Michael Foley, Story of a Schoolgirl and her Family (flickr)
Michael Foley, Story of a Schoolgirl and her Family. (Flickr)

Girls are going to school.  All over the world the rate of girls attending school has increased.  Between 1999 and 2004, the number of out-of-school girls fell by 24% and there are new organizations every year dedicated to lowering this percentage and keeping girls in school.  The organizations below show some of the creativity and dedication required to get and keep girls in school:

Skateistan

Operating in Afghanistan and Cambodia, Skateistan is using supplemental skateboarding and arts-focused classes to increase school enrollement rates.  After school, students come to the Skateistan facilities to free skate, receive lessons and take other creative arts classes.  Many of the skaters were once street working children and are behind in their schooling.  But Skateistan’s “Back to School” program takes an innovative approach to keep children in school:

Skateistan employs a female Student Support Officer to not only help [the children] enroll in school, but also to follow their progress.  As the contact point between Skateistan, families, and public schools, Skateistan’s Student Support Officer ensures these girls and boys continue their education for years to come” – 2012 Skateistan Annual Report

This comprehensive support is crucial for getting the students back on track by reducing the likelihood that they will slip through the cracks and end up back on the streets.

While Skateistan’s model is not going to solve the education crisis in Afghanistan, the simple act of getting girls on the board should not be overlooked.  Skateistan uses skateboarding as the medium because it is taboo and viewed as immoral for women to ride bicycles in public in Afghanistan.   But if girls can skateboard, they not only have an alternative for transportation, but there is another tool in their toolbox to help them navigate the oppression and inequality in Afghanistan.

Learning a new trick or successfully skating through the loops and ramps of the skate park builds confidence and increases a sense of autonomy.  The girls and boys share the skate park at Skateistan and, unlike many sports in Afghanistan, are seen as equals when they’re together on the board. Every afternoon, the Skateistan youth of Afghanistan and Cambodia are one kick-flip closer to economic equality and social empowerment.

Check out this video of the girls in action!

The Penchan Project

The Pehchan Project addresses a major setback as to why girls are not in school – due to absences, they have fallen behind and cannot re-enroll at the appropriate level.  Girls are forced to drop out of school to work, get married or because of the inability of the family to pay the school fees.  Once a girl falls behind her class, it is extremely difficult, intimidating and overall unlikely that she will rejoin her classmates.  But the Pehchan Project aims to bring girls in India who have dropped out or never attended school back into the classroom.  The program brings them up to the appropriate grade level so they can reintegrate into the mainstream schools.

Burmese Migrant Workers’ Education Committee

When Burmese children are escaping violence instead of sitting in a classroom, the Burmese Migrant Workers’ Education Committee (BMWEC) is across the border in Thailand ready to help.  BMWEC operates at a popular crossing between Myanmar and Thailand and exists to ensure that migrant children don’t fall behind in their schooling.

When families are forced to migrate, it is common that the child has not been in school for years. BMWEC teaches teenagers at a primary school level and works tirelessly to get them back up to speed.  Because the organization is recognized by the Myanmar government, if families are able to re-seek refuge elsewhere in Myanmar, the children can rejoin the school system at the appropriate grade level.

Times of conflict and especially forced migration can cause severe psychological trauma to the children involved.  School offers stability and certainty in a child’s life when almost everything else is uncertain.  BMWEC recognizes this and goes a step further in welcoming the Burmese students who face isolation, discrimination and language barriers in the Thai public schools.  Ensuring that Burmese boys and girls have access to one of its 25 learning centers, the BMWEC is offering a dependable way for children to grow in a traumatic time of change.

To learn more about these and other organizations working creatively to keep girls in school, check out the Centre for Education Innovations.

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