At 60 years old, Rose Achen is the primary caretaker for eight of her grandchildren. Despite her difficult past and that of her daughters, Rose finds new hope for her family in the Speed School program.
After her father was killed in the 1970s, Rose married a polygamist and had two daughters. Her first daughter had two children at a young age with an abusive man and had to ask Rose to care for her children. Rose’s second daughter was married and had five children with a man who later passed away. Upon the father’s passing, Rose took in two of the five children. However, when the daughter remarried, her new husband would not accept her children from her first marriage, so the remaining three also went to live with Rose, bringing the total to seven. Finally, her first daughter had 3 more children but could not care for them all and asked Rose to take on one more. The father of Rose’s children, who renounced polygamy and is now a married practicing Christianity, denies both his children and grandchildren. Thus, Rose effectively cares for eight children by herself.
Rose herself was in school up to Class 7 before her father’s death, imparting in her a deep respect for the importance of a formal education. Unfortunately, poverty and her precarious health as someone who is HIV positive precluded Rose from ensuring that her children and grandchildren receive the education they deserve.
However, after enrolling two grandchildren in Speed School, Rose has begun to feel more optimistic. She has noted huge improvements not just in their learning but also in their overall behavior and confidence. Comparing the two to students she sees in Class 4 of the government school, Rose says that the Speed School students have more knowledge and considerably more life skills.
“My first ambition,” she explains, “even if I die tomorrow, is that my grandchildren are self-reliant. I want them not to have to lean on anyone for anything.” Speed School is making that ambition a real possibility. Rose adds that, “Even if life circumstances force a Speed School student to leave school again, they will still find success. Speed School teaches them to plant crops, buy and sell goods in a market, and care for livestock. They can survive well in the world, better than most.”
Rose also gains support directly from the Speed School program. As a member of the Self-Help Group (SHG), comprised of the mothers and parents or guardians of all the students in a Speed School class, Rose is able to take out loans to buy fish and vegetables and sell them in the market at a higher price. This added income, along with training in saving, financial management, and record keeping that she receives as a SHG member, allows Rose to care for her own health while supporting her grandchildren’s schooling and other basic needs.
Rose adds, “I always envisioned a miserable future for the children if I died. There is no one who will care for the children when I die. I pray the children will grow to stand up on their own before I lose my life. Speed School is making me believe this is possible. They have become so strong.”
*Names changed to protect the privacy of those involved*
* Speed School is an accelerated education program that delivers the first three years of primary schooling in ten months to bring out-of-school children aged 9 to 14 back into formal education. Geneva Global adopted the Speed School model from the Stromme Foundation in West Africa and has implemented the program in Ethiopia since 2011 and Uganda since 2016. The model’s learner-centered, activity-based pedagogy is augmented by the formation of Self-Help Groups which engage students’ parents (usually mothers) in conducting income-generation activities and group savings schemes to cover the future costs of their children’s schooling and undertaking direct actions to address the external, community-based barriers to participating in school.
(Names in this case study have been changed to protect the identity of those involved.)