Author: BETTY AKULLU EZATI
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Background and purpose of the evaluation: The importance of girls‟ education is not longer an issue of debate. Many writers have demonstrated the relationship between women‟s education and economic development, health and education of their children. Due to this girls‟ education has become an area of concern to both international and national leaders as evident in their commitments to EFA and MDGs. Yet, many girls are either out of schools or fail to complete due to several reasons ranging from both in school to out of school factors. It is such continued challenges that led to the launch United Nations Girls‟ Education Initiative (UNGEI) in April 2000 by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan with a corrective intent. In Uganda, UNGEI was launched in 2004 as an overarching multi-stakeholder response that would set forth a context-specific development roadmap for girls‟ education in the country.
This report forms part of a broader study commissioned by the United National Girls‟ Education Initiative Secretariat in New York to document United Nations Girls‟ Education Initiative (UNGEI) experiences in four countries namely, Egypt, Nepal, Nigeria, and Uganda
The overall goal of this evaluation was to ascertain the contributions of the United Nation Girls‟ Education Initiative in promoting girls‟ education, especially with regards to gender responsiveness of education policy, policy on re-entry of pregnant girls and child mothers to school; the identification, documentation, dissemination and institutionalization of „good practices‟ and promotion of effective partnership. The findings will not only provide a baseline for benchmarking UNGEI‟s progress but would also feed into future efforts to improve the UNGEI‟s design and strengthen its implementation in Uganda.
Evaluation Process and Methodology: A multiple data collection strategy involving documentary review, semi-structure interviews, and FGD was employed in a mutually supportive manner. Contribution analysis was then applied to gauge the contributions of United Nation Girls Education Initiative in the achievement of the outcomes.
Context: Despite the remarkable economic transformation in recent years, in the Human Development Index, Uganda is ranked 143 out of 169 countries. It is characterized by low per capita incomes, high population growth rates (3.2%) and poor service reach. With specific reference to education, while Uganda has made commendable progress in providing access to schooling as evident in the massive increment in enrollment after the introduction of UPE and USE, the quality of education remains wanting. And considerable inequalities remain in the regional, social class and gender divides. The girls, in particularly in rural areas continue to lag behind their male counterparts in nearly all the access, quality and efficiency indicators. For instance, although the Net Enrolment Rate (NER) progressed from 86% (89% for boys, 82% for girls) in 2000 to 93% (96% for boys, 90% for girls) in 2009, completion remained low. In 2000 the Formative evaluation of UNGEI – Uganda country report completion rate was 63% (71% for boys and 55% girls) but this dropped to 52% (55% for male and 48% for girls) in 2009. In addition, girls constitute the largest proportion of out-of-school children and lag behind boys in performance in national examinations. The dwindling completion rate is attributed to class repetition estimated at 11% and school drop outs at 6.7%.
Status of UNGEI in Uganda: UNGEI Uganda has a three-tier management structure spanning the national, district and sub-county/community levels. The Gender Task Force (GTF), District Advisory Committees (DACs) and CECs provide strategic guidance on girls‟ education within their areas of jurisdiction. Despite being a fairly inclusive multi-stakeholder partnership, UNGEI Uganda largely remains a loose coalition of non-committal partners; with no secretariat and physical office space of its own, and a rather amorphous administrative structure that leaves room for divided loyalties and near-zero coordination between the national, district and community levels.
Contribution to gender responsive Policies: UNGEI‟s exclusive focus on girls‟ education approach has helped to raise the level of policy dialogue between GoU, providers of girls‟ education and beneficiaries as well as gender consciousness and the prominence of girls‟ education in the education policy discourse. UNGEI has become a key player in Uganda girls‟ education policy development. Although government led UPE policy has improved enrollment, UNGEI‟s contributions is evident in attendance, retention and completion. For instance, while in 2003, a year before the launch of UNGEI 66% of the boys and 47% of the girls completed primary seven, in 2004 (the year UNGEI was launched), there was an increase of completion rate to 72% for boys and 54% for girls in 2004.
Policy on re-entry of pregnant girls and child mothers to school: Although there is still no policy "offering girls another chance", the MoES is, in concert with UNGEI partners, at advanced stages of resolving this policy gap. Even in the absence of a formal policy pronouncement, UNGEI has, in collaboration with the MoES, put in place several initiatives including Radio Talk shows, School Walk and School Visitation to raise awareness about the importance of sending back child mothers to school. These together with the circulars the MoES has kept sending to the school administrators urging them not to expel pregnant girls from school, are starting to change the community mindset to embrace the rationale for re-entry of pregnant girls or child mothers. However UNGEI‟s activities have so far been limited to primary school level sometimes to the disadvantage of girls at the secondary school level.
Good practices in girls’ education: This is probably the one area where UNGEI‟s contribution is most noticeable. UNGEI is effectively providing a platform for broad stakeholder involvement in the identification of good practices in girls‟ education; sharing and advocacy for their institutionalization and for the pooling of resources for their scale up. The key limitation faced by UNGEI arises from shortage of funds for scaling up and implementation good practices.
Strengthening partnership: As a pioneer partnership for girls‟ education in the country, UNGEI significantly altered the dynamic for collaboration between the participating partners especially at the district and community levels. By avoiding the employment of parallel planning, programming and implementation structures, the UNGEI partnership is; (i) strengthening government systems and local capacities; (ii) enhancing government as well as local community ownership; and (iii) improving the quality and availability of gender disaggregated data. The galvanization of a broad spectrum of partners each with its own comparative vantage point is, in itself, creating scope for synergy. Nevertheless, the low sense of ownership and collegiality, inadequate funding, differing policy and funding perspectives, the disconnect between the national and district levels and the non-regularization of UNGEI have undermined its visibility as a vibrant partnership.
Further, although the Regional office provided support and finances to map the partnership and conduct gender audit during the initial stages of UNGEI Uganda, over time that support has declined. In addition linkage with the global level appeared to have waned off.
Notwithstanding these limitations, several factors have helped to keep UNGEI Uganda afloat. They include; its role as a forum for bringing the voices of the various partners to a common planning table; its utilization of the national EFA action plans and other planning/policy frameworks to ensure a policy fit; having well spelt out TORs and work plan; conducting advocacy and communication in such a way that leads to a bottom-up build up of a social movement for girls‟ education; engagement of boys and men as strategic allies; and the prioritization of girls‟ education in all development activities.
Conclusions: Although UNGEI has contributed to the alignment of sector policy towards girls‟ education and consolidation of partnership in girls‟ education; its contributions to the outcomes are probably more discernible in the identification, documentation, implementation, and downstream institutionalization of good practices in girls‟ education. However, the limitation of UNGEI‟s interventionist work to the basic education sub-sector - to the detriment of the other sister sub-sectors - disturbs inter sub-sectoral articulation.
Lessons learned: The most notable deductions that can be gleaned from the evidence gathered are that; (i) UNGEI‟s limited resources seem to have a better catalytic effect when utilized at the community and school levels than at national level launches; (ii) Behavior changes call for participatory approaches, continual messages for reinforcement purposes with follow up support supervision; capacity building, increased resource inflows, intensified advocacy and social marketing to create receptivity; monitoring and evaluation – all backed up with a strong political will from the top leadership; (iii) the engagement of children and the youth in the partnership process is critical and (iv) multi-sectoral interventions appear to have higher chances of success in girls‟ education, since many problems relating to girls‟ learning lie both within and without the education system.
Recommendations: Basing on the conclusions above, UNGEI Uganda needs to: (i) revive its support supervision role over the district UNGEIs in order to strengthen the partnership at this level; (ii) organize meetings of different district UNGEI committees to enhance information sharing at that level; (iii) go beyond the narrow focus on pre-primary and primary education and pay more attention to the full delivery chain covering the entire education sector; (iv) crowd in more multiple partners/donors, including the private sector, in order to forge ahead with its scale up agenda. This in turn will widen UNGEI financial base; and (iv) revive its closer ties with UNGEI at regional and global levels.
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