Secondary Education for Girls' Advancement (SEGA)

Secondary Education for Girls'Advancement (SEGA) seeks to provide quality education for bright, motivated Tanzanian girls, who otherwise would not have access to secondary education due to extreme poverty, giving them, their families and their communities a pathway out of poverty. SEGA's mission is to promote improved access to high-quality secondary education for marginalized and vulnerable Tanzanian girls. SEGA is responding to the inequitable access to and poor quality of education opportunities for Tanzanian children, especially for poor girls. Tanzania is one of the poorest countries in the world with 36% of people living below the basic needs poverty line and 19% below the ...
Jun 27, 2016

Educating and Empowering Tanzanian Girls 6/27/16

Laura DeDominicis and SEGA Students
Laura DeDominicis and SEGA Students

Sparkling Examples of Leadership and Determination at SEGA
A Letter from Executive Director Laura DeDominicis

On my recent week-long stay on the SEGA Girls School campus I was repeatedly amazed by the myriad ways our students showed leadership and determination. While visiting the new library I found a new Form I student, organizing her ideas and plans to create a monthly SEGA newsletter with her fellow students. She had already signed up many students and was excitedly discussing topics with our Communications volunteer Dana.

Another student, an aspiring artist, when faced with the reality that SEGA is without an art teacher for the coming months, stepped up to teach art herself and start a new art club with her creative classmates. Form IV students, gathering for a monthly student meeting, took turns debating the pros and cons of various ideas for change they want to propose to their teachers. The most striking new idea was to move into one dorm so they could study throughout the night without disturbing the younger students in order to properly prepare for their important Form IV exam in the fall. One girl stood up and said, “We need to be the changemakers and achieve Level I distinction for the first time at SEGA.” Level I is the highest grade one can get on the rigorous Tanzanian national examination.

I believe much of this determination comes from SEGA’s Education for Life Program, which teaches life skills such as communication skills, public speaking, reproductive health, human rights and leadership through community service. All these skills create confident, self-aware and brave young women. Throughout the week I spoke to scores of girls and saw their joy and pride in their accomplishments in the classroom, in clubs and on the sports’ field. They were also eager to test and share their ever improving English skills, which is one of the biggest hurdles in entering secondary school which transitions from Swahili medium in Primary School to English medium in High School.

I was overwhelmed by the community of kind, bright, enthusiastic students and teachers at SEGA. In just 8 short years our supporters have provided a pathway out of poverty and a world of possibilities to these inquisitive girls. I am proud and grateful to be a part of SEGA and hope that all of you will consider visiting and seeing for yourselves what a tremendous difference each of you make in the lives of these girls.

– Laura DeDominicis

A Huge Milestone for SEGA & Student Nusura - SEGA Graduate Accepted to African Leadership Academy

Several weeks ago, SEGA received exciting news. Nusura, a 2015 SEGA graduate, was accepted into the African Leadership Academy! This is a huge milestone for Nusura and SEGA as the African Leadership Academy (ALA) is one of the most prestigious programs African students can attend. Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, ALA identifies young leaders between the ages of 16 and 19 from across the continent with demonstrated leadership potential, a passion for Africa, entrepreneurial spirit, and a strong record of community service. Even after graduating from the program, ALA continues to cultivate these leaders throughout their lives, in university and beyond, supporting their growth through access to internships and careers and connecting them to high-impact networks of people and capital that will empower them to create transformative change. 

Nusura is just one of 5 students accepted to ALA from Tanzania – a true testament to her hard work and SEGA’s ability to bring out young women’s true potential.  ALA begins its academic year in September so in the meantime Nusura has since returned to SEGA to visit, continue studying and prepare for this next step in her life. 

Nusura’s success comes as no surprise, as she has long been a role model for her fellow students. She faces challenges with a positive attitude and embraces leadership roles effortlessly. Nusura’s compassion for her peers and unwavering determination makes her an excellent example for her classmates.

Nusura’s acceptence to ALA has been met with contagious enthusiasm and an outpouring of excitement by all. Nusura recounted that when she called her grandmother (her guardian) to share the good news, her grandmother was so excited that she had to call Nusura back because she couldn’t stop crying from of pure joy! On campus, teachers and students alike showered Nusura with congratulations and well wishes. 

Congratulations Nusura and all of SEGA!

Open Communication with Students’ Parents Fosters Supportive Environment

SEGA prides itself in creating a supportive, nurturing environments for its students. One way that SEGA helps create this environment is to communicate frequently and openly with students’ parents through semi-annual Parents Meetings. These meetings are an important time for SEGA’s administration to connect with students’ parents. Together teachers and parents work to accomplish a number of goals.

  • First, teachers and parents discuss and share issues they observe the girls struggling with. Parents and the school administration brainstorm changes and solutions to help girls overcome challenges both at school or at home.
  • Second, when the girls see that their parents and teachers are aligned and supportive of their education it helps improve their behavior and increase their responsibility. It’s very motivating to for the girls to see how much everyone cares about their education.
  • Third, during these meetings the SEGA administration can update parents on SEGA’s growth, successes and challenges. Understanding events at SEGA helps parents better appreciate the progress of their daughters.
  • Fourth, SEGA’s counsellors teach parents ways to best support their children, address disciplinary problems and resolve conflicts. Most Tanzanian schools do not have counseling departments, so this is an invaluable resource for SEGA families especially since students come from varied and vulnerable backgrounds. SEGA’s counseling department meets with every student individually to evaluate potential psychological and emotional issues. Our counselors address these needs directly with students and also advise parents on how they can help their daughters. It is crucial for parents to know about the different issues that arise during counseling sessions and to learn how to create a more supportive environment at home. Often times psychological and emotional troubles have a negative impact on the students’ academic performance and on their behavior at school, so it is extremely important to students and parents to work together on these issues.
  • Last, but certainly not least, these Parent Meetings are a fun time for the girls to spend time with their parents. Since all SEGA students live at the school and don’t get to see their families often, these meetings give the girls a chance to show their parents what they’re learning.  The girls are quite proud of their school and their academic accomplishments, so it is a meaningful time for all involved.

We are grateful for the support of our students’ families and investment in their daughter’s education!

Students congratulating Nusura on ALA acceptance
Students congratulating Nusura on ALA acceptance
SEGA
SEGA's Parents Meeting

Links:

Apr 4, 2016

Educating and Empowering Tanzanian Girls 4/4/16

Hannah, English Volunteer at SEGA
Hannah, English Volunteer at SEGA

A reflection on SEGA's English Enrichment Porgram

In October, a group of dedicated teachers and volunteers visited SEGA to implement an English Immersion program to help students gain confidence and fluency in their English speaking skills. This is the thoughtful reflection from one volunteer, Hannah.

Like so many of the great things in my life, I have my mother to thank for my visit to SEGA. She heard about the English Enrichment volunteer trip and was instantly onboard, and she convinced me to take a month off my consulting job to come with her. It was one of the best decisions I ever made.

Our volunteer group was 14 people: half teachers; the other half willing apprentices. We brought stories, cartoons, poems, letters, and games. I was the designated Music teacher, so I also brought a playlist – everything from The Jackson Five to Rihanna – and lyrics sheets. The volunteer team spent a few days planning and preparing in Dar es Salaam before hopping on a bus and heading out to Morogoro for three weeks at SEGA. When we arrived, I was struck by the students’ enthusiastic welcome (they sang us a welcome song!) and the beauty of the campus, even in the dry season: buildings painted deep reds and yellows; tiled walkways; stunning murals; an open pavilion for meals and community gatherings. I was excited and nervous to teach the incoming Form 1 students.

The volunteers split into pairs, each with an experienced teacher and an assistant. Each pair taught a group of six or seven students for one week at a time. The program’s goal was to improve spoken fluency, so although we incorporated grammar lessons, we focused on spontaneous communication. We started off each day together with Music class, where we listened to songs, sang, and discussed vocabulary, rhyme, and metaphor. Then we split into our small groups. The students read short stories aloud in English and reflected on them. They told us about their day-to-day activities, their families, favorite animals, foods, hobbies and subjects, and their goals for the future. They looked at picture-stories and retold them in English. They interviewed each other, debated each other, gave book reports without notes, and discussed poetry and speeches. In the afternoons, we made art, played games, and shared cultural traditions – we told the girls about Halloween and we dressed up in costumes, and the girls demonstrated drumming, dancing and singing from their villages. One weekend, the school organized an incredible trip to Mikumi National Park, where the girls saw their favorite animals up-close and witnessed the magnificent natural beauty of their country. Through it all, I was extraordinarily proud to watch their skills and confidence improve every day.

I want to share a brief anecdote that captures a lesson I learned at SEGA. One morning, one of my students – who had been consistently animated and eager – came into class sullen and withdrawn. I knew these girls had experienced adversities I found unimaginable. Did this student have PTSD? Had I upset her? I worried all morning. But around lunch time, like flipping a switch, she was herself again. I joked with her: “You must tell me about your homework tomorrow, since you did not want to earlier.” She grinned. “Yes, Madam,” she said. “I was sad – but time changes.”

“Time changes.” Such wise words! Later, she joked back: “I like being sad, Madam. It is my hobby!” I realized that in my anxiety over the horrors I imagined in her past, I had taken one moody morning as evidence that my student was a victim. She’s not a victim, no matter what she’s been through. She’s a teenager. She has good days and bad days. She’s a tough, smart, irrepressible young woman, just like me.

Witnessing these vibrant, intelligent girls rise to the challenge of learning a tough new language – it’s hard to describe the connectedness, the sameness, the oneness I felt. Hearing my student explain that time changes – time heals – I learned something I thought I already knew: we are not defined by our past. All of these girls have overcome intense hardship and poverty to pursue their dreams and get an education, and I am beyond impressed by them. I am deeply grateful to SEGA for hosting me and the other volunteers and giving us the chance to learn and grow with these amazing students.

Three months later, I am still working through responding to my enormous pile of beautiful handwritten farewell cards. Many of the cards have messages like “We are sorry for all the mistakes we made. Thank you for being so forgiving.” I want to say to them and to the girls around the world who struggle with the same worries: it is okay to make mistakes. It is good to make mistakes. Learning lessons from your mistakes is one of the keys to success. Study hard, and never, never, never give up.

– Hannah

Empowering Students to Stand Up Against Violence Against Women & Girls

February 14th, commonly celebrated as Valentine’s Day, has a new meaning this year. This year on February 14th women around the world will celebrate the Day of the Dance as part of a global campaign against violence against women and girls. One Billion Rising began The Day of Dance as a call to action based on the staggering statistic that 1 in 3 women on the planet will be beaten or raped during her lifetime. With the world population at 7 billion, this adds up to more than one billion women and girls.

SEGA students learned about One Billion’s Rising’s “Break the Chain” dance during this year’s East African Girls’ Leadership Summit. The girls were shocked to learn how prevalent violence towards women is across the globe. SEGA students have since learned the “Break the Chain” dance and are feeling empowered to speak out against violence against women. Through performing the dance, the girls are “fighting something they hate with something they love.”

Many of our students are all too familiar with gender-specific violence, so this is a particularly powerful campaign for our students. On a local scale SEGA fights violence against women through our Life Skills classes. SEGA’s Life Skills classes focus on educating girls on their rights as women, providing reproductive education, building confidence and teaching leadership skills. Armed with knowledge and self-assurance our students are better prepared to resist, avoid and speak out against violence aimed at women.

Student testimonies remind us that unfortunately violence against women is frequent in Tanzania and girls are often threatened or bullied into submission. One of our graduates relayed a story that after she left SEGA, a professor from another education institution threatened to fail her if she didn’t sleep with him. Rather than submitting or dropping out of school, the student said, “I looked at him in the eye and told him ‘I have paid to be here and it is my right to be here and you should leave me alone’ …and the way I said it, so confidently, he left me alone after that…. I learned how to do that from my Life Skills classes at SEGA.”

Board Member, Kendall, Discusses Highlights from her Recent Trip to SEGA

Kendall serves on the Nurturing Mind’s board and has been largely instrumental in the development of online charitable giving. She and her daughter recently visited SEGA and had an incredible, formative experience at the school. Below are a number of highlights and reports of their trip:

My daughter, Mikayla and I, just came back from an exhilarating experience at SEGA school for girls in Tanzania, that will stay for us forever. It was special because it was not only an educational chance to see a new culture, but it was a chance to get to know a local community on a much deeper level. My daughter, who is 13 years old, and I stayed at the SEGA school in Morogoro for four days. We lived on campus with 200 vulnerable girls age 13–17, and volunteered both in the classroom and out and both agreed it was one of our most life awakening trips.  Our adventure began by being greeted with 200 joyful voices singing “Welcome, Welcome to our School” and was followed by numerous eye opening experiences.

  • Growth at SEGA: Having not seen the school for four years, I was really excited to see the physical expansion of the school, that was laid out so beautifully and simply. The growth of classroom and dorm space gives the campus a more full and active feel. But I was most proud to see the dedicated computer room, library, AND art room, filled with supplies that add a dimension of professionalism and specialization.  The recent graduating class filled the computer room every morning, the art room has tons of colorful projects, and the girls lined up in the afternoon to read the assortment of books that they can now check out.
  • Highly Invested Staff: I was incredibly impressed with the staff — very friendly but disciplined teachers, very smart and dedicated volunteers, and many warm hearted but strict counselors. The girls are getting experience and education on all aspects of life, including promptness, good values, good decision-making, and confidence to do and follow what is right. I was struck by how deeply they work with these girls —  one girl, for example, had made some bad choices, and was suspended.  Instead of looking the other way, hoping she would change on her own, Astridah, the Head Mistress, approached her in a stern but motherly fashion, reminding her of the importance of this opportunity at SEGA and giving her one more chance —as a result, she has completely changed her intent and perspective on who she is in life. She’s now one of the main leaders in her class, not just to the teachers but to her peers in terms of doing what is right. The teachers seem to do so much beyond just caring for the girls on campus — they push them to be the best they can be while supporting them like family.
  • Developing Relationships with Students: But of course the most meaningful part of the trip was getting to know these incredibly motivated, smart girls who are so grateful for this opportunity. They understand that this an education way beyond the classroom.  Not only does it keep them out of risky life paths in their village, but it offers them the knowledge, confidence and initiative to go after their dreams. Because these girls are so grateful for this opportunity, they are dedicated to doing something great with their education. And they are not just thinking about a successful job but one that gives back to their community. My daughter was inspired by the girls’ open heartedness, their friendliness and warmth to us as visitors, and their incredible hard work academically and physically. We witnessed them all day on Saturday doing the laundry, swathing the grass and mopping the floors. On Sunday, we watched them ironing their uniforms, which in itself seemed to take hours — they each get piles of coal, burn the coal, put a few pieces in their metal iron, iron part of their uniforms, empty the cold coals and fill again with hot coals over and over again. But as with all their chores, they did it with joy, pride and a big smile on their face.
  • The Power of Home Visits: Our most eye-opening experience was the home visits, which gave us perspective of how far these girls have come.  We learned of the hardships of where these girls come from and the challenges in their villages, including marriage and babies at a very young age. We learned how many of these girls do not have a strong family structure to protect and guide them. My daugther very quickly came up to me with a deep sincere sigh and said “I can’t believe how full of joy these girls are, knowing the hardships and challenges that surround them.”  One of the homes we visited was the family of a girl that we had sponsored for years and I had the joy of hosting her at my house in Connecticut during her US visit. She is like a daughter to me, and her happy loving mother quickly adopted my daughter as well — pulling my 13 year old daughter across the room onto her lap and hugging and kissing her for 30 minutes, oozing gratitude for the opportunity her daughter has been given and trying to give that back.
  • Celebrating One Billion Rising: One of the highlights from our visit was seeing the girls on February 14, celebrate One Billion Girl Rising, a movement to stop violence against women around the world. A few of the girls had learned the dance at a leadership conference the previous month and they taught their 200 fellow students. To see them all dance in unison, with power, determination and excitement gave me chills — not only for what the school has already done for them but for what impact these girls will likely make in their life.
  • A Perfect Ending: As we sadly ended our last day at SEGA with some bittersweet good byes to all our new friendships, one girl yelled out: “Mika, Mika, I want to sing you a song.”  She sang a song full of heart and meaning, with a message of “remember me,”. Then she started another song, and very spontaneously girls coming down the paths from all different directions joined in and soon we were surrounded by a beautiful sound of 40 harmonized voices singing “Lean On Me.” It struck me as we walked away, how appropriate that song was to show their strength and resilience…….. they offer that we lean on them instead of vice versa.

What happens to students after they graduate from SEGA?

Over the course of 4+ years SEGA teaches its students academics, leadership skills, self confidence, entrepreneurial ideas,  life skills and much more, but SEGA’s support doesn’t stop at graduation; through its Career Development Program SEGA helps girls apply to and attend internships, jobs and further schooling. 

After gradation in October, most students attend an Intensive Computer Training course on campus – a course that teaches graduates essential computer skills that they can use in almost any job setting. The Intensive Computer Training course takes place in the waiting period between graduation and when students receive their national exam results in the spring.

Depending on their exam results, students have several options as to how and where they continue their education or career. Historically 75% of our students score well enough to pursue higher education. 98% of SEGA students pass their national exams, in comparison to the 68% national average pass rate.

  • The highest scoring students will apply to Advanced Level High Schools. These schools are the best pathway for girls to attend university.
  • Some girls will apply to 2 year junior colleges which will help prepare them to be teachers, administrators, NGO managers and nurses.
  • Other students will participate in an internship for more “on the job” training. Many of these internships focus on teaching other girls essential life skills (e.g. self confidence, sexual education, health etc.) 
  • For girls who do not wish to continue their education, SEGA helps find job placements or build a business plan for an entrepreneurial business. 

Throughout the entire application and educational transition students work with SEGA’s Career Development Counseling team.  The team helps girls with their applications and ensure the programs they are attending are safe and reputable. They also visit every graduate to check-in on her at her new school or job. 

The counseling team frequently reports that not only do SEGA graduates feel well prepared to pursue higher education or a job, but their teachers and supervisors often notice how confident, well-spoken and well-adjusted SEGA students are. A teacher and administrator at the Institute of Management and Development Studies said, “There is a definite difference between SEGA students and others.  They’re very active and ask lots of questions. Their grades are promising for the coursework and they cooperate well with others and are active and participate in class.”

We are very proud to see our students applying the skills they learned at SEGA to new educational and professional settings. After all, one of our most important goals is to empower girls and give them the tools to pursue careers and dreams that otherwise would not be possible — there’s no doubt we’re succeeding!

Board Member Kendall at SEGA
Board Member Kendall at SEGA
SEGA
SEGA's Intensive Computer Training for Grads

Links:

Jan 6, 2016

Educating and Empowering Tanzanian Girls 1/5/16

Yustina and Jesca, SEGA
Yustina and Jesca, SEGA's study abroad students

SEGA's 3rd Graduating Class

We are thrilled to announce that the 3rd SEGA graduation was held on Saturday, October 24, 2015. The graduates celebrated with their peers, families and teachers along with SEGA partners and supporters. They now proudly join SEGA alumnae, as they look to the future to continue their studies, like the alumn’s before
them.

The guest of Honor was Miriam Mattao, Director of Students’ Welfare at Mzumbe University. She inspired the graduates with her commencement speech and made every student stand and promise that they “can and will change the world.”

During the ceremonies the younger classes preformed dances and skits. Nusura Gundi, who studied abroad last year in the US, spoke about SEGA and Nurturing Minds (NM) being one family, and SEGA’s Administration gave a tremendous thank you.

New Partnerships

SEGA named Ashoka Changemaker School

Ashoka Changemaker Schools Network strives to make ‘changemaking’ skills of empathy, teamwork, leadership, and problem-solving as valued in education as traditional academic skills; and has identified SEGA as a model ‘Changemaker school’.

By joining the Ashoka network, SEGA is joining a movement to create a transformation in educational values. Schools in the network share best practices with each other and benefit from opportunities to collaborate with other schools, connect with Ashoka’s partners, present at conferences, and more.

Nurturing Minds named TABS Charitable Partner

The Association of Boarding Schools (TABS) is committed to connecting the public with great schools and providing professional development and research to staff at 300 college-preparatory boarding schools across the United States, Canada, and abroad.

Each year, TABS identifies and partners with a charitable organization serving young people in profound, inspiring, and innovative ways. Nurturing Minds is thrilled to be named as the TABS Charitable Partner of the year. We currently partner with over 10 boarding schools and we are excited at this opportunity to engage with more academic institutions to promote cross cultural learning, provide opportunities for international service trips and further girls education in Africa.

New Innovative Programs

SEGA Study Abroad

This fall two Form III SEGA students, Yustina John and Jesca Juma, traveled to Newton, MA for a 5-week study abroad program. The girls studied intensive English at the Oxford House College in Boston and experienced a cultural exchange with host families.

While in the U.S. the teens spent time with groups like the Teens for SEGA at Newton North High School, toured Harvard University and shadowed an architect for a day at Perkins and Will in Boston. They also had the chance to travel to CT, NY, PA, and Washington DC to meet supporters and do some site seeing along the way!

English Immersion Program

One of the biggest challenges the girls face at SEGA is learning English. In an effort to help change this, 14 American volunteers arrived in November and spent 3 weeks fully immersing our Pre-Form girls in spoken English.

The team came from all over the US, and had worked for months to develop a curriculum that would help get girls talking! They used theatre, games, books, films, and visits to the market and had a strict rule of no Swahili! It was challenging, fun and a huge success.

The English Immersion team stayed in the new guest house, completed last summer. The guest house comfortably sleeps 12 and allows short-term visitors and service groups to stay on campus. This gives visitors one on one time with our students, is less expensive than a hotel and generates income for SEGA!

SEGA's 2015 Graduation - A firsthand account from supporter Angela McManus

I returned home to California after by trip to SEGA several weeks ago but I still find myself reviewing my photos and videos of my time at SEGA and in Tanzania time and time again. I love telling the stories of my experiences and about the unique and special people of Tanzania. The trip far exceeded my expectations and I would recommend it to others. Thank you to all for making this an experience of a lifetime.

A few years ago I heard about SEGA and Nurturing Minds through my neighbor and was inspired by the vision, passion and results of the school so early in its development. I had the opportunity to help sponsor 2 students and jumped at the chance – I am so glad I did.

Over the next few years I got to learn more about SEGA and their programs, about the students through the letters that we sent back and forth and from the reports from the class coordinators sent on their academic and interests at the school.   The students’ focus has always been on working hard so when the invitation came from Rehema and Mwanaidi to come to their graduation, there was no hesitation on my part to make the journey and be part of this momentous occasion.

Upon arriving to SEGA several months later, I saw the red arch at the campus entrance and the beautiful water tower, and I was a bit nervous and excited. I received a very warm welcome from all, a tour of the school and then a beautiful singing welcome from the girls. My senses were on overload observing the differences in Tanzanian culture – specifically how the people respect each other and their unwavering resilience.

The next few days I had the opportunity to volunteer and become a part of the school. I got to experience first hand how passionate, committed and dedicated the faculty, staff and volunteers are to the education of the girls. They do so much with so little. I also had the opportunity to participate in two home visits and meet the girls’ families.

Graduation was beautiful and a true celebration for the girls who have overcome so many obstacles to get to where they are today. The entire school took part with skits and songs from all classes. The families of the graduates were beaming with pride!   Leaders from the community were also there to support the graduates. It was an emotional and inspirational day for the graduates and all who attended, and a day I will never forget.

—  Angela McManus

Jesca graduates from SEGA in October
Jesca graduates from SEGA in October
English Immersion volunteers with SEGA students
English Immersion volunteers with SEGA students
 

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