A YOUNG MOTHER’S DREAM TO GET AN EDUCATION AGAINST ALL ODDS
Grace taking a walk with her daughter after a day in school
By Caren Onyango, a Psychosocial Counsellor with Save the Children.
During one of our visits at the Kakuma Refugee Camp, we met 17-year-old Grace from South Sudan.
When she arrived at the camp back in 2019, her hope was to start a new life and possibly get an education in order to build a better future for herself and her family.
She was delighted when, in 2020, she was enrolled into the Accelerated Education Program. The program is for learners who have not attended school for a long time and need to catch up with their peers. Grace understood that she needed to be taken through a modified curriculum to keep up with learners her age, something she didn’t mind, because her thirst for an education was great.
Unfortunately for Grace, the Covid-19 pandemic hit just as she was starting to get used to school. As a precautionary measure, the government ordered for the closure of schools in an effort to keep children safe and avoid the spread of the coronavirus.
It was during this time that Grace became pregnant.
When schools reopened in January 2021, Grace was unable to continue with her education because of the social stigma that comes with teenage pregnancy. She eventually dropped out of school and went back to South Sudan to deliver her baby. She returned to the camp with her bubbly daughter earlier on in 2022. The burden of motherhood was heavy on her and she was undecided on going back to school.
That is when Save the Children and the Norwegian Refugee Council stepped in.
"When I first met Grace in June 2022, she informed me that even though she really wanted to get an education, she couldn’t because of the social stigma as well as her new responsibility as a new mother. We counselled her on the importance of education and eventually convinced her to go back. Her mother promised to take care of her little one to enable Grace get the education she needed," says Caren Onyango, a Psychosocial Counsellor with Save the Children.
Save the Children and Norwegian Refugee Council with funding from European Union Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid (ECHO) have been implementing an education and child protection program in Dadaab and Kakuma Refugee Camps aimed at providing quality, safe and inclusive education learning opportunities for children like Grace. The project offers psychosocial support, life skills lessons, resilience forums, trainings and awareness sessions on child protection.
Through this program, Grace has been receiving psychosocial support in the company of her mother through regular home visits, helping her to build her confidence to return to school and pursue her dreams.
"I had lost hope in education but thanks to the counselling I have been receiving from Save the Children and the support from Teacher Resilar, I am positive that I can still pursue my education and be a teacher. One day I want to serve my community," says Grace.
Grace is now in level 3 of the Accelerated Education Program and looks forward to join the mainstream classes next year. Her teacher, Resilar Echesa, who is also the Center Leader at Future Primary says she’s very happy with Grace’s progress and hopes to see her go to secondary school.
"Grace is a determined girl and I am proud of her milestones. She has defied all odds to be in school. I have a number of girls who have dropped out of school due to early pregnancy but I love the zeal that Grace has. She is proof that education has no limitations. I can count on Grace since despite all the challenges she faces at school and at home as a teenage mother, she is still able to perform at least averagely in school," says Teacher Resilar.