BY REBECCA PAVELEY- A SCHEME that gave girls bicycles to get to school and encouraged parents to reduce the chores that their daughters did at home has improved the life chances of thousands of girls and young women in ZimbabweWorld Vision says.

The charity’s scheme, Improving Girls’ Access Through Transforming Education (IGATE), sought to reduce some of the many barriers to education for girls. Girls are often expected to do housework, and cannot easily get to school if they face long journeys. Parents’ expectations of early marriage also harm girls’ chances of getting an education.

The scheme worked with schools that were under-resourced, and with families, religious leaders, and traditional community leaders, to address some of the cultural barriers to girls’ education.

Some communities ran “Back to School” campaigns to trace girls who were outside the education system who might be at risk of early marriage.

The scheme also gave bicycles to more than 9000 girls to help them travel to school, which also helped to address some of the safety concerns for girls who had a long journey.

In communities where the scheme was running, parents and caregivers reduced chores for girls by an average of 17 minutes a day to enable more time for study.

The increased support for girls’ education was a particularly important outcome for pregnant girls: at the beginning of the project, a law that prohibited their going back to school.

Although this was changed in 2020, they still faced barriers, such as teachers reluctance about their return, or bullying by their peers. Having more support from their communities was crucial to enabling pregnant girls to make the transition back to their schools when these reopened after the Covid lockdown.

Education facilitators were trained, and more than 1000 solar radios with pre-recorded lessons were given out, to encourage learning in the community during lockdown.

IGATE was a four-year scheme that finished last autumn, but it is now being rolled out by the Zimbabwean government. The CEO of World Vision UK, Mark Sheard, said:

“It’s so inspiring to see the success of IGATE, especially when the children themselves talk so enthusiastically about how their education has improved. IGATE was a large-scale, multi-faceted initiative that will leave a lasting legacy for the children of Zimbabwe.

“One element of the success involved simple changes, like the gift of a bicycle, or families’ expecting girls to do less chores, and being more willing to buy or borrow learning materials for their child. This enabled girls to have the time to go to school, and to arrive to class safely.

“Community learning circles were also key to helping girls who were not able to access learning during Covid-19, especially with basic literacy and numeracy skills.

Community learning circles also helped children transition back into school after the Covid-19 lockdowns.”

church times