Thursday, March 26, 2015

Girl Power Clubs Siaya County Emerging Issues Report: Feb-March 2015

Girl Power Clubs in Sigomre has been making slow but sure progress this term.  Due to a nationwide teachers strike that paralysed learning in all public schools in the country, many schools opened well into the new term, in early February. Having begun so late in the school term, the school administrations gave priority to catching up with the school syllabuses and curricula over other needs. Many extra-curricular activities were dropped except for those designated as a must by the Ministry of education. The exceptions were competitive inter-school sports tournaments, debates, science congress and drama. In the hurried and packed school timetables many head teachers were reluctant to assign time for student club activities this term even where these appeared on the timetables. A few of the teachers (thankfully vey few) appear to feel that Girl Power is an additional responsibility they can do without unless they receive compensation.

Mentoring of schoolgirls is almost totally ignored in many communities in Kenya, and although the ministry has included counselling in the curriculum in all schools in most cases it is given lip service and only applied on a case by case basis. In the hurried atmosphere that attended resumption of teaching in schools many teachers would rather give the time to remedial classes or sports. Sports usually wins out especially as the responsibility for this is delegated to a coach or sports teacher. Also parents pay for sports activities and expect value for themir money not to mention the fact that most students love sporting activities.

This term there have been a lot of interruptions that interfered with the seamless flow in Girl Power Club activities. Eleven schools in Sigomre Ward have Girl Power clubs, but three of them have yet to hold a Goal activity, especially the secondary schools. Examples are Tingare Secondary,  Moi Uloma, and Got Osimbo Girls. The first two are sport champions in the county while the second one being the only "girls only" boarding school in the constituency is under great pressure to better its academic performance and has embarked on an exam-oriented regime which has even affected sports. Our tactic in most cases has been to turn up anyway and teach a life skill during the sports session or to deliver more than one topic per session.

Despite this, more and more members of the community are eager that their daughters join the Clubs, especially since the girls are involved in sports activities. They say they have seen a positive impact that the sports and life skills activities have had on their daughters and would wish that the work continues. In fact at one public meeting called by the Chief parents wanted to know when Girl Power would start at their local primary and secondary school. There has also been an increase in the number of girls joining Girl Power and we have had to cap this at a maximum of 50 girls to allow for meaningful engagement, especially as use of English is a challenge especially in public primary schools here which begin learning the language only in Std 4. But our insistence on its use is beginning to bear fruit as more members are using it with improved confidence.

The boys of course are quite jealous and a few of the male teachers also  wonder why girls should receive special attention. Such teachers and headteachers have gone as far as using the Girl Power balls for the boys teams saying they are school property. This is the case in St Ignatius Sigomre Primary and in Ninga Primary. However Rome was not built in a day and the positive influence that Girl Power is exerting is changing the girls into questioning injustices and pushing for their rights. This has happened in Ninga Primary where the girls have insisted they too must be given time to play as a team on the soccer pitch and to use the Girl Power balls.

We are pushing on with the work and hope to have more sessions before schools get down to exams or close the term. We are staying positive as usual, because we are POWERFUL!

Maria Okong'o
Project Assistant
Girl Power Clubs Africa
Ugunja Constituency, Siaya County

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