Bicycles and reduced chores help girls get back to school in Zimbabwe

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A PROGRAM that gave girls bicycles to school and encouraged parents to reduce their daughters’ household chores has improved the life chances of thousands of girls and young women in Zimbabwe, according to World Vision.

The charity’s program, Improving Girls’ Access by Transforming Education (IGATE), has sought to reduce some of the many barriers to girls’ education. Girls are often expected to do housework and cannot easily get to school if they have to travel long distances. Parental expectations of early marriage also harm girls’ chances of getting an education.

The program worked with under-resourced schools, as well as families, religious leaders and traditional community leaders, to overcome some of the cultural barriers to girls’ education.

Some communities have organized “Back to School” campaigns to track down girls who were outside the education system and who might be at risk of early marriage.

The program also provided bikes to over 9,000 girls to help them get to school, which also helped to solve some safety issues for girls who had long commutes.

In communities where the program worked, parents and guardians reduced the girls’ household chores by an average of 17 minutes per day to allow them more time to study.

Increased support for girls’ education was a particularly important outcome for pregnant girls: at the start of the project, a law prohibited them from returning to school. Although that changed in 2020, they still faced obstacles, such as reluctance from teachers upon their return or bullying from their peers. Having more support from their communities was crucial in enabling pregnant girls to transition to their schools when these reopened after the Covid lockdown.

Educational facilitators have been trained and more than 1,000 solar-powered radios with pre-recorded lessons have been distributed, to encourage learning in the community during the lockdown.

IGATE was a four-year program that ended last fall, but is now being rolled out by the Zimbabwean government. World Vision UK CEO Mark Sheard said: “It’s so inspiring to see the success of IGATE, especially when the children themselves speak 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 of the elements of success was simple changes, like donating a bicycle, or families expecting girls to do fewer chores and be more willing to buy or borrow equipment from school. learning for their child. This allowed the girls to have time to go to school and arrive in class safely.

“Community Learning Circles have also been key in supporting girls who were unable to access learning during Covid-19, especially with basic literacy and numeracy skills. Community learning circles have also helped children return to school after the Covid-19 closures.

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