At Room to Read, we believe that education is a fundamental human right and that every child deserves to have access to it. We also believe that education is an essential building block to help solve the world’s biggest problems — poverty, conflict, disease, intolerance, inequality, and exploitation — but a quality education remains out of reach for millions of children around the world. We are dedicated to ensuring inclusive and quality education for all and to achieving gender equality and empowerment for girls (UN Sustainable Development Goals 4 and 5).
Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic led to the single largest threat to these goals in modern times, but we did not give up on the children we support and neither did you. In 2020, with the support of investors like The Maiden Factor Foundation, we were able to adapt our programming to meet the unique needs of students today.
Như Girls’ Education Program; Grade 11; Vietnam
Despite growing up in a small home filled with 11 people – five adults and six children – there was one key person missing – Như’s mother. When Như was just one year old, her mother left and never returned. Since then, her father has raised her in a bustling home filled with grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. As a builder, her father works long hours, starting his day at 5 a.m. and not arriving home until 9 p.m., leaving little time for him and Như to connect.
“Not having a mother, I have a lot of questions related to being a girl and am especially worried about my future since I do not want my father working too hard. I want to get a good job to help him relax more and enjoy his life.”
Như also has to deal with a constant flurry of opinions about how she should be spending her days. Because her father, aunts and uncles go to work during the day, Như, as the oldest granddaughter, is expected to stay home with her grandparents to take care of the younger children and household chores. Because her family isn’t very supportive of education, she is constantly peppered with questions about why she’s studying instead of helping her family. Facing the conflicting pressure of trying to thrive in a rigorous school while living with a family that’s more focused on traditional gender roles, Như has leaned on Room to Read’s life skills curriculum and her social mobilizer in many ways.
“Attending Room to Read classes make me feel more at ease with these pressures, I’ve started making plans and goals for myself to keep making progress every day.”
Without a maternal presence in her life, the Girls’ Education Program’s group mentoring sessions have been invaluable for Như. She’s able to ask questions, get answers from her friends and mentors and has grown more comfortable expressing her feelings and opinions. Since participating in these sessions and other program activities, Như has become more confident speaking in front of others, and has since become an emcee at community events, participated in storytelling contests and dance recitals.
Như also enjoys the career-oriented life skills and mentoring sessions which give her the opportunity to talk to her social mobilizer about her future goals and how to get there. Even more important than the advice her social mobilizer offers is the way that she provides space for Như to practice making her own decisions, something that is challenging for Như because of her family’s expectations.
Like her classmates, Như transitioned to remote learning at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. During the remote learning period (February – April 2020), she was an active participant in her class’s online messaging group. Her teachers regularly shared lessons and homework on the platform, as well as guidance to help students review the material independently.
“In the time of social distancing, Room to Read organized activities online for us, such as group mentoring. Our social mobilizers kept connecting with us through these online groups. We could share anything that we were concerned about, like studying and issues at home, and get advice.”
Despite the challenging circumstances in 2020, Như completed 10th grade with high marks. She spent her summer break working for relatives in Ho Chi Minh City to learn what it’s like to make and manage money. She applied her earnings from the summer to supplies for the 2020-2021 school year. Như is still figuring out what she hopes to be, but she loves history and storytelling. Regardless of where she goes, the life skills she has learned help her to remember that the choice is hers alone.
We are incredibly grateful for the support and partnership of The Maiden Factor Foundation. You have played a critical role in ensuring that girls around the world have the opportunity and the tools to continue their education and lead fulfilled lives. On behalf of our Room to Read team and the millions of children and their communities we reach each year, thank you for your dedication. Only through education can people build the skills and resources they need to best respond to crises like the one our global community is facing.