Tuesday, 16 March 2010
In an effort to help address the situation of girls’ education in Southern Sudan, one of FAWE-Southern Sudan's (FAWE-SS) strategic interventions is to work with the Ministry of Education (MOE) and other stakeholders in Eastern Equatorial State to transform an ordinary school into a gender-responsive school. Commonly known as a Centre of Excellence (COE), a gender-responsive school is one in which the academic, social, and physical environment and its surrounding community take into account the specific needs of both girls and boys so that they can excel in their education.
Southern Sudan has low indicators concerning education in general and gender parity in particular: a GER of 72% (85% M 57% F) and an NER of 48% (55% M 40% F) in primary schools, while in the secondary schools the GER is 6% (8% M 4% F) and the NER is 3% (4% M 2% F). Eastern Equatorial State is one of the areas with low enrolment and retention rates for girls: 39% are enrolled in primary school, while female primary school teachers are only 3%, and 25% of girls are enrolled in secondary school, while women constitute only 10% of teachers at that level.
Research conducted by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) from July - December 2009 pointed out that “girls in Eastern Equatorial are groomed for marriage from a young age and spend their days performing domestic chores and often begin womanhood from age 14. Early marriage is the main reason for which girls do not graduate from school. It is always a tradition that males in the family make decisions about when girls get married. If a girl about to get married is still in school, she will drop out". This was confirmed by the gender baseline assessment for John Garang School that was conducted by FAWE Southern Sudan in 2009. According to the report, 8 girls in Primary 8 dropped out of school in 2009 due to forced marriage or early pregnancy.
The COE Vision Workshop
Through a consultative process, FAWE-SS and the State Ministry of Education, Science and Technology - Eastern Equatorial States (SMOEST-EES) identified John Garang Memorial Basic School in Toriot County as the site for demonstrating FAWE's gender-responsive school model.
As a first step to transforming the school into a gender responsive school, FAWE-SS conducted a workshop from 15th - 19th March 2010 to bring all the stakeholders of the school together to consult and develop a common vision for the Gender Responsive School. The 45 participants (23 males and 22 females) who attended this workshop included representatives from the Government of Southern Sudan’s Ministry of Education, Science and Technology, the Ministry of Education for Eastern Equatorial (State, County and Payam levels), parents’ representatives, FAWE-SS Executive Committee members, and teachers and students at the school. Collective ownership and clarity of the desired GR School amongst the various stakeholders is a key element to the COE transformation process.
The workshop helped unveil the factors negatively affecting girls’ education in Torit County and at the John Garang Memorial School. These factors include the following:
• Girls are less valued than boys and are considered only as a source of dowry, which leads to early and forced marriage.
• Preference is given to boys' schooling in situations where families are forced by economic circumstance to make a choice.
• Negative cultural beliefs and gender stereotyping confine girls to domestic chores in the home, while boys are allowed and encouraged to go to school.
• Unsupportive home and community environments linked to domestic overload on girls, results in low enrolment and high drop outs.
• Lack of female role models within the communities reinforces the low value given to education in empowering girls and women. Communities erroneously think that girls become ‘spoiled’ when they go to school and end up abandoning their culture or falling pregnant.
• Long distances to schools raise parents’ concerns regarding their daughters’ safety.
• Most parents are not comfortable sending girls to co-educational schools with only male teachers
• Unfavorable school conditions, limited basic facilities such as proper sanitation facilities, gender-biased school management practices, absence of positive female teacher role models, harassment by male peers and teachers, and unsupportive teaching methods compound the situation. Gender-biased pedagogy tends to favor boys.
• Lack of accessibility to learning spaces during the rainy season also contributes to girls' retention at home by parents.
At the conclusion of the workshop, the stakeholders of the school (SMOE, PTA, the school, and FAWE-SS) agreed to work collaboratively to transform the John Garang Basic School into a gender-responsive school to ensure the retention and improved performance of both girls and boys. The Vision Workshop culminated in the following proposed solutions and commitments:
• Training teachers and the school management on Gender-Responsiveness.
• Empowering both boys and girls for self confidence and assertiveness so that they are better able to speak and advocate for their rights.
• Creating awareness about the importance of education and the dangers of early and forced marriage
• Lobbying for by-laws to protect the girls
• Establishing a scholarship program for disadvantaged girls and boys
• Setting up guidance and counseling desks for the students
• Providing comfort kits and comfort corners for the girls
• Lobbying for boarding facilities for the students
FAWE-SS underscored its plan to train teachers and state trainers on GRP and to conduct an empowerment program for boys and girls during the month of May 2010. The stakeholders agreed to work with FAWE-SS in the transformation process and each committed to taking a specific action. All these commitments were compiled into an action plan which will be revisited periodically.
This is an example of how FAWE operates in the countries in which it has National Chapters. In particular, FAWE uses data to assess the situation, consults with beneficiaries and stakeholders to identify the reasons for the situation, fosters involvement and commitment from everyone involved in the process to bring about the necessary transformation, and shares successful experiences through advocacy so that governments, partners and stakeholders can make corrective decisions.
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