From a Hostile Home to a Safe School

November 16th, 2017 | Viewpoint


In Uganda, only about 70 percent of girls who complete primary school enroll in secondary school, and by the fifth year, only 22 percent remain. Sixteen-year-old Sharon, in her first year of secondary school, is in the middle of this risky transition time. Sharon studies at Kakooma Secondary School, in Lwanda sub-county Rakai District. She is the oldest of eight; six boys and two girls. Their father is a matooke vendor and her mother a farmer.

Sharon faced many challenges at home. Her mother is expecting her ninth child and wants Sharon to drop out of school and get married. She would like to use the money spent on Sharon’s and her sister’s school fees and supplies to buy other things. She harassed Sharon when she got home from school and refused to provide basic school supplies. If Sharon was late, her mother insulted her by saying, “You’re coming from men,” hoping to break Sharon’s determination to remain in school.

One day, while under a lot of stress, Sharon told a close friend about how her mother treated her. The friend encouraged Sharon to talk to a peer leader from World Vision’s Strengthening School-Community Accountability for Girls’ Education (SAGE) project. After hearing about the situation, the peer leader and a teacher called Sharon’s mother for a meeting at school. Although the meeting appeared to go well, Sharon’s mother did not change her attitude. When Sharon got home her parents were angry and the situation worsened.

The head teacher decided to enroll Sharon in the school’s boarding section, where she is now a dependent student. SAGE staff still visit Sharon’s home to counsel her family and support solutions to keep the other children in school. “The training by World Vision helped me to learn to support adolescent girls more because they face a number of challenges both at home and at school,” says the head teacher of Kakooma Secondary School.

Sharon still lacks supplies like books. Her father gave her only one packet of menstrual towels, and Sharon was worried about being at school when she ran out. A peer leader is teaching her to make reusable pads. Most importantly, Sharon is now in an environment where she is encouraged to succeed at school, not drop out.

JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc., is the DREAMS Innovation Challenge Funds manager and in that role supports 46 DREAMS-IC winners selected to execute cutting-edge programs across the 10 countries. JSI provides overall program support for DREAMS–IC and technical assistance to implementing partners includes strengthening partners’ institutional capacity to manage awards in compliance with U.S. Government regulations and supporting them in reaching the DREAMS–IC goal to reduce the incidence of HIV infections in adolescent girls and young women.

To learn more about the DREAMS Innovation Challenge, please visit This publication was funded through a grant from the United States Department of State as part of the DREAMS Innovation Challenge, managed by JSI Research & Training Institute, Inc. (JSI). The opinions, findings, and conclusions stated herein are those of the author[s] and do not necessarily reflect those of the U.S. Department of State or JSI.

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