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Zimbabwe launches ground-breaking national girls education strategic plan

National plan is a milestone in Zimbabwe’s pursuit of MDGs. The United Nations has invested more than US$2 million to improve girls education in past two years in Zimbabwe

HARARE, 18 October 2006 – The United Nations in collaboration with the government and civil society launched a ground-breaking National Girls Education Strategic Plan to increase Zimbabwe’s likelihood of achieving universal primary education and ensuring girls stay in school.

The National Girls Education Strategic Plan is Zimbabwe’s first-ever strategic document on girls education. It spells out how to provide quality basic education while keeping girls, orphans and vulnerable children in school, in the face of economic hardships and challenges particularly in the context of HIV/AIDS.

Current statistics show that girls are the first to drop out of school during social and economic crisis. This is a social and economic mistake.

“Girls education, especially up to secondary level, yields significant benefits for households and nations in general,” said UNICEF’s Head of Education in Zimbabwe, Cecilia Baldeh. “Educated girls can protect themselves from HIV and AIDS, they can contribute to reduce infant and maternal mortality rates, and they can foster economic growth. As the World Bank has noted, educating girls yields a higher rate of return than almost any other investment available in the developing world.”

Zimbabwe has achieved gender parity in primary enrolment, and has a 2per cent gap in secondary completion nationally, however Zimbabwe has unacceptably wide gender disparities within districts. The nine districts with gender gaps against girls of 5 per cent or more, in relation to secondary school drop out rates are: Umguza (25per cent difference between boys and girls), Bubi (20per cent), Bullilima and Mangwe (18per cent), Mudzi (13per cent), Buhera (8per cent) Rushinga (5per cent), and Mt. Darwin (5per cent). The ninth district is Mazowe, where the disparity of 10per cent is against boys, who work in orange plantations. The National Plan seeks to redress all gender imbalances

Thus, the National Girls Education Strategic Plan seeks to ensure that that every child is able to enroll, complete and realize their full potential in education. The plan also aims to address emerging HIV/AIDS-related and cultural challenges (such as forced early marriage, abuse and economic exploitation) which particularly harm girls.

The Ministry of Education, Sport and Culture is currently working with UN agencies such as UNESCO and UNICEF, together with NGOs to improve the equity and quality of education for Zimbabwe’s children.

To be implemented until 2010, the Plan will utilize community, public and private sector partnerships to mobilize resources for the education of every vulnerable child, most especially girls. Resources will be mobilized locally and internationally. Already the European Commission, the Government of Japan, Swedish SIDA, and the UK’s Department for International Development and the Government of New Zealand (both through the NAP for OVC) have provided much needed support.

Between 2005 and 2006 the UN has spent more than US$2million supporting girls education. Key activities include:

• Review of the basic education policies
• Establishing Girl Empowerment Clubs (GEM) clubs across Zimbabwe
• Providing primary education scholarships
• Providing a gender, life skills and counselling training programme for teachers
• Training of SDC in the co-management of schools
• Strengthening of national EMIS data systems to ensure access to disaggregated data
• Classroom construction/rehabilitation and procurement of textbooks
• Educational campaigns to track and re-enrol children out of school

The National Girls Education Strategic Plan is the product of more than a year’s work and consultation. It compliments existing efforts such as the United Nations Girls Education Initiative (UNGEI) and the United Nations Secretary General initiative on women and girls and HIV. Nevertheless, in many ways its success depends on ever-greater investment. The potential results are priceless.

“Knowledge is power,” said UNICEF’s Ms Baldeh. “Power to make personal decisions and choices to pursue a profession, to protect one’s children, to become self-reliant and to become an active, productive member of society. This is what we must ensure for the girls of this country.”



For 60 years UNICEF has been the world’s leader for children, working on the ground in 156 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence.  The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:

James Elder, UNICEF Zimbabwe Communication Officer: Tel + 091 276120, jelder@unicef.org




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