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A world of possibilities A world of possibilities
By Dr. Harriet Sakala, FAWEZA Alumni

From the Executive

FAWE contributes to Packard Foundation/UNESCO consultation on reduction of secondary school drop-out

Thursday, 20 January 2011

FAWE presented perspectives on achieving lower drop-out rates for secondary schoolgirls in Africa at a consultative meeting on girls’ education in Africa organised by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation Regional Office and UNESCO in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on 5 January 2011.

The Packard Foundation and UNESCO are envisaging a joint initiative on girls’ education in Africa with a focus on reducing drop-out rates for girls in African schools. The objective of the consultative meeting was to engage with potential partners on the status, achievements and challenges of girls’ education in Africa as part of the strategy development process for the initiative.

FAWE Senior Programme Coordinating Officer Hendrina Doroba discussed the challenges observed in girls’ secondary education in Africa and shared FAWE’s holistic approach to enhancing girls’ education through its gender-responsive school model which has had a positive impact on girls’ access, retention and performance since inception in 1999. She also put forward recommendations on strategies to enhance girls’ secondary education.

Stressing the social and economic benefits to communities of girls’ secondary education and its potential as a catalyst for human development, Ms Doroba observed that secondary schooling for girls in Africa is characterised by low participation, low academic achievement, high cost of secondary education, unfavourable policy priorities, lack of quality and relevance, and the effects of HIV/AIDS.

FAWE’s gender-responsive school, or Centre of Excellence, has demonstrated that students thrive in a learning environment that is physically, socially and culturally gender-responsive.

Introduced in more than a dozen countries in partnership with national education authorities, the Centre of Excellence model proposes a gender-responsive approach to schooling that involves students as agents of change through youth empowerment measures; trains teachers and school management in gender-responsive pedagogy; and establishes partnerships with ministries of education, local communities and other stakeholders to promote gender equality.

Positive outcomes of the model include improved academic performance and achievement for girls, greater participation by girls in classroom processes, higher retention rates, more girls in school committees and leadership roles, reduction in teenage pregnancies, and higher gender awareness among boys in mixed schools.

Posing the challenge of how to sustain gains in primary education in Africa whilst addressing gender issues at secondary level, Ms Doroba recommended that partners could:

  • Advocate for innovative ways for government to increase and sustain teacher recruitment and retention
  • Advocate for the abolition of secondary school tuition fees
  • Support the replication of FAWE’s Gender-Responsive Pedagogy model  in pre- and in-service teacher training colleges
  • Support replication and scaling up of observed best practices in girls’ education
  • Forge and strengthen partnerships amongst national authorities, NGOs and the private sector at national and international level
  • Increase targeted research into trends in secondary education

Besides FAWE, other partners contributed to the consultative meeting, including the Institute of International Education, the African Union Commission for Human Resources, Science and Technology, USAID, the International Institute for Capacity-Building in Africa, UNICEF-ESARO and the Embassy of the United States in Ethiopia.

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