Following the attainment of multi-party democracy in 1994 and the election of the UDF government, Malawi's commitment to reducing poverty was reflected in the bold decision to introduce Free Primary Education (FPE). Around the same period, renewed attention was paid to the education of the Girl Child, who had persistently been marginalised in poverty alleviation interventions. This was in recognition of international trends that recognise that educating girls is one of the most effective and least expensive ways to reduce poverty and to spur growth. Thus, over the past ten years, several development partners, donors and NGOs have partnered with the Government of Malawi (GoM) in implementing various interventions to enhance girls' education.
This evaluation of UNICEF's Girl Child Education interventions is part of a series of background exercises that will inform the Mid-Term Review of the UNICEF Malawi 2002-2006 Country Programme. The findings and recommendations will be used to strengthen future programme implementation by improving and/or scaling up interventions for the remaining years of the programme cycle and to prepare for the next 5-year Country Programme in 2007-2011.
The overall objective of the evaluation was to assess the performance and responsiveness of the selected interventions towards contributing to Malawi's attainment of Accelerated Girls' Education, as stipulated in UNICEF's Medium Term Strategic Plan, the Malawi Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (MPRSP) and the Millennium Development Goals (MDG). The specific objectives of the evaluation were to examine:
The evaluation was carried out over a period of four weeks in the month of May 2004. The evaluation framework was broad and consultative and was done at two levels: at the Policy Level and at the Operational Level.
At the Policy Level, the process involved consultations with major stakeholders involved in the policy formulation of the GoM/UNICEF Girl Child Education interventions including UNICEF, government, NGOs, partner institutions and donor agencies. At the Operational Level, the process involved consultations with the stakeholders involved in the actual implementation of the Girl Child Education interventions. These were the participants at the district, community and school level in all the three regions.
The other data collection avenues constituted a desk review on the Programme Plans of Actions (PPAs), previous programme reviews and other Girl Child Education intervention studies. In total, 35 education-related documents were reviewed.
Although the evaluation combined both qualitative and quantitative methodologies, it was predominantly qualitative. The rationale was to provide beneficiaries and right holders with the opportunity to articulate their insights via focused discussions and get an in-depth appreciation of their experiences and felt needs. Where quantitative methodologies were used, a total of twelve UNICEF-assisted schools were sampled and contrasted with six non-UNICEF assisted schools across the three regions of the country.
Findings and Conclusions:
Although there has been a definite trend towards gender parity in enrolment since 2002, disparities still manifest in the upper classes with the percentage of girl enrolment in the senior classes dropping out higher than that of boys. This trend was observed in both UNICEF and non-UNICEF assisted schools.
In terms of the Human Rights Based Approach to Programming (HRBAP), as operationalised in the communities, the evaluation has confirmed the oft-made observation that cultural values and attitudes are deep-rooted in people's minds. This tends to impede their propensity to change.
While many community-based groups have been formed to implement and oversee the Girl Child Education interventions, there is a need for strong leadership from the head teacher and good will from local chiefs for their effectiveness. This, coupled with the high turnover of office bearers and that the effect of the cascade training model is not much in evidence, threaten the sustainability of the community groups.
Poverty is a major obstacle to the effectiveness of sector programmes. It is noted, for instance, that the Social Policy, Advocacy and Communication (SPAC) Child Protection Project, which is instrumental in withdrawing children from estate labour or household labour and returning them to school, has been ineffective because of the vicious cycle of demand for child labour and the lack of schools to place them in when taken out of labour.
With regard to the integration and internalisation of Girl Child Education interventions in the national fabric, it is noted that although resources to the education sector have been increased, there is low physical capital formation and widespread shortage of teachers, learning materials and resources for supervision and monitoring. This has had a retrogressive effect on the girl child education interventions.
The high turnover of personnel in the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MOEST) and the Ministry of Gender, Youth and Community Services (MOGYCS) has left UNICEF without vital support for its initiatives. The situation is compounded by a general lack of capacity in these ministries.
Decentralisation has provided an opportunity for integration of the various elements at the district level, although the process seems to be slow in some areas.
The use of the school emergency school feeding programme has offered a unique opportunity to target girls and to boost their school attendance.
In terms of efficiency, the evaluation has shown that budgeting was not systematically done. Some activities were over budgeted, whereas others were under budgeted for. This is attributable to the absence of baseline data to anticipate expenditure levels.
There is need to support and enhance the activities of the M&E Unit in order to bring effective and efficient monitoring to all programmes.
There is a need to combine training with community dialogue relating to cultural practices that affect girls' education. Recognising that cultural values and attitudes are deeply ingrained in human beings, any attempt at community dialogue and programming must be conducted with sensitivity and tact for effective results.
Recognising the high turnover and capacity shortcomings in the MOEST and MOGYCS, UNICEF, as a key player in education, should take a leading role in pulling together the major players in this sector.
UNICEF should also take a leading role in lobbying government to implement critical policy issues such as compulsory education, linking Teaching Training Colleges (TTCs) with UNICEF projects for teacher training (both for in-service field support and pre-service training) and initiating affirmative action for female teachers in rural areas.
To bolster effectiveness, UNICEF should strengthen civil society organisations directly engaged in children advocacy.
UNICEF should identify areas of comparative advantage, form linkages and encourage appropriate support from other donors.
IEC strategies and messages pertaining to the Girl Child should be made less routine, conventional and conservative and more innovative and provocative. This could be achieved by funding more behavioural research to better understand the empowerment of girls in society.
There is need for closer collaboration and unity of purpose with faith-based organizations and the private sector in dealing with challenges faced by the youth, particularly with female adolescents.
Special efforts should be made to ensure that gender is mainstreamed in all government policies, including the Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP), programming processes and related activities, by sensitising all personnel and developing their gender analysis skills.
There is need to explore collaborating avenues and additional opportunities for joint programming with the Health Sector.
To ensure equitable disbursement of funds, PPAs should include elaborate financial forecasts and plans.
PDF files require Acrobat Reader.
Education - Girls
Government of Malawi