As summer heat is met with autumn’s chill, students all over Canada prepare for another school year. Club meetings, sporting events and band practice will soon be a part of most students’ after-school routines. But we need to remember that our students are granted a unique opportunity to explore their interests — and that this is not the case for students everywhere in the world.
In Uganda, Rwanda and Sierra Leone, extra-curricular activities focus on survival rather than enjoyment. With an estimated one million children orphaned by AIDS in Uganda alone, children and young adults struggle to have enough money for food, let alone school fees. In poorer communities, agricultural has become the only source of income and AIDS orphans without an adult caregiver often work long, strenuous hours cultivating the land.
In many cases, the amount of food cultivated cannot sustain a family’s nutritional needs while still providing enough income to support schooling. Even if orphans are lucky enough to have other relatives who will take them in, that family will still have limited funds and may be unable to send the orphans to school. In cases where there is some extra income, it’s usually used for the male children’s education, leaving the girls struggling to survive at home.
Without an education, the threat of poverty becomes particularly hard. Due to the limited employment options available for uneducated women, young girls often enter into early marriage in order to gain financial support. Between 2005 and 2013, UNICEF reports an astonishing 39.7 per cent of Uganda’s female population was married by age 18. Similar statistics are shown in Sierra Leone with 43.7 per cent of females married at 18, and 8.1 per cent in Rwanda.
Although enrollment for primary and secondary school has increased significantly over the last decade, options for girls are still limited even after completing secondary school. Without the funds to pay for university or vocational college, female high school these young women are vulnerable to falling back into the same cycle of poverty.
But one charity is focusing on assisting women in Uganda, Rwanda and Sierra Leone who want to get a post-secondary education. Beautiful World Canada is working with various donors and organizations at home and in Africa to set up scholarship funds that finance young women’s entire university or college studies. Scholarship recipients are propelled onto a new and exciting path, one filled with the promise of a bright future closer to the one we have come to expect in Canada, but sometimes take for granted.
Find out more or become a sponsor at www.beautifulworldcanada.org.