Helping Vulnerable Children Stay in School
The Bushara School, located in the Kamara sector just 13 kilometers from the Uganda border, is host to roughly 2000 students. Over the years the school has seen many of its students forced to drop out for a variety of reasons. These students include orphans who have had to cultivate their fields and support their families; children sent across the border by their mothers to sell their products and others who decide to drop out to look for odd jobs.
Recently, USAID/Higa Ubeho program through its Rwandan Partners Organizations (RPOs) offered various trainings to community psychosocial workers (CPWs) and Parent Teacher Committees (PTC). The PTCs were trained on how to identify the reasons why students drop out and how to brainstorm and implement creative solutions to fix those problems in the future. At the same time. the CPWs were trained in active listening and creative problem solving. The goal of these groups is to come up with unique solutions to help vulnerable children stay in school.
Claudine is a special example of just how successful and rewarding the work of the CPW is in this region. Claudine is 16 years old and was out of school for an entire semester. One day Claudine went into town with a friend to look for a job and was hired as a maid. After two weeks of not seeing Claudine, her mother solicited the help of the CPW to go into town and find Claudine. To bring Claudine home and get her back into school the CPW made sure that Claudine’s employer did not pay her the full amount that she was promised. This unique technique strengthened the message that the CPW was telling her and stressed the importance to her of going back to school.
Once back in school the PTC has a program to give vulnerable children a source of income so that they can stay in school and provide for themselves, all at the same time. The way this is accomplished is through giving each child their own rabbit. Every two months these rabbits have offspring and the owners are able to sell them with a small profit. “It is a great way to teach responsibility to children at a young age”, said the headmaster. Each small rabbit is usually sold to someone else in the community for one thousand Rwandan francs, but can be sold for as much as three thousand in the nearby towns. The rabbits also have benefits outside of creating an income for the students. The manure from the rabbits can be used as a natural fertilizer for the home gardens. The fertile soil allows for better harvests from the garden and easier planting.
Since getting her rabbit, Claudine has already sold sixteen rabbits. The profits from these sales have allowed Claudine to buy herself a school uniform, school pictures and other clothing for outside of school. In addition, Claudine can now pay the fee to sit for the national exam at the end of each school year. “Being able to afford these things has made school more enjoyable and less stressful” says Claudine. Since returning to school Claudine ranks third in her class of 25 students and aspires to be a doctor when she finishes school. The dramatic change in Claudine’s life has her thankful for the programs run by the PTC and CPW. Today Claudine has returned the favor by donating three rabbits to kids who are facing similar dilemmas to the one she was once in.