PEAS believes that every student matters. PEAS is committed to ensuring that all students, regardless of gender, have equal opportunities to access quality education and learn to the best of their ability. Certain barriers to girls’ education stem from poverty and embedded cultural values which will require time and dedication to change; PEAS schools have the potential to have a significant impact on these barriers and raise awareness among students and communities about inclusive and equal education for all.
Today we want to share Sylvia’s story, who was able to continue her secondary education thanks to PEAS.
Sylvia is a 24-year-old student at a PEAS school in Kasese District, Western Uganda. Sylvia comes from a large family of 10 children - four sisters and six brothers.
When Sylvia was in her third year of secondary school (S3), she became pregnant and dropped out of school. She had her baby and married her husband. Today, Sylvia has four daughters aged 10, 8, 5 and 3, but has never given up on her desire to get an education.
In Uganda, of young women currently aged between 20-24, over 28% had given birth by the time they were 18. Once they have children, young mothers often find it challenging to return to school as there can be a lack of understanding of the importance of educating women. It can be perceived as neglecting her duties towards her children and husband. It is common for schools to prevent girls who have given birth from returning to school due to deeply embedded cultural values.
After discussions with her family and making the necessary child-care arrangements, Sylvia decided to finish secondary school – returning to S3. Sylvia decided to enrol at a PEAS school as it was one of the few schools that allowed her come back to school and remain close to her family home.
Although her decision was not an easy one to make, Sylvia has been amazed by the level of support and acceptance she has received at the school. At first, she thought that leaving her family to go back to study would be negatively perceived by her classmates and teachers, but she soon realised that this school was different.
“When I came to PEAS, my classmates did not chase me away or berate me for the many years I hadn’t been to school. Instead they are good to me and treat me the same as everyone else. They say that I have helped them to recognise the importance of education as they see how much it means to me despite the fact that I cannot be with my daughters.”
Sylvia joined her school’s Girls’ Club to share her experience with other girls; she wants to support and be a role model for other young mothers returning to school. She advises her classmates to stay in school and not to rush into early marriages, as she believes that education is fundamental for women to improve their lives and the lives of their children.
Sylvia wants to become a nurse when she graduates from school and offer her daughters the opportunities that she never had.
Sylvia’s story demonstrates how PEAS is working to address embedded cultural values that prevent girls from receiving secondary education. We believe that each and every young person matters; no one should be prevented from receiving quality secondary education and developing to their full potential.