Monday, 8 November 2010
For the past 2 years, the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) Regional Secretariat has initiated deeper focus on girls' and higher education. After 17 years of advocating policy changes and demonstrating interventions that could reduce gender imparity in enrolment for girls and boys, FAWE had noticed that there had been an improvement in girls’ enrolment even though much more was needed to be done in order to maintain the improved enrolment throughout the entire cycle. We did nevertheless make progress. For example in 2009, FAWE COEs (Centres of Excellence) recorded positive results for girls’ access, retention, performance and transition in many countries. In Gambia, FAWE contributed to the increase of the number of girls enrolled (24% in 2003 to 70% in 2009). In Rwanda, the FAWE COE reported improved academic performance for girls in science subjects and the number of girls continuing onto university has increased by 15%. In Namibia, 60% of FAWENA beneficiaries were amongst top academic performers on national exams. In Chad, 62.5% of FAWE students improved their scores on national exams, 75% improved their final exam scores and girls’ retention in the FAWE COE was at a record high of 98%. However, it has also been noticed that most of the girls who go through high school do not pursue higher education, and some of the FAWE beneficiaries are among these girls as well.
While continuing to advocate for enrolment, parity and equality, the need to help boys’ and girls’ access to higher education has become evident to the organization. The first step in the process comprises the reasons as to why most girls are not pursuing higher education. The main reasons are known (poverty, early marriages, lack of motivation, among others), but FAWE, in its strategy to advocate for changes that will give equal opportunities to boys and girls, needs to have sufficient information from different cultures and countries within Africa- information that will be retrieved from research data necessary for FAWE to do its job of advocating. The process started in 2009 with the research initiative supported by the Norwegian Development Corporation (NORAD), which promotes girls’ and women’s education through the integration of gender into education policy and practice in sub-Saharan Africa. Grants were awarded to provide support to institutions and research centres working in the areas of gender, education, or policy advocacy. They were provided to 5 African countries with some specific objectives: the first to support research institutions in conducting research that uses gender as an analytical category in education research. Sub-Saharan Africa has a long history of gender-biased practices that have been translated into entrenched gender inequalities in education, the labour market, and the political and social arenas. Research is a vital tool for demonstrating to policy and decision makers the high cost of missed opportunities for African girls and women and for suggesting innovative strategies to redress.
The second is to strengthen the research base in Africa through a mentoring component whereby senior researchers will groom young women graduate students, or recent PhDs, in the area of gender in education research. Given the limited amount of applied research from a gender perspective anchored in the African context, training mentees to engage in this process will empower young researchers with valuable experience and prepare a framework for future gender researchers. 5 Grants were awarded (ranging from USD 30,000-35,000) for research projects to be conducted during the grant period. The data from these researches will not only help in forming better advocacy strategies, but will also make it easier for national chapters that are ready to explore higher education.
So far, three chapters have started supporting girls for higher education for the past 3 years- Ethiopia, Zambia and Uganda. The FAWE Uganda Higher Education Scholarship Programme is an answer to a demand that has become evident. Its main purpose is to support bright but needy girls to access university education through bursaries. The programme will benefit disadvantaged girls who have qualified to go to university but are unable to attend due to the high cost of private sponsorship.
FAWEU has rescued so many girls and accompanied them through elementary and high school with the help of donors, community leaders, parents, teachers, school managers and stakeholders. When some of these girls that benefited from FAWE’s programmes started coming back, knocking at FAWEU’s door asking for help for higher education, the organization could not turn them away.As Martha R. Muhwezi, national coordinator of FAWEU says: “Our faith in the outcome of higher education initiatives lies in the fact that the people supporting this initiative have been our long term partners with whom we have been working on all the good practices for the past few years. They have seen the result of our partnership with our beneficiaries that have become role models for younger generations and they have seen the need to start a focus on higher education”.
For the next 5 years, FAWEU will need USD 3,495,218 to support 100 needy and brilliant students through its bursary program (60 in sciences; 40 in arts- mostly girls) and will need the support of its existing partners, as well as new ones, to pursue this project.FAWE could never have attained the results achieved for the past 17 years without the support of its donors, partners and now Friends of FAWE (FoF), so please join FAWEU in this new adventure for parity in education for all African children.
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