Dubai Cares, part of Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Global Initiatives, has officially launched the Engaging Communities and Schools in Support of Adolescent Girls’ Education in Malawi (ECSSAGEM) program during a press conference held today in Blantyre, Malawi on the occasion of the International Day of the Girl Child. The 1,836,750 (USD 500,000) grant will be invested in a program that will benefit 11,000 students in Thyolo district. Through the program which is implemented by the Creative Centre for Community Mobilization (CRECCOM), a Malawi-based non-governmental organization, Dubai Cares is working towards facilitating the transition from primary to secondary school, mobilizing communities in support of girls’ education and improving English language instruction in schools.
Despite many advancements having been recently made in Malawi, with increasing numbers of children being granted access to free basic education, challenges remain in the area of post-primary education. Qualified teachers, classrooms and educational materials are all in short supply in the country and there remains a serious problem of gender inequality, with far fewer girls completing secondary education as compared to boys. According to UNESCO, only 57% of girls in Malawi complete primary school education.
Speaking from the press conference, Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer at Dubai Cares said, “It gives me great pride to be launching today, on the occasion of the International Day of the Girl Child, a new girls’ education program in Malawi. At Dubai Cares, we recognize the importance of addressing gender-related discrimination in education, particularly if we want to put an end to poverty, which inhibits the future prospects of youth and the communities they live in. Through this program, we hope to assist the government of Malawi, which has made enormous strides in improving the lives and education of the country’s young boys and girls, by building on those achievements. We hope to achieve this in partnership with CRECCOM, a local non-governmental organization with deep experience in and understanding of the context in Malawi, who will take on the task of designing and implementing cost-effective and sustainable solutions aiming to improve girls’ chances at accessing quality education and learning.”
Malawi’s government has, since the early 1990s, been demonstrating a strong commitment to improving children’s access to education. With the support of major funders, the authorities have adopted far-reaching policies designed to help young girls with their schooling and, in 1994, the government introduced free primary education whilst abolishing the requirement for school uniforms, both of which had been causing financial hardship to families. As a result of these measures, and others such as the passing of the Gender Equality Law in 2013, which criminalizes certain harmful traditional practices, education for young girls has improved, although much work remains to be done.
“Children should be given the same opportunities in life, including the right to quality education in safe learning environments. Through this program, we aim to secure a platform for girls to break through the hurdles of gender norms and achieve professional and personal success equivalent to their male counterparts. In two years’ time, once this program has been completed, we aim to have improved the lives and education of thousands of students, both girls and boys, and the results will help us inform policy makers, not only in this great country, but across the entire African continent,” Al Gurg continued.
The ECSSAGEM falls under programs funded through the Partnership to Strengthen Innovation and Practice in Secondary Education (PSIPSE), which Dubai Cares is part of. PSIPSE aims to identify and accelerate innovation in secondary education, contribute to policy-based reforms, and capture and disseminate learnings to key stakeholders.
“What is unique about ECSSAGEM,” adds Nada Al Hajjri, Country Program Officer at Dubai Cares, “is that it approaches girls’ education in a holistic way. It provides support not only to the girls, but also to their families, communities, schools and teachers to ensure that girls are enveloped in an enabling environment. This design improves the likelihood of girls going to school, staying in school and learning. Through this program, we are not only working with our local implementing partner CRECCOM, we are also working alongside international partners which are Miske Witt & Associates Inc. and the University of Wisconsin-Madison who have joined this program as research partners to help us capture learnings.”
The delegation, led by Tariq Al Gurg, also met with the Minister of Education, Science and Technology, Honorable Dr. Emmanuel Fabiano as well as other senior officials and dignitaries during the visit.
ECSSAGEM program is set to target 100 primary schools and 12 Community Day Secondary Schools (CDSSs), reaching out to approximately 1,200 surrounding villages. This represents 60% of the schools and communities in the targeted Thyolo district. The rural Thyolo district is found in the Southern Region of Malawi and has a total population of 633,019 people, more than 85% of whom live in poverty. Like most districts in Malawi, Thyolo is agricultural based yet employs poor farming practices, compounded by the low number of children completing secondary school education.