Basic education and gender equality



Innovations and Impact

© UNICEF ROSA/2015/TNybo

BANGLADESH: Alternative opportunities for learning
Bangladesh has a long history of non-formal education, largely delivered by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as BRAC (formerly Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee), Friends In Village Development Bangladesh (FIVDB), Gonoshahajjo Sangstha (GSS) and Dhaka Ahsania Mission. Until the 1980s, this type of education catered mainly to illiterate young people and adults, but the concept has been introduced to a younger age-group (children aged 8-14) in response to the huge numbers of out-of-school children. Non-formal primary education now complements formal education, giving children the chance to learn basic literacy and numeracy, and to enrol or re-enrol at school. Some NGOs link learners with vocational and livelihood education. About six million children have benefited from non-formal primary education in the last three decades.

The government has memoranda of understanding with many providers of non-formal primary education but does not manage their programmes directly. The Ministry does, however, have several nonformal
programmes of its own, such as the Reaching Out-of-School Children project, which uses the same instructional materials as the formal system. Another government project – Basic Education for Hard-to-Reach Urban Working Children – is supported by UNICEF. It has its own curriculum and emphasizes functional literacy and life skills. In 2013, the government approved the guidelines on Second Chance Education, which institutionalized government support to non-formal education programmes.

INDIA: Reaching out-of-school girls from the most disadvantaged groups
India has set up a specialized type of school – for girls only, with boarding facilities for some of the pupils – to attract out-of-school girls in rural areas. Called Kasturba Gandhi Balika Vidyalayas (KGBVs), these single-sex lower secondary schools make education more attractive to girls from groups such as Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Muslim communities who tend to drop out of school after primary  education level. Being girls-only schools removes a cultural barrier and worry about safety for girls in mixed-sex situations. The schools’ residential facilities allow girls from further afield (who live too far away to make the journey every day) to enrol. The schools offer a wide range of subjects – including dance, music, theatre and karate – to attract and interest their pupils. Government evaluations of the KGBVs in 12 states indicate that many out-of-school girls, particularly from Scheduled Tribes and Scheduled Castes, have been drawn into KGBVs. The most recent estimates put the number of KGBVs at 2,565, with nearly 200,000 girls enrolled across 27 states and union territories.

NEPAL: Schools as Zones of Peace
UNICEF, with a coalition of partners, is working with the Government of Nepal on the Schools as Zones of Peace (SZOP) initiative. The aim is to protect the education system as a whole from the impact of confl ict and to safeguard schools from the risk of closure or occupation by armed groups such as the police, the military or insurgents. Under SZOP, schools are rightly seen as neutral, peaceful zones where children can continue their education safely. The initiative dates from 2003, when Nepal was rocked by armed conflict, and the coalition includes 29 NGOs and UN Agencies. Establishing meaningful peace zones in schools depends on community involvement and strong commitment by local people. Schools and communities signed a code of conduct, and coalition members, civil society and the media helped monitor the situation. Government endorsement of the SZOP initiative in May 2011 was an important milestone, and implementation guidelines were subsequently drawn up.

The peace zone initiative has kept schools open in 864 communities that were severely affected by political instability (even after the end of the armed conflict), directly benefiting around 300,000 children as of 2012. The nationwide recognition of SZOP has also put pressure on the various political parties and security forces to keep schools as ‘zones of peace.’

In 2013, Nepal held an election for a second Constituent Assembly to finalize a new constitution. UNICEF’s advocacy on the importance of minimizing the disturbance to education during elections paid off
– the Election Code of Conduct included provisions that respect the neutrality of schools and protect children from being involved in election-related activities.



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