BY BECCA MARTIN
It’s the school holidays, but from one classroom not far from Kampala a song by Sia blasts out through the windows.
“I put my armour on, show you how strong I am. I’ll put my armour on, I’ll show you that I am, I’m unstoppable.”
Inside, a group of girls decide on actions to represent the lyrics to the song and enthusiastically follow the directions of Helen, a volunteer with CRANE, Viva’s partner network in Uganda.
The girls react with glee as they choose to flex their muscles for the word ‘strong’ and they talk about the different emotions they might feel.
They are here attending a camp for girls who have been part of the Girls’ Education Challenge implemented by Viva with CRANE, in partnership with the UK government’s Department for International Development (DFID). The camp brings girls together who have previously attended Creative Learning Centres (CLCs) to continue allowing these girls a space to have fun and relax but also share challenges and learn new things.
On the day that I visited, a lot was going on. Activities had been set up around the school grounds and the 200 girls attending this camp (over 400 girls attended in total) were rotating around activities such as dance, cultural heritage, menstrual hygiene, literacy, IT and music.
I joined a group who were taking the opportunity to visit the library bus. Several teachers were implementing literacy activities, using dictionaries to look up words they did not know after choosing and reading a story, writing letters to authors, or drawing or modelling scenes from the stories they had read.
One girl was meticulously adding a picture to the letter she had just written. She had told the author how she had enjoyed the story because it encouraged the reader to dream about the future. I asked her what her dream for the future was and she replied with a wide smile: “I want to be an engineer”.
I then headed over to the IT bus where a young woman, who is former CLC graduate, was volunteering with CRANE, and was supporting some girls with very limited experience using a computer. One girl confidently typed a paragraph complete with capital letters and full stops as she explained that she had been able to learn how to use a computer through visits from the IT bus to her school.
Over lunch I chatted to some girls about their experience of camp so far. Swimming had clearly been a big hit, especially for some girls who had never had the opportunity to swim before.
I also listened as one girl shared her experience of joining a CLC. She had been out of school for some time because her family could not afford school fees and was encouraged to join the Creative Learning Centre through the mentor in her community.
After six months of catch-up learning her family realised the importance of education and were able to start saving. She was able to go back to school and had now, three years later, she had completed her primary leavers’ exams and joined secondary school.
She smiled as she recalled her memories of her time at the CLC, how she had learned new skills and was helped back into school at a time in her life when things were difficult.
It was so encouraging to meet these future engineers, teachers, girls with big dreams who are, in fact, unstoppable.
Becca Martin works as Finance Manager for Viva Africa in Kampala, Uganda