May 29 2012

Sponsorship helps families afford school, part 1

Because education is so effective in helping families build a path out of poverty, the Hope for a Family program places a high priority on the education benefit.

Children and youth who are of school age are eligible for CFCA sponsorship as long as they are in school.

Rachel, CFCA sponsored child in Kenya, with her new school uniform

Rachel, sponsored as a child through CFCA, has a new school uniform provided by money saved from her sponsorship account.

Parents in the CFCA program accept this requirement and work hard to keep their children in school. They are committed to helping their children reach their educational goals.

“Many parents of sponsored children didn’t have the opportunity to complete their own education,” said Dan Pearson, CFCA director of international programs. “They want their kids to have more choices and better opportunities that come with a more complete education.”

However, the greatest barrier to education for families in the CFCA program is the cost. That includes direct costs, such as tuition, books and supplies.

It also includes the hidden cost of lost family income when a teenager continues in school instead of working full time.

The families CFCA serves live on very narrow margins. Costs such as bus fare or uniforms can have a very large impact on their lives.

“Sponsorship widens those margins and gives families a little more breathing space, which allows them to keep their kids in school longer,” Pearson said.

During the next few weeks, we’ll present several examples of how sponsorship empowers families to support their children’s education. Today we take a closer look at Kenya.

Kenya: Dressing the part

In Kenya, primary education is free, but parents still must pay for transportation, uniforms, supplies and textbooks. These items add up fast for families whose income may be just a few dollars a day or less.

Textbooks can cost $1 to $10 each, depending on the subject and grade level.

A uniform costs about $31, equal to a month’s wages for some families.

“If a child does not have a proper uniform, the school gives the family a warning and time to get one,” said Margaret Gikebe, the local CFCA coordinator in Ruiru, Kenya. “At the end of the grace period, the child is chased away to put pressure on the parents.”

Lydia dries Rachel's school uniform

Lydia, Rachel’s aunt and guardian, hangs Rachel’s school uniform to dry.

Thirteen-year-old Rachel knows firsthand the emotional pain of being turned away from school.

“I was chased out of school because of not having the proper uniform,” Rachel said. “This affected me so much as I missed out on lessons. I used to feel out of place. I could not fit in because some of the students were teasing me about my worn-out uniform. This made me feel really sad.”

After Rachel was sponsored, her Aunt Lydia, who is Rachel’s guardian, saved money from Rachel’s sponsorship account to buy Rachel two uniforms, one to wash and one to wear.

The CFCA program in Ruiru deposits sponsorship funds every month into a separate account for each child.

Families monitor their accounts and budget how they want to use the money, with guidance from the CFCA social worker. In this way families have a say in the sponsorship benefits they see as most important for their specific needs.

When the time comes to use the money, the family withdraws it under supervision of the social worker, purchases the benefits and brings the receipts to the CFCA office.

Rachel now feels happy and confident going to school.

“My uniform is very smart,” Rachel said. “It is a checked white and purple dress with a purple pullover. I also wear white socks and black leather shoes.”

Read part 2 in our blog post series: Sponsorship helps families afford school, about Aarthi in India.

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