articles, opinions, and research about teaching and learning

Teachers Forum
December, 2002

Expanding Educational
Opportunities for Girls
in the Nkayi District
An interview with
Angelina Lunga,
Head teacher
Simbo Secondary School, Zimbabwe

Conducted by
Angeline Mugwendere
Angelina Lunga


Angelina Lunga is 36 years old and has been in the teaching profession since 1988. She was promoted in 1997 to the position of head teacher of Simbo Secondary School, a remote rural secondary school in the Nkayi District of Matabeleland North Province of Zimbabwe. Angelina Lunga has worked with CAMFED for the past 5 years to expand educational opportunities for girls in the Nkayi District.

The interview with Angelina Lunga was conducted by Angeline Mugwendere, National Co-ordinator of CAMA — the CAMFED Association. Angeline was one of the first young women to complete school with CAMFED’s support, and was able to conduct the interview from the point of view of a rural girl’s experience of the secondary school system in Zimbabwe and the problems faced by impoverished families.

Question: In light of your experience as a head teacher in a remote rural district, what do you feel are the main challenges faced by girls in your area in getting an education?

Answer: The major challenge facing girls is poverty. Children are forced to drop out of school as a result of family poverty; when a family in this situation has two children, they would rather send the boy to school. The girl is more likely to be seen as a source of cheap labour or of revenue through early marriage. It is poverty which is forcing parents to see their daughters in this light.

The current drought is making girls even more vulnerable to abuse. Girl children are being manipulated by men — they may exchange sex for cash to raise money for their fees. They or their parents may even see marriage as a way of getting themselves out of this situation. It is denying girls their basic human rights.

Related Links on UNICEF

Accelerating Progress in Girls' Education
This document outlines a strategy for accelerating progress on Girls' Education in order to meet the goal of gender equality in primary and secondary education by 2005. This is the first credibility challenge of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the Education for All (EFA) goals.

Barriers to Girls' Education, Strategies and Interventions
Explore such areas for analysis as direct and indirect costs, then view the possible findings / causes, broad strategies and possible interventions.

Ways to Improve the Participation of Girls in Schooling
From TTAL's Child Protection feature with Seven Tips for Teachers on Including Girls.

Girls at Work
Seven myths about girls, work and equality of educational opportunities

Girls' Education in Zimbabwe
Background information from 1999

The Barriers to Education from a Gender Perspective
If we examine some of the barriers to a quality education through a gender lens, we find that for girls the hurdles are, for the most part, higher and more frequent - simply because they are girls.

The Girl Child
Discussion and resources from Voices of Youth

Q: Do you feel that the fact that parents give preference to sending their sons to school is an issue of culture?

A: Culture is indeed a factor, but if cash is available then all children in the family go to school. Culture doesn’t really have a role to play in preventing girls from going to school. I believe poverty is the main force behind girls’ exclusion.

Q: In light of the challenges you’ve mentioned, what have you set in place in your school to ensure girls can access school and retain their hold on education?

A: I’m an important role model as a female head of a secondary school. This is in itself a challenge to the community. When I first arrived at the school, people came in large numbers to the first parents’ meeting I called in order to set eyes on "a woman head". I believe this in itself inspired a lot of women in our area. Some of them came to ask me what magic had brought me to these heights.

Other measures I have introduced include setting up a disciplinary committee to ensure the protection of girls when they are in school. I liaise with civil organisations such as Social Welfare to tackle the issue of abuse of girls. The police liaison officer is also regularly invited to the school to raise awareness on abuse. I liaise with the local traditional leadership — Chiefs, at local forums and discuss the dangers associated with early marriage and abuse of girls.

I invite parents to the school and talk to them about the dangers of withdrawing their daughters from school and the risks of marrying off their daughters at a young age, particularly to older men who are more likely to be infected with the HIV virus.

I also help spearhead investigations to ensure girls welfare is looked into. I’m aware that many parents don’t have the confidence to approach authorities themselves, so I take it upon myself to assist and accompany them.

Q: Who else do you work with to support girls?

A: I don’t only work as the head of a school, I’m working closely with other members of civil society. Right now, I’m Chairperson of the local CAMFED District Committee which administers support to girls in the district. I was elected to this position by head teachers and representatives of local authorities. This is itself an important challenge to me — to have been elected to a position of leadership in a patriarchal society. I also sit as a representative of women teachers for the Ministry of Education in Matabeleland North Province. I believe this gives me an important opportunity to advocate with other organisations to champion the cause of the girl-child.

Q: What is your advice to other women in positions of leadership?

A: I’d like to encourage other women to take up the challenge of supporting under-privileged girls and women. We need to reach out to those who are most marginalised and be good listeners in order to understand their plight with a view to assisting them. It’s our duty to ensure they have a voice and the opportunity to join us in the position we’re in. However, "making it" shouldn’t be seen as reaching the "bright lights — big city". We should really acknowledge those women who have stayed in rural areas to make a difference. There is one girl in my school who has just completed Form 6 with the support of CAMFED. She came out with top marks in the whole district and is proof to everyone that girls in rural areas in every corner of the world can shine.

Q: As someone who is working with under-privileged rural girls, what do you envision is the future for the girls who’ve been lucky to be in contact with you?

A: I hope they will have a brighter future and a better sense of what it is possible for them to achieve. Their potential can be used wherever they are and can be used to uplift their communities. I also hope they will get acknowledgement for all that they achieve.

Would you like to read other interviews with practising teachers?

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Last revised December 1, 2002
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