Stories like those of Soni in Nepal will be the focus of GPE (the Global Partnership for Education) and its two-day Global Education Summit: Financing GPE 2021-2025, co-hosted by the UK and Kenya held 28-29 July online.
The summit is the culmination of GPE’s ‘Raise Your Hand’ financing campaign to secure $5billion over five years to support education systems across low-income countries. This will help 175 million girls and boys to learn, reach 140 million more students with professionally trained teachers, enroll 88 million more children in school, and help governments save $16 billion through more efficient spending.
A key focus of the investment is to reach and support marginalised children across the world, including girls and children with disabilities.
Although Nepal has shown progress in female school enrolment over the years, young girls with disabilities find it significantly harder to get a formal education due to a lack of resources and a proper support system.
However, young female volunteers have been mobilising across rural communities to support young Nepali girls with disabilities to continue their education.
‘Big Sisters’ working within the ENGAGE programme mentor their ‘Little Sisters’ like Soni. The Big Sisters are part of VSO’s Sisters for Sisters’ Education initiative, wherein older girls are recruited as volunteers to mentor younger ones within their communities and guide them through adolescence, ensure they remain within the formal education system and teach them life skills. The project is currently working to support 9,800 adolescent girls to transition from primary to secondary education.
Soni’s Big Sister encouraged her to attend the bridge class, where Soni learned basic math and language. Just as she had back in primary school, Soni diligently attended classes. Soni also began to show an interest in drawing and likes to copy the mehendi designs from her workbook.
Soni’s parents were initially sceptical about continuing with her formal education since it meant that she would need to stay in the school hostel due to the distance. But her Big Sister, after regular visits to her home, eventually convinced her parents to let her attend school. Now, Soni attends the Rastriya Adharbhut Basic school in Banke’s Khajura rural municipality.
At school, Soni could learn Nepali Sign Language, which has significantly helped her learning process. Soni is now a happily adjusted young girl who participates actively in remedial classes, sports, as well as arts and crafts.
Sahajan,16, from rural Sarlahi is also hearing-impaired. She has five siblings, and her Muslim family operates a laundry business.