Zambia: Girl's secondary education gets a boost
Author: Victoria Holdsworth
Article Date: 6 Mar 2008
Commonwealth grant supports 60 pupils in rural areas
A £20,000 grant from the Commonwealth Secretariat is supporting 60 young women at rural secondary schools in Zambia, where girls often struggle disproportionately to achieve further education qualifications, considerably weakening their chances of gaining formal employment in adulthood.
The Secretariat’s education section has joined forces with Camfed, an international organisation focusing on eradicating poverty in Africa through the education of girls and the empowerment of young women.
The four-year project, which began in 2005, has made it possible for young women like 18-year-old Phaides to continue her education, despite facing many challenges and disruptions which impacted directly on her education.
Orphaned when she was only three, after the death of both her parents, Phaides was sent to live with her grandmother in Nyimba, close to the eastern border with Mozambique. After one year, she was taken in by her mother’s cousin in Ndola, near the border of Zaire and then a year later, moved to Livingstone in the far south of Zambia.
“We were staying in a police camp. When I was in Grade 4, our lives became very difficult as we were forced to leave the camp after my Aunty’s husband died,” she explained.
“My Aunty was sick – she had shingles. We moved to the Mpika District, (some 900km away) when I was in Grade 6 in second term, only returning to school in Grade 7 for the first term.”
After achieving Grade 8 at Lwitikila Girls’ Secondary School, 14-year-old Phaides stopped attending classes because she did not have enough money.
“A teacher mentor asked why I was not going to school and I explained. She told me that Camfed would sponsor my schooling.”
Phaides is now in Grade 11 at Chitulika High School, where she excelled in English and Geography. She is one of the 60 vulnerable pupils being directly supported by the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Chitilika High School is a co-educational school located in Chitilika village, 4km from the District centre in Northern Zambia. With Camfed’s support, the school and local community have established a weekly boarding hostel to provide safe term-time accommodation for 24 girls living a great distance from the school.
Phaides has set her sights on studying further and helping others: “I believe education is the key to success. I want to become a doctor so that I can help many people who are suffering,” she says.
Intervening with teacher mentors
Camfed is rightly proud of the role that teacher mentors play in keeping girls at school, enabling them to receive support and guidance needed to ensure they do not lose the vital opportunity of an education. This proved critical for Phaides. The direct intervention of the teacher mentor enabled her to receive funding when she dropped out of school.
Ann Cotton, Executive Director of Camfed, says: “Poverty severely impacts the ability of girls like Phaides to attend school regularly. Poverty disproportionately affects girls’ right to an education since girls have a high level of responsibility for caring for siblings and sick parents, and parents tend to withdraw girls from school first when funds are tight on the assumption that boys are more likely to gain formal employment when they finish school and bring income into the family.
Camfed has developed strong monitoring and finance systems to track girls' school attendance and ensure that they receive the support they need to stay in school. These systems strengthen our programme response and ensure the highest levels of accountability and transparency in our work.”
Commonwealth’s direct involvement pays off
Dr Jyotsna Jha, Adviser, Education and Gender in the Commonwealth Secretariat says: “We usually invest in policy and institutional level interventions in education. This is one of the very few where we are directly reaching the girls from the marginalised groups and through that we are also trying to impact the school functioning,” says Dr Jyotsna Jha,
According Ms Cotton, the girls being supported by the Commonwealth in the Mpika District are striving to make the best of their education, many being held up as role models to fellow pupils. Five of them are now prefects at their schools.
“These girls have navigated a key transition point at which many vulnerable girls are lost from the school system.”