2002 RWA: Baseline Study of Basic Education for Girls and Other Vulnerable Groups in Rwanda
Author: Okwach, A.; Rubagiza, J.; Kabano, J.
While Rwanda joined the African Girls’ Education Initiative (AGEI) in 2001, it has been supporting girls’ education activities of the MINEDUC since 1998. These activities have never been evaluated, nor has the situation of girls’ education been fully understood at policy and programmatic levels. In response to the global call for Education For All (EFA) by 2015, the government has launched an extensive national dialogue and action planning for EFA in Rwanda. The government seeks to eliminate gender and other disparities in education by 2005 and attain gender equality by 2015. This baseline study will, therefore, form the basis of the Disparity Reduction component of the national EFA Plan of Action. None of the aforementioned frameworks, Plans and programmes can be adequately monitored and their impact assessed without the necessary baseline data.
The study was commissioned to pursue three objectives:
- To assess the effectiveness of girls’ education interventions in Rwanda since 1998, with particular focus on 2001 and 2002, and draw lessons from existing experiences for future programming
- To improve access to baseline data for the development of the Disparity Reduction pillar of the National EFA Plan of Action to ensure the access of all girls and other vulnerable groups (orphans, street children, child heads of households, child workers, child soldiers, children in conflict with the law, genocide widows) to quality basic education
- Lay the foundation for Rwanda’s participation in the AGEI evaluation in 2003
The study was conducted in five Provinces (41.7% of the Provinces in the country) selected by Ministry of Education (MoE) and UNICEF to represent socio-economic and geographic variation of Rwanda: Gisenyi, Ruhengeri, Umutara and Byumba and Kigali Ngali).
Quantitative and qualitative data was collected at three levels: national, provincial and school/community levels. School data / information were collected from 269 primary schools (29%) and six centres for vulnerable children (orphans and street children) in the five provinces. About 2,500 pupils (50% being girls) and 807 teachers were involved in this study as key respondents. There were 269 School Directors involved in the study.
Findings and Conclusions:
The GoR seems to be committed in providing education for all, at least based on the statement of intent and the investment that has gone into the education sector since 1998. Despite this commitment and many projects/programmes supported by different agencies, education policies and many programmes have, generally, remained gender blind (neutral) or gender insensitive. The MoE commitment consists largely of broad declarations to ‘mainstream gender’ or ‘eliminate all forms of discrimination against the girl-child.’ Practical, school-based efforts and initiatives are scattered and isolated. Most of the initiatives have been fragmented and ad hoc. Besides, despite the laws and regulations to the contrary, education in practice is neither compulsory nor free. Many parents keep or pull their children out of school. Child labor is a common practice that goes on in all the provinces unabated. It is not uncommon to see girls and boys of between 9-12 years toiling in tea plantations or making and carrying bricks during school days.
The study indicates that, although tremendous gains have been made since 1998, participation levels of girls in primary education still remain lower than those of boys. Drop-out and failure are very high among girls beginning at P2, and becomes worse in P5 and P6. The following summarizes the status of girls’ education:
- There is no specific girls’ education programme at national or provincial level. The initiatives supported by different agencies address school issues in general. Besides, they are fragmented and, in most cases, ad hoc.
- Girls’ participation in education is very low. More girls than boys drop out of schools from P2; the situation is worse in P5 and P6. The completion rates are very low.
- Girls perform poorly in school and in P6 national examinations. This means that very few of them, compared to the boys, progress to secondary education.
- School physical facilities are limited and in bad condition. Sanitary facilities disadvantage girls and contribute to their low participation in schools. School health and hygiene are questionable.
- Girls lack life skills capacities, thus are exposed to sexual harassment, gender discrimination in school and at home / society.
On the other hand, there are encouraging efforts by the Government, religious organizations and various NGOs in trying to rehabilitate and provide educational opportunity to these children. The situation of education of vulnerable children can be summarized as follows:
- There are many vulnerable children who are out-of-school, but their exact number is not known because there is no data at both national and provincial levels.
- Child labor and early marriages are common problems that affect children’s participation in education.
- There are many vulnerable children (orphans, the poor and a few disabled) in school. They face many problems, which are not properly and systematically addressed.
- Teachers are not trained to offer support to the vulnerable children in their schools.
- There are a few, practical innovations that rehabilitate and support the education of vulnerable children.
Genocide and war in Rwanda have displaced many families and contributed to poverty and other socio-economic problems that have eroded most parents’ capacities and confidence to invest in their children’s education, the girl-child in particular. Most parents (about 65%) live below poverty line. There are many widows and orphans who are struggling to access basic services like food and shelter. Child labor and street-children phenomena are increasing in all the provinces. Thus, education has become a second or third choice or no choice at all.
Structural factors, such as the availability of adequate classrooms and desks; proximity of school to homes and other social amenities like health centers and water source; physical structure of schools, learning facilities, curriculum, methods of teaching and teachers’ attitudes are all critical for the effective teaching-learning processes. In this study, therefore, we decided to focus on the schools’ physical facilities.
In all the districts visited during this study, most schools did not have enough desks and chairs, let alone the condition. In some classes in all the five Provinces, facilities do not exist and children are sitting on stones or make-up seats. The situation in Butaro District in Ruhengeri Province is more critical; in some schools, pupils have never seen what a desk looks like.
Our survey indicates that data collection, storage, analysis and use for policy formulation and interventions are problematic. A big gap exists at provincial, district and school levels about education officials’ perception and understanding of the need for data on one hand, and the actual data collection, analysis and its use on the other hand. The availability of reliable gender-disaggregated data, particularly on children out-of-school and dropouts, is an exception rather than the norm in many districts and schools. It is, generally, accepted at all districts and provincial levels that the existing statistics given from the districts may not be all that accurate and that the large margin of error exists in available data because of the way the data is collected and analyzed. Besides, the MoE personnel at provincial levels have limited capacity and no means and infrastructure to verify the data.
Methodologically, most of the data collected, stored and analyzed at provincial and national levels are quantitative in nature rather than both quantitative and qualitative. This has not facilitated a greater understanding of the “demand-side” factors that affect the education of girls and vulnerable groups. Such data has limited the nature and scope of gender analysis that would assist in policy and/or programme interventions targeting the enhancement of girls’ education.
At school level, school heads and teachers rarely keep and use data about pupils in their school. It seems as if the data is just collected for its own sake (or because the Provincial officials require it).
The magnitude of the problems of girls and vulnerable groups in Rwanda are beyond the general public’s imagination. The effect of war and genocide is experienced in all spheres of society, and many Rwandans are still undergoing psychosocial therapy. In a nutshell, helplessness, despair and mere survival summarize the situation of education for the vulnerable groups, including the girls who are orphans and those from poor families. The issue of disabled children seems not to be seen as an urgent issue at the moment because even at school level, no specific and responsive attention is given to them.
In Rwanda, several issues need to be noted and taken into consideration if the EFA objectives and targets are to be met:
First, the education of girls and vulnerable groups is a critical and urgent issue that needs targeting, planning and resource mobilization. The study provides a rationale for the development of a viable national girls’ education programme.
Second, the study has identified problematic issues and/or constraints for the education of girls and vulnerable groups that need interventions immediately, without waiting for a policy or/and strategy. It only requires political will and commitment (enabling environment) created by the Government and development partners. For example, the innovations presented as Cases in this Report should be supported immediately as a first step towards providing educational opportunities to disadvantaged children.
Third, the MoE has shown its commitment to providing education for all Rwanda children and is investing heavily in education. There are also several agencies supporting education in the country. However, such projects are scattered and their impact in enhancing the education of girls and vulnerable groups is questionable.
Fourth, there is a need to put in place mechanisms and capacities for gender responsive research and data collection, and use in policy formulation and implementation. This survey suggests that there is a need to strengthen the links between policy formulation and investment in education sector in general, with gender responsive research, monitoring and evaluation, in particular.
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