Amidst the many global challenges addressed at this year’s UN General Assembly, I was heartened that SDG 4 (education) and 5 (gender equality) were prominent, and that world leaders recognized that we can only achieve these and other sustainable development goals through stronger partnerships (SDG 17).
However, even as another International Day of the Girl Child approaches, the UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS) reports that over 130 million girls remain out of school. These aren’t just numbers. There is a beautiful face and name to every one of these 130 million – each of whom deserves an opportunity to learn.
Joyce, a Class 8 student at a school outside Nairobi, Kenya, was born to a single mother and raised by her grandmother. She entered school for the first time when she was around 10. Despite not being able to read or write, she was placed in Class 5 due to her age. Joyce continued moving through subsequent grades as per school policy. Struggling to follow lessons in class, she seldom turned in assignments. Her teachers branded her a “hopeless” case.
A few months ago, Joyce’s life began to change. Her school began participating in the Discovery Project’s literacy and numeracy classes for students who are at risk of falling behind. Launched by the Discovery Learning Alliance (DLA) in three Global Partnership for Education (GPE) partner countries – Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana – the project is funded by the UK government’s Girls’ Education Challenge, an innovative initiative to get at least 1.5 million girls into schools and learning.
After just a few months of receiving instruction at the right level, Joyce’s ability to read age-appropriate vocabulary has improved from 5% to 50%. She actively participates in an after-school reading club that gives her continued access to reading materials and regular support from teachers trained in remedial learning. Once struggling to follow lessons, Joyce is now often the first in her class to volunteer to read. Joyce says: