Teacher’s drive to help schoolgirls

Neo Bodumela

ALEXANDER Road High School teacher Lucia Mtshake has taken it upon herself – with the help of the Business Women’s Association (BWA) – to reach out to primary schoolgirls in previously disadvantaged schools by supplying them with sanitary towels.

While studying at Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, Mtshake heard a report on the radio that primary schoolgirls would miss up to 65 days of schooling because they did not have access to sanitary towels. The report spurred her to embark on an initiative to tackle a subject that is rarely talked about.

“There are so many barriers to receiving education and, for me, this should not be one of them. Girls menstruate monthly so you can imagine the amount of teaching time that is lost when this happens. There are girls at the school where I teach who also need this kind of intervention, but luckily the school can provide that sort of support for them.

“Even though I am teaching in a school that has the resources to provide this sort of support for girls, it does not make me oblivious to what is happening around me. As a teacher I would like to be a vehicle of change in my society,” she said.

The issue has received national attention, with Imbumba Foundation founder Richard Mabaso and Sibusiso Vilane recently climbing Mount Kilimanjaro to help raise funds to supply sanitary towels to impoverished communities in the Eastern Cape.

Mtshake has also collaborated with the BWA to collect sanitary towels from the association’s members – which she says has helped to extend the reach of the initiative.

“The BWA, through Michelle Brown, has helped in co-ordinating the initiative now, and they encourage their members to donate sanitary towels on a monthly basis which has helped a lot. At their Women’s Day dinner on August 7, they collected quite a number of packs,” she said.

According to BWA’s Samantha Bowers, the association has taken over the co-ordination of the project in conjunction with Mtshake, and they have collected and distributed about 2000 packs of sanitary towels.

“We have adopted two schools, St Alban’s Primary and Hankey Primary School as part of the project. At an event which the BWA held, we managed to collect about 500 packs of sanitary towels. We think it is important to get involved in this project because these children are the future businesswomen of this country and, if you calculate it, you will find that they are missing about one-third of the school year because they do not have access to the sanitary towels,” she said.

For more information contact: Business Women’s Association, (041) 367-1104.

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