“They help you to help yourself”
All the chairs in the classrooms are stacked up, and the children have gone home. The grounds in front of the school are empty, and the playground next door is quiet. But one group of girls is still in the classroom, busily studying into the afternoon.
These girls are all 17 and 18 year olds who have recently gone back to school after being out of school for a long time. They are working with a teacher to catch up on the lessons they have missed. This will allow them to go back into Grade Six instead of a lower class, where they might feel more self-conscious of their age, and therefore more likely to drop out again.
“I had to drop out of school because my Ma passed away and there was no money to send me,” said Ellie, 18. “Now, I don’t know how old the other children in my class are, but I don’t mind. I want to be a medical doctor one day.”
Thanks to our Girls Speak Out appeal, Street Child was able to provide grants for school materials, ID cards and uniforms for the girls. Despite all government schools in Liberia being nominally free of charge, these additional costs can be more than some families can afford.
Even with financial help, peer pressure is a major factor in girls’ education. “It is harder for girls to stay in school when they make friends with boys and get pregnant,” says Ruth, one of the girls in the catch-up class. “You need somebody to help you go to school. They can help you to help yourself.”
If the older girls feel uncomfortable in class, or that they have missed too much, there is a danger that girls may stop going altogether. Over 73% of all Liberian children drop out between primary and junior high school. That’s why Street Child catch-up classes are so important. With the help of teachers and the Street Child social workers, the girls in this rural school can continue moving up the grade system and graduate as soon as possible – a goal to which they all aspire.