By Frederick Philander
“The Government is grateful for the support USAID has been extending to causes like this in which San girls are empowered to know their rights and to protect themselves against HIV infections and unwanted pregnancies.”
So said the Deputy Minister of Education, Dr Becky Ndjoze-Ojo, on Monday morning when she spoke at the third annual San Girls Conference in the capital. American ambassador Dennise Mathieu also officiated at the event.
“The San girls from different schools have a unique opportunity to come together and use this platform to speak out for themselves. I am also extremely happy that many of the San girls have taken advantage of the scholarships offered through USAID to stay in school during the first four years, despite many odds, but putting education first,” Ndjoze-Ojo said.
The deputy minister also expressed her disappointment over some San girls dropping out of the girl scholarship programme.
“Many of your peers have sadly dropped out of the programme due to poor performances and other challenges. However, I understand that many San girls continue to excel in school. I am looking forward to the day many of you will complete high school to go to universities and follow careers of your choice,” she said encouragingly.
“Today’s event provides an excellent opportunity to highlight the good and important work being done through the scholarship programme to assist bright young minds to go to school, stay in school and do well in school.
These conferences bring focus to your special needs as young girls from San communities and will arm you with information, life skills and support to help you take control of your lives and your future,” said Ambassador Mathieu.
The Ambassador’s Girls’ Scholarship Program is part of the Africa Education Initiative.
“This is one of the initiatives that the American people use to help address the major problems facing Africa today. The aim of the scholarship programme is to help promising female scholars – and most recently male students, as well – to continue their education by providing them with financial resources, support and life skills,” she said.
The programme provides school fees, books, supplies, uniforms, transportation and room and board for each student.
“Currently, we’re supporting 950 vulnerable girls in Namibian primary schools – of these, 150 are San girls. Last year we initiated the Scholarship Plus programme under which we’re helping 545 girls attend grades 8 through 12. Just last week, I had the privilege, with the Deputy Minister of Education, to launch the boys’ component under which we’ll support a total of 200 boys in grades 1 through 7 – twenty of whom are San boys,” she said.
In the ambassador’s view poverty, discrimination and access are huge barriers to education in many parts of the world.
“In Namibia, many disadvantaged girls are unable to enroll in primary schools, and many of those who do enroll, drop out of school before completing Grade 7. Girls who don’t complete school are less likely to achieve their full potential. Consequently, we believe that educating girls will strengthen Namibian society as a whole.
“Educated girls grow up to be women who are better prepared to make informed personal choices, to promote democratic values, and contribute to the economic welfare of their families and communities,” she concluded.