Joan Magoba is a 13-year-old and P7 pupil at St Mary’s Bunyana Junior School in Mukono district. While in P6 last year, she started saving Shs 100 from her pocket money, so she could use the savings to buy school requirements. The last born of Dan Kigomba and the late Sarah Babirye’s five children is from Kitanaaba village in Jinja district. She says she can supplement her father’s income and contribute to her school fees and other school requirements using her savings.
“I have learnt how to save and live with other people from different backgrounds. I want to continue saving so that I can buy school requirements for my elder sister,” Magoba says. “I have learnt how to save money. Besides, I have also learnt skills such as baking daddies [a type of pastry], cakes and chapattis.
One time, I had Shs 10,000 on my account and I used it to buy stockings and books. When I told my dad, he was proud of me.”
She is in a group of 38 other girls. They were recently equipped with entrepreneurial and money-saving skills. However, Magoba does not find it stress-free saving from her Shs 1,000 daily pocket money. But because she has decided to live below her means, she is spending only on necessities.
At Mukono Kings High School is another group of 40 girls in a saving club. Their club president, 17-year-old Stella Kimono, currently in S4, is also proud of the project. She was able to save Shs 5,000 last year in second term.
“When they [school] demanded for a school T-shirt, I couldn’t disturb my dad. I withdrew the money and bought the T-shirt,” Kimono says.
She is the first born of four children to Moses Lumbuku, a peasant farmer and Martha Nadunga, a nurse in Mbale town. Like Magoba, Kimono is proud she learnt how to differentiate between needs and wants. This, she says, has helped her learn how to behave financially.
Romasa College students, celebrate after receiving their bank accounts in October 2014
“My parents give me Shs 20,000 as pocket money for a term but this does not stop me from saving,” says Kimono. She promises to continue baking whenever she is in holidays.
All this is attributed to Girls Education Challenge (GEC), a project funded by UKaid. It works in partnership with Opportunity bank, the ministry of Education and Sports, and Private Education Development Network (PEDN) as the implementing organisation in Uganda.
The project, which was established in 2013, targets girls in P6, P7, S3 and S4 with the aim of equipping them with financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills. Speaking to The Observer, project coordinator for Mukono district, Seith Kansiime, said the project targets girls to help stop them from dropping out of schools.
“It is to support the continuity of marginalised girls in primary and secondary schools due to their vulnerability in communities,” Kansiime said.
The project, which is now operating in three districts of Mukono, Jinja and Wakiso, was introduced in 2013 to equip school girls with financial literacy and entrepreneurial skills. It serves under five core values namely personal understanding, rights and responsibility, social enterprise, financial enterprise and financial education.
With emphasis on financial education, the project focuses on edifying girls on how to save, plan, budget and spend. In Mukono district, it is in 16 primary and 16 secondary schools including Mukono Kings High School, Progressive SS, St Stephen’s SS, Manhattan SS, Well Star Bright SS, Paul Mukasa SS, Nakanyonyi SS, St Mary’s Bunyana junior school, Mukono boarding PS, Lweza PS, St Noah PS and Naluuse PS, among others.
To get into schools, the project coordinator gets a list of schools from the district inspector of schools. A selected team is sent to different schools from where they explain the concept, train potential teachers who then train a group of between 30 and 50 willing pupilsstudents.
After, a metallic safe is given to the school. Group members are given ledger cards where they write their names. For every savings made, the club president acknowledges it, signs for it and the money is dropped in the box. It is a group saving box and is kept in the head teacher’s office.
“In every school where our project operates, we give a saving box to the group. Every member is issued with a ledger card where she registers her savings before dropping the money in the box,” says Kansiime. “If a parent gives Shs 500, for breakfast, we encourage them to use at least Shs 400 and save Shs 100. We tell them to save for the future.”
From 32 schools where the project has been introduced in Mukono district since the beginning of 2014, out of 960 girls, 559 have opened up savings accounts with Opportunity bank. They have also been equipped with skills such as making crisps, daddies and cakes. They have also learnt financial behaviour which includes saving, planning and spending.
According to its coordinator, the project is facing rejection from some schools, where students argue that they have limited time. From the time the project was introduced, according to its coordinator, there have not been records of girls dropping out of schools because they are sometimes able to purchase necessities such as sanitary pads, books, pens and books.
However, Joan Magoba has no regrets of joining the project despite having to forego at least one lesson in a week to attend to GEC discussions. She adds that the project coordinator came to their school and told them how to earn a living without the help of parents. Besides the saving at school, she also has a savings box at home from where she drops coins earned from her baking.
“Despite all this, my performance has not been affected. I still perform very well,” adds Magoba.
She vows to keep practicing the acquired financial behavior and entrepreneurship skills during holidays.
“I’m now eager to train colleagues who are interested especially in baking daddies, cakes and chapattis. This can help them earn their own money than begging,” she says. “During holidays, I will not waste any time. I will always concentrate on baking so that I can get money.”
Mukono District Education Officer Vincent Baraza, says the project is boosting girl-child education by reducing the vulnerability of girls in case there is no chance of continuing with education.
“This project has increased the enrolment of girls in schools than boys in both primary and secondary schools. They are able to complete at least secondary,” says Baraza. “It is a good project that should be embraced in every school.”
Source : The Observer