A little over a year ago our organization and its stakeholders began discussing the benefits that might occur if a girls’ dormitory project was started at Luhunga Secondary School. There were some challenges discussed- such as costs of building, ongoing costs of proper supervision, and whether or not the school/community would want the project. The advantages of having a dormitory on the other hand were evident. Female students would no longer need to walk to and from school at night as evening classes were taught, and those from further-away villages would no longer have to rent rooms in the village to live on their own, thus avoiding that vulnerable situation.
This year the project has developed rapidly as the community has seen the importance of this project, and has made it a top priority. This may be a result of an intervention that occurred in March. The NGO teamed up with a health professional from a local Health Dispensary to administer a seminar at the school about the dangers of teenage pregnancy. After the seminar, all female students were given inexpensive pregnancy tests. A surprising discovery resulted: 9 of the 172 female students were pregnant. This sent shockwaves throughout the community, and was reported to the district leadership as well, and the community wanted to take immediate action to help address this problem. The problem itself had a hard figure to reference, and so people had evidence that the female students were not protected. This was different than guessing and gossip, there was a factual base upon which to start a program that could make a difference.
Since this seminar and testing day, parents of all of the students have started to contribute ideas on how to initiate the girls’ dormitory project as soon as possible. Currently, there is a small excess in classrooms, and so the school board and parents decided to turn one classroom into a girls’ dormitory. The parents are already contributing money for the construction of beds and food for the program. The goal is to get a dormitory in place by the end of this year. Next year there are high hopes for improvements in the school’s national results as the Form Three class this year is a promising group. This has added another incentive to protect the students, as the project is not just seen as a public health, or social welfare project, it is expected to improve the overall quality of the school!
We would like to applaud the community of Luhunga for not only recognizing a problem in their community, but finding a solution and acting immediately towards rectifying this deterent to community development. The community is turning a corner and creating sustainable solutions to one of the biggest problems it faces.