Community mentors’ crucial role in Uganda


“The smile I saw that day was enough to make me smile for the whole week. Faith couldn’t believe she was the one wearing the hat and receiving the certificate.”

Faith is a girl who attended one of our Creative Learning Centres in Uganda. These centres provide catch-up education for girls who have dropped out of school and over 3,000 girls have attended a centre in the last four years.

Faith’s parents have not been supportive. She comes from a broken family; her mother is an alcoholic and a prostitute. She was so drunk on her daughter’s graduation day that she did not attend.

Thankfully, Faith has a chance for a different future. Now she has a job in a salon. It won’t be easy for her to forget the joy she felt on her graduation day – her face was beaming for everyone to see.

I love this story – it really highlights the impact that Viva and CRANE are making to girls’ lives in Uganda.

Photo: Guido MenatoWhen talking about girls’ education, it is easy to assume that poverty is what keeps these girls out of school. However, our experience shows that the reason is often not something as simple as families not affording school fees but rather problems that are more deeply ingrained into society. These could be a lack of parental support, negative attitudes towards girls’ education, early pregnancy or other priorities at home.

Without addressing and working against these more complex issues, there is limited impact we can make. Engaging parents and others in the community is a must – and that’s why the programme had a holistic approach.

We’ve trained 55 mentors in topics such as community development, family counselling, income generation activities and financial literacy. These mentors have developed strong relationships with families and work tirelessly to change attitudes and to work against other issues that stand in the way of girls going to school.

What is even better is that these mentors live in the local community, which means they have the trust of the parents and are there for the long term, making it easy to check in with families and provide support when difficult times come.

Photo: Sven Hansen

Because of the part the community mentors play, we’re seeing parents who are taking responsibility and interest in their child’s education for the first time. Parents are being empowered to attend and contribute to school meetings. They are attending school events to watch sport or dramas and helping their daughters with their exam preparations.

One parent, whose daughter has returned to school after going to one of our Creative Learning Centres, recently attended a school meeting for the first time. Despite the meeting being in English and them not understanding, they said, “It felt good to be there as a parent, to see my child is there in a class and doing things that I do not understand. I was able to count the ticks and could see that my child is performing well.”

It’s exciting to see the impact the mentors are having on their communities and hopefully it will mean that more girls are able to look to the future with confidence and support from their families.


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