This program earned a Gold award.
The incidence of absenteeism and school drop-out of girls increases dramatically when they reach puberty. In many cases, it is because girls begin menstruating, but have not been taught what this means, or how to deal with it. They are also often ridiculed at schools, and the lack of decent toilet facilities at many schools only makes this worse. It was therefore decided to begin doing education workshops for girls at schools in four regions in the Eastern Cape – Alfred Nzo, Oliver Tambo, Chris Hani, and Ukhahlamba). Two teachers at each school (since 2008, six pilot schools) were trained in adolescent reproductive health, puberty, safe sex, and HIV, and are encouraged to continue providing education to girls in their schools in the future. Girls are given education on similar topics. Workshops are also planned for girls and their parents/caregivers, which includes puberty and reproductive health, communication, teenage pregnancy and HIV, gardening and nutrition. Girls and their parents are encouraged to start their own small vegetable gardens at home, to supplement the household food. Girls from grades 7-9 are also provided with sanitary pads on an ongoing bases. A number of orphans and vulnerable children have also been identified by the project, and are supported through receiving fee exemption, school clothes and food parcels. The programme also helped to upgrade the toilet facilities at some schools, as well as lobbying government to provide this service to schools across the country. Questionnaires, focus groups, and post-workshop feedback were conducted with girls and their caregivers, to assess the impact and effectiveness of the project. A survey of toilet facilities at schools was also done, and the results shared with a number of stakeholders (schools, parents, Departments of Education and Health).
Innovation: The project aims to enable girls to continue with their schooling, by providing education and sanitary pads so that they do not have to skip school during menstruation. It also focuses on improving communication between girls and their parents, so that it is easier for them to discuss other issues in the future.
Effectiveness: The project aims to reach 3750 girls, at 139 schools. Thus far, six schools have been involved, with 12 teachers trained; and toilet facilities upgraded.
Poverty Impact: By providing education and sanitary pads to the girls, it improves their school attendance, which then improves their chances of finishing school and being able to obtain employment later in life. By teaching caregivers about nutrition and encouraging them to start their own vegetable gardens, the project can also have an impact on food security for these families.
Sustainability: Proctor & Gamble provided R3.2m for the project which will continue until August 2010; and funding for OVCs (accessed by Save the Children UK) amounted to R64 000. Toilet upgrades will hopefully be covered by the Provincial Government. The education provided to the girls improves the chances of the project’s impacts being sustainable, as does the teacher training. The goals of the project have not yet been met, and it is therefore likely that the funding will continue for the foreseeable future.
Replication: Similar programmes could be run in almost any school in the country, and would be most beneficial in schools where girls have little access to education about puberty, or to decent toilet facilities. Some funding would need to be sourced, as well as educators or trainers to provide the workshops. It may be easier to replicate the project by only training educators, and getting them to provide the information to girls, but there is then no real way of guaranteeing the quality of the education provided. Thus, training educators, and providing initial workshops for girls, is likely to be more effective.