Author: Kalungu, Joseph Sampa
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The Government of the Republic of Zambia in response to the UN declaration of human rights and CRC in 1997 introduced the re-entry policy through the Ministerial declaration and statement to allow girls who previously left school due to pregnancy to come back into the school system. Further in 2002 the MOE introduced the Free Basic Education policy for grades 1 up to 7 in order to increase pupils’ enrolment which had been negatively affected by poverty and rising HIV and AIDS (orphans).
The enrolment levels especially for girls still lags behind below 50 percent as compared to that of boys, although some improvements have been made. The average drop out rate in basic education is 2.5 for boys while that for girls is 3.7; whilst the urban Province is 1 percent for boys and 1.7 for girls.
Teenage pregnancies are very common and a major contributing factor to high drop out rate for girls. Between 2004 and 2007, 36, 256 cumulative pregnancy figures were recorded nationwide. The number of pupils readmitted nationwide is still very low, below one third the total number of drop outs. In 2007 the national percentage (total) of readmission stood at 34 percent.
Of special concern is the fact that circumstances including those to do with traditional cultures as well as pregnancies have reduced the school participation of girls more than that of boys. Thus there is a greater need for more interventions to be put in place to redress this situation. There are organisations working on the promotion of girls’ education but are limited in coverage and consistence.
There is no doubt that the issue of girls’ education is a highly relevant one for Zambia. One of the major issues surrounding education in Zambia is the lack of access to educational opportunities especially for girls in rural areas. Gender and social norms as well as cultural practices and economic factors prevent girls from attaining an education. To achieve the Millennium Development Goals of achieving universal access to quality education, there is a need to ensure equal educational opportunities for girls.
In order to address this issue, Ministry of Education (MOE), in partnership with UNICEF has been working on sensitizing communities on the importance of education, especially for girls. This activity has been ongoing since 2007 in North Western, Central, Western, Eastern, Luapula, Lusaka, and Southern Provinces. The sensitisation activities took on a cascading approach, focusing on traditional/community leaders, since they are the most influential members of the community and can serve as catalysts in raising the awareness of community members on the value of education particularly for girls.
The Traditional Leaders can have a good influence over the basic education as the structure of the education systems is that most basics are within communities as opposed to secondary schools which require pupils to travel long distance or being in boarding. Since basic schools are with the confirms of the communities, Traditional Leaders have a part to play in them.
The purpose of the study was to assess the outcomes of the sensitisation of Traditional Leaders to improve girls’ education and the effectiveness of working with the Traditional Leaders in raising awareness of the community on the importance of girls’ education. The study also aimed at assessing the relevance of the content of the workshop to equip Traditional Leaders with the appropriate knowledge and skills to promote girls’ education.
It is further envisaged that the results of the evaluation will provide evidence and recommendations on effective community mobilization strategies to ensure that girls go to school and remain there. The evidence could also be used for future planning and programming and to determine how the programme could be designed to achieve better results for girls.
The evaluation involved both primary and secondary methods of data collection to objectively inform the issues for investigation. Therefore; A desk based review of documents pertaining to the education policies and girls’ education and related topics was conducted at the beginning of the study to enable the study learn from other similar experiences.
Structured or semi-structured interviews with MOE staff in Provinces, chiefs or their representative, school administration and staff, members of the community and pupils were conducted (individual and focus group discussion) to obtain their personal opinions regarding the improvement of girls’ education.
Data analysis was done both using thematic analysis and SPSS and excel statistical package. Data from desk review was collected then arranged into themes and categories, derived from the questions contained in the interview/discussion guide, coded and then fed in the statistical package
Findings and Conclusions:
i.That there were two approaches to sensitisation, one which brought all the Traditional Leaders from the district to one centrally located place; and the other approach which targeted chiefdom by chiefdom as a mode of sensitisation. The latter approach was more effective as it had more local participants and was held over fewer days.
ii.The Traditional Leaders’ sensitisation workshops provided important information and knowledge on re-entry, retention and enrolment policies, policies which were appreciated by the Traditional Leaders to a very large extent.
iii.The focus and content of the workshops were relevant to the chiefs and their subjects and that they could further be enhanced by including human rights, child rights and relevant Zambian law components.
iv.That during the workshop chiefs had agreed that after the workshop, they were going to carry out sensitisation activities in their chiefdoms, form watchdog committees to monitor and spearhead the implementation of MOE policies and formulate by-laws. Only two (from Western Province) out of the 16 Traditional Leaders visited stated that they did not carry out extensive sensitisation activities among their subjects due to lack of resources.
v.In all the Provinces monitoring and follow ups were either not done or minimally done by either the MOE or the Traditional Leaders, citing inadequate resources as the major hindrance.
vi.Enrolment, re-entry and retention levels in all Provinces had significantly increased due to the Traditional Leaders sensitization project as well as sensitization done by MOE through schools and to some smaller extent by NGOs working in the education sector. However there was a draw back in that the infrastructure and human resource could not match the growing enrolment levels. That although there still exists enrolment disparities between girls and boys for higher grades, the gap is narrowing due to the sensitisation.
vii.In some schools the dropout rates had reduced for both boys, by over 51 percent, and girls by 30 percent due to chiefs’ keen interest in the child’s education.
viii.That working with the Traditional Leaders in improving the girls’ education was very effective as the Traditional Leaders were highly respected, obeyed and had a lot of influence on their subjects.
ix.That sensitisation worked more successfully in chiefdoms where many stakeholders such as the headpersons, teachers, parents, women and key persons in communities were involved in the sensitisation workshops.
x.While the re-entry policy is being embraced by a bigger section of community, there are a few parents and teachers (18% of total respondents) who are not happy with this policy as they felt it encouraged immorality among pupils.
1.That a simple guide to facilitating sensitisation workshops be made in line with the MOE educational policy to avoid facilitators straying off key issues.
2.In terms of workshop contents, issues of human rights, child rights and relevant laws of Zambia be incorporated in the training to provide a complete package to the Traditional Leaders. Furthermore, the police Victim Support Unit (VSU) should be incorporated as part of resource.
3.MOE and UNICEF should initially consider prototyping the projects in few selected chiefdoms for deeper learning and identification of best practices before cascading the project to other chiefdoms. Spreading widely may mean spreading thinly with little impact.
4.MOE and UNICEF should adopt the approach of sensitizing chiefdom by chiefdom so as to capture more key stakeholders.
5.Sensitisation workshops for Traditional Leaders should include key institutions and key individuals such as retired officers, pastors and teachers who may have an influence on the community.
6.Chiefs should form Community Watchdogs Committees to promote girls’ education. Such committees should be made key to enforcing by-laws and in monitoring and making follow ups.
7.The MOE, communities and partners should work hard to match infrastructure and human resource with increased numbers of pupils in school due to sensitisation.
8.To enhance girls’ education and to make sure that school calendar and traditional ceremonies do not clash, traditional ceremonies should be aligned to school calendar so that they are held during school holidays.
9.There should be Training of Trainers who should be community members so that facilitation could be done by local people and not by outsiders, as local people were better placed to know what goes on in their community and could come up with best and suitable interventions. This could also encourage project ownership and sustainability.
10.MOE and UNICEF must not make the project on the improvement of girls’ education a money intensive project; this should be avoided to enable ownership of the project by the communities to grow.
11.The re-entry policy is being embraced by a bigger section of community, however a few parents and teachers are not happy with this policy as felt it encouraged immorality. That while more children are enrolment being enrolled in school, the scale of retaining or re-entering girls who fell pregnant is far less.
12.That the major causes for drop outs are pregnancies 25% and early marriages 32%. Traditional practices, customs and beliefs are the third largest (13%) cause for girls’ dropping out of school.
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