The Mango Tree Girls for the Future Campaign
Over the past three years we have been recording and analysing girls education attendance, their performance and results. In both Kenya and Tanzania we have found that girls fare substantially worse than boys.
Mango Tree orphans represent a fairly even split between girls and boys at primary level but by the end of secondary school half the girls have dropped out and fewer continue on to tertiary education. In 2010 of the 29 TMT students selected to go to university only two were girls.
Poor toilet facilities, sexual harassment, poverty levels and the impact of HIV/AIDS linked to child labour are some of the factors that have led to high drop out rates for girls in the areas where we work.
In 2008, one in ten of The Mango Tree's orphaned girls dropped out of school due to teenage pregnancy. By 2011 we managed to reduce this by half to an average of one in twenty.
"dropping out of school means a life of abject poverty for these girls and their babies, and many of them also end up HIV-postive because the male-female power dynamic weighs against them." Said Consolata, the Kenya Director.
What we are doing?
In order to get girls back into school we have started providing foster care homes for girls in rural villages. This has enabled 60 girls to remain within their rural communities where, as well as school fees and uniforms, they are given a safe nurturing home, a balanced diet, homework support, peer-led sexual and social awareness education and mentoring.
We have found that these girls are less vulnerable to teenage pregnancy, are remaining at school, achieving higher standards and feeling greater self-confidence.
The situation facing girls in Kenya
Although the Kenya government introduced free primary school education in 2003, an estimated one million children of school-going age are not attending school in Kenya. Up to 13,000 Kenya girls drop out of school every year as a result of pregnancy. HIV prevalence in Kenyan woman aged between 15 and 24 is about five per cent, compared with just one per cent of their male counterparts. The Kenya Demographic and Health Survey of 2004 found that better educated girls were less likely to marry early, more likely to practice family planning, and their children had a higher survival rate. According to UNICEF, uneducated girls are also more likely to contract HIV/AIDS, which spreads twice as quickly among them than among girls who have had even some schooling.