Mentor With Many Roles
Troubled by the low literacy rates and early sexuality of girls in Segwembe, Sierra Leone, Suzie Jajua was determined to make a difference. A respected teacher with many years of experience, Suzie was the first community member to volunteer her services as a mentor through the USAID-funded Ambassadors' Girls Scholarship Program (AGSP). She hoped that she could encourage the girls to take a genuine interest in their education. She has done all of that, and more.
Suzie brings AGSP scholarship recipients together for group mentoring sessions, regardless of their ethnic or religious backgrounds. Under her leadership, the girls discuss important issues related to relationships, communication and goals, as well as health topics such as HIV, AIDS and STDs. Most crucially, these meetings have created a strong community of support for these girls. The AGSP scholars testify that bonds between them encourage them to look out for one another and excel in school. The community Suzie helped to create through the AGSP mentoring program is central to keeping the students motivated and inspired.
Suzie also lives in the same neighborhood as many of the girls she mentors, enabling her to routinely visit them in their homes. She strongly believes that it is important to make sure the home lives of the students support their educational goals. Because many of the girls live with guardians rather than birth parents, Suzie teaches her mentees communication skills that reduce the potential stress in these relationships. Suzie also acts as a mediator, helping the girls' families to understand the importance of decreasing the girls' workload so that they have more time to focus on their studies.
In addition to all of the above, Suzie educates her mentees on aspects of women's health they might not learn otherwise. This information, often regarded as taboo, is essential to helping the girls make healthy choices. There is an army barracks not far from the center of town and the men there are a looming threat to the girls in terms of HIV and AIDS as well as a host of other issues. Suzie's knowledge and guidance helps the girls to advocate and stand up for themselves.
One of Suzie's girls says that with Suzie's advice, she has been able to take proper care of all the items provided to her through AGSP, such as her text books, uniforms, notebooks, mathematical sets, paste and brush, mosquito nets, bags for school, shoes, rulers, towel and soap. This student listens keenly to talks on HIV and AIDS and feels comfortable sharing with others her knowledge about the disease and how to prevent it. Furthermore, she appreciates the value of education and has become one of the leading scholars in her school.
Suzie's participation with AGSP has made the program more effective throughout the community. As testament to Suzie's success, the Federation of African Women Educationalists of Sierra Leone cites a decrease in the rate of child pregnancy, early marriages, and fistula problems since Suzie began her mentoring work. The community concurs that Suzie's mentees have become more confident and self-aware since the inception of the mentoring program. The confidence and commitment to education that Suzie's girls exude have made them role models for AGSP scholars and non-AGSP scholars alike. Thanks to mentors like Suzie Jajua, World Education continues to educate many underprivileged children through AGSP, setting in motion a vehicle for positive social change.
|Related Project: Ambassadors' Girls' Scholarship Program (AGSP) (2004-2011)|