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‘Missionaries have a long term commitment, and their local presence in communities enables them to have a deep understanding of the local context. The missionaries demonstrated solidarity with the poor and worked with the most vulnerable in their inclusive approach.’

Misean Cara recently commissioned Out of the Box to assess the effectiveness of ten Misean Cara funded projects in six countries across Africa in the realisation of girls’ equal education rights. Out of the Box are a team of international experts who specialise in supporting NGOs to strengthen capacity and achieve sustainable change. Maria Kidney, Country Director for Kenya at Out of the Box discusses their findings in this special report.

Senior high school students at Queen of the Holy Rosary School, Bo, Sierra Leone

Senior high school students at Queen of the Holy Rosary School, Bo, Sierra Leone.

One of the real privileges we have at Out of the Box is working with those who are truly working at the grassroots level to bring sustainable change. These are not the sort of assignments you can do justice to from behind a computer screen and so four members of the Out of the Box team spent eight weeks visiting six countries across Africa (Benin, Malawi, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and South Sudan).

We visited schools in some of the most remote and challenging locations in countries with massive youth populations and high unemployment. We met truly dedicated individuals committed to ensuring the next generation of boys and girls can learn, grow and increase their opportunities for success. We spent some days in each location meeting students, teachers, parents and communities leaders and reviewing bundles of documents. While this is never enough to fully appreciate the excellent work being carried out, it does provide us with a good understanding and leaves fond memories that will stay with us long into the future.

Primary school students at Maker-Kuei Primary School, Rumbek, South Sudan.

Primary school students at Maker-Kuei Primary School, Rumbek, South Sudan.

One key theme that appeared consistently in every project we visited was the challenge to deliver equal access to education for girls, particularly in secondary school. There are several challenges for girls accessing education, including cultural and religious perceptions about the role of girls, the requirement for girls to complete household chores, risks in getting to and from school, and managing menstruation each month. Altogether the odds are stacked against girls having equal education opportunities.

The most successful projects we visited took a holistic approach and worked with key stakeholders to find solutions. This holistic approach is characteristic of the faith-based missionary approach which was evident across all projects, and contributed to the effectiveness of the schools. Missionaries have a long term commitment, and their local presence in communities enables them to have a deep understanding of the local context. The missionaries demonstrated solidarity with the poor and worked with the most vulnerable in their inclusive approach. They are values oriented, and the high standard of education they provide was evident throughout.

Some of the interventions used to keep girls in education include teaching parents the benefits of education, providing hostels at schools, providing washing and changing facilities, enabling communities to deal with trauma, and promoting peace in conflict situations. The communities we visited are working together to bring change, proving that when the right people come together, sustainable change happens.

Special report by Maria Kidney, Country Director for Kenya, Out of the Box.

Photo caption: SELL Trainee Facilitators and Resource Team members at the Presentation Brothers Junior High School, Logre, Ghana. L-R: Tindan Juliana (Tongo Parish), Alaale Gladys (St Martin’s Parish), Ayawini Apasan Chirstina (Sacred Heart Parish), Maria Kidney (Out of the Box), Ayipaala Maxwell (Sacred Heart Parish), Hagar Bebuuv (SELL Resource Team).