discrimination and early marriage. In fact, Uganda ranks prominently amongst other African countries regarding the prevalence of child brides.
To help increase access to quality education and combat childhood marriage, children such as Sharon, who are out of school, but want to find their way back to education, are supported by the Equity and Quality in Education (EQE) initiative – a partnership project between Educate A Child (EAC), Plan International and Uganda’s Ministry of Education, Science, Technology and Sports.
The EQE project works to enrol out of school children (OOSC) into primary education through communitysensitisation campaigns and improving school infrastructure. By distributing bursaries and establishing Caregiver Savings and Loans Associations to fund incomegenerating activities, the EQE also offers financial support for families to send their children to school. In addition, the project trains teachers; promotes behavioural change through community dialogue on child rights; and provides safe-learning environments.
The project gave Sharon and her siblings uniforms and essential learning materials to enable their return to school. Thanks to the EAC-Plan International partnership, Sharon’s school is amongst 30 model facilities that have undergone infrastructure improvements to ensure children have sufficient classroom space, gendersensitive latrines, potable water and bursary support for those in need. Sharon is just one of the more than 68,000 OOSC the EQE project has reached since its inception in Uganda.
The opportunity to access a quality education empowers children to visualise a brighter a future for themselves. With regular school attendance, Sharon is now developing key leadership skills. “This support has dramatically lifted my hopes,” she says. “I want to keep pushing and complete my studies through university. My dream is to become a doctor.”