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Innovative Solutions: Partnerships are Key to Promoting Girls' Education
In Maradi, Niger, the Comité de Gestion des Etablissements Scolaires (COGES) is a committee comprising of parents and school administration that oversees the overall management of schools. The COGES does everything from providing safe drinking water to making home-visits in case of absenteeism from school.
In Tajikistan, the formation of an Education Support Committee (ESC) in the village of Nimich. The committee is comprised of education authorities, a local NGO, community and religious leaders, parents, teachers, entrepreneurs, as well as school boys and girls. The ESC was instrumental in gaining the community’s trust and mobilizing every sector of the community to act on behalf of girls’ education – including building a secondary school in the village for all children, including girls.
Literacy levels and school enrolment in Somalia are among the lowest in the world. Moreover, out of the small number of girls that enrol in the first grade, only one in five girls complete a full cycle of basic education.
Naima Abdikarin Hirsi, 16 years old, is among thousands of girls across Somalia who cannot afford school fees. To boost girls’ education in Puntland and Somaliland, UNICEF is partnering with the Ministry of Education’s Gender Unit to grand scholarships to 450 vulnerable girls through the Accelerated Female Participation in Education (AFPE) programme. The scholarship covers tuition fees and other basic needs girls would need to go to school, such as transport money, textbooks, uniforms and small pocket money.
“If it wasn’t for this scholarship, I would probably be at home doing nothing,” says Naima. “Most of my friends who did not make it to school are married, some work at the market, others have become housemaids and others are still idling around.”
In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Save the Children Fund (SCF) and the Catholic Relief Services (CRS), through funding from the Department of International Development (DFID) implemented the programme called 'Valorisation de la Scholarisation de la Fille' (VAS-Y Fille!). The programme targes five provinces where girls' enrolment, learning and completion are the lowest. VAS-Y Fille's partnership with private-sector organisations and female champions help leverage funding in order to reach more girls and provide more support to girls and their families. The initiative also has after-school tutoring activities.
In Sierre Leone, the Education Stakeholders Forum has helped many girls go to school. Thirteen-year-old Abibatu was happily going to school in Kono in the east of Sierra Leone when her education pursuits were almost interrupted: her parents wished to marry her off before she could complete her education. Her teacher was opposed to the marriage and tried to dissuade her parents from proceeding, but they refused to listen.
Faced with little alternative, the teacher then brought the issue to the attention of Education Stakeholders Forum, which comprises community leaders, non-governmental organizations, school representatives, mother clubs and local councils. UNICEF set up this innovative coordination structure so that various stakeholders in education could come together and discuss education-related issues at the community as well as policy levels.
The Education Stakeholders Forum stepped in and informed the parents of Abibatu about the adverse effects of child marriage. Abibatu was delighted that the Education Stakeholders Forum’s efforts resulted in holding off her marriage in favour of continued schooling. “I want to be a social worker after I finish my education because I want to help change some negative traditional practices and decisions that affect the development of the girl child,” she said.
In Rwanda and Ethiopia, the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) partnered with The Mastercard Foundation to foster next-generation leaders who are empowered to create positive change and growth for their communities. Scholars receive comprehensive support including academic tutoring, leadership and life skills training based on the FAWE Tuseme youth empowerment model, and training in ICT, entrepreneurship, and financial skills.
The Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program is a 10-year global initiative to educate academically talented young people from disadvantaged communities and focuses primarily in Sub-Saharan Africa. The program is implemented by a global network of partners, such as FAWE.
Partnerships are key to providing quality education and ensuring relevant learning outcomes for all children. We must collectively continue to explore unique and innovative partnerships throughout the world to ensure successful education programming, calling for integrated approaches on advocacy, curriculum review, financial aid strategies and gender responsive policies.