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Innovative Solutions: Getting those Out of School, Back into School

©UNICEF Nepal/2013
A female Young Champion, Rimu Chaudhari (in orange), delivering life skills sessions to students of Rajaji Tulsilal Jonchhe Janta Higher Secondary School in Saptari District.

The obligation to provide quality education for all girls cannot be achieved without targeted efforts to enroll or re-enroll girls who are currently out of school. Innovative solutions are needed to safeguard out-of-school girls’ right to quality education. 

To address the issue of out-of-school girls, UNICEF Madagascar is tackling the root-causes of drop-outs and non-enrollment. As part of the Let Us Learn initiative, an innovative secondary girls’ education program was launched that goes beyond traditional scholarship programs. This approach addresses every aspect of what keeps girls out of secondary school – which includes lack of transportation, housing and cultural stigma in addition to poverty. “Reintegration grants” promote the re-insertion of girls who have dropped out of junior secondary school due to financial, pregnancy or cultural reasons. Selected female mentors from the community handle the girls’ cash transfers and monthly expenses, in addition to providing counseling and psychosocial support to girls. 

In a country where many girls drop out because of long-distances from schools, the program also offers facilitation of transportation & boarding houses to girls who live between five and seven kilometers from junior secondary school. Genevieve, a young orphan from the Analanjirofo region of Madagascar, was determined to continue her post-primary education, but had to walk one and a half hours every day to reach her school. The Let Us Learn initiative helped to provide Genevieve with a bicycle to cut her travel time down to 20 minutes, allowing her to go back to school. “I am very happy to continue school, and I hope to be a doctor one day.” 

In Nepal, UNICEF and its partners launched the Girls’ Access to Education (GATE) initiative, a ten-month non-formal education program that targets adolescent out-of-school girls. "I am really happy to have gotten the opportunity to learn general reading and writing skills. Education on health and hygiene issues are useful in everyday life," Shushila opined. The curriculum focuses on life-skills for adolescents in addition to basic literacy and numeracy. After completing the curriculum, partner NGOs assist graduates who want to enroll in a formal school to take an exam at a community school to enter into grade three or four.

Older adolescents have the option to participate in the Self-Employment and Economic Education Programme (SEEP), whose participants are provided training on financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and self-employment skills. Nine graduates of SEEP were supported to take a six month interest-free loans from local government funds and have already started small businesses such as a tea shop, a retail shop, and a goat raising business. These businesses are still running today.

Parmeshwor Jha, a social mobilizer for the program reflects on the changes of one of the participants, "I have witnessed a huge change in Mairun´s behavior and her way of thinking. She has progressed a lot after joining the program."

In Turkey, the national government worked with UNICEF to launch the “Catch-Up Education” (CEP) initiative, whose goal is to prepare out-of school girls and boys aged 10-14 to reenter formal schooling with necessary credentials. A condensed curriculum is developed and CEP classes are opened in schools. These classes allow students to learn alongside peers who are also catching up, instead of being in class with children younger children. Among beneficiaries of the program are girls previously unable to attend school because of household commitments. “I couldn’t come to school all the time. We go to different cities for work. I look after my nieces. We went for a whole month and I couldn’t go to school,” one girl reported. Enrolling in CEP gave her the chance to go back to school. “We will be going again soon. I take my books with me when we go. I’m always studying.”


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