Valuing Girls' Formal Education
The Valuing Girls’ Formal Education project works in the Democratic Republic of Congo to respond to economic, social and educational barriers that have led to low educational outcomes for girls.
The project addresses access, educational quality and community participation/engagement concerns. The goal is to ensure girls enroll and stay in school, while being active participants in the learning process.
Official name of project: Valuing Girls’ Formal Education
Project years: 2013-2016
Country: Democratic Republic of Congo
Value of project: +/- $32.3 million
Names of donors and partners: Department of International Development (DFID)/ donor
Consortium: International Rescue Committee (IRC)/lead; CRS; Save the Children
GOALS OF THE PROJECT
In Bandundu, Equateur, Kasai Occidental, Katanga and Oriental provinces, the Valuing Girls’ Formal Education project focuses on increasing the retention rate of girls in school in order to improve girls’ educational outcomes and life chances. The project distributes scholarships to girls in grades five and six, and provides after school tutoring to students who underperform in math and reading. Teacher trainings are a large focus of the project. Awareness raising activities are conducted by community teacher-parent associations for the promotion of safe learning environments and for the development of gender-focused school improvement plans.
NEED FOR THE PROJECT
In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), girls face economic, socio-cultural and physical barriers to education. About 71% of the Congolese population lives below the poverty line.
School is costly for poor parents, requiring money for fees, uniforms, books and materials. Poor quality teaching and lack of materials hinder learning.
Boys’ schooling takes priority over girls’. School infrastructure often doesn’t accommodate girls’ needs. In poor rural areas, 36% of girls (aged 7-16) have no access to schooling while 39% of them have completed fewer than four years of education.
The project targets five provinces where girls’ enrollment, learning, and completion are the lowest in DRC (Bandundu, Equateur, Kasai Oriental, Katanga, and Orientale Province). The project works to improve the life chances for 34,400 marginalized girls in the DRC as demonstrated through the number of girls completing a full cycle of primary school, as well as a decrease in the proportion of girls who are married by age 15.
HOW WE DO IT
The project targets more than 55,000 girls, and aims to improve their educational outcomes through four main project outputs:
- Increasing families’ financial capacity through scholarships and savings groups to support girls to complete primary school;
- Improving the quality and quantity of instruction to strengthen girls’ reading and math skills;
- Involving parents in school management to ensure girls’ access to quality education in a safe environment;
- Providing accelerated learning program (ALP) classes for over-aged, out-of-school girls to enable them to complete a full cycle of primary school.
CRS is implementing the whole package of activities in Bandundu and Equateur provinces. Teachers are receiving training. Students are also getting extra support through reading clubs and locally-developed reading materials. The tutoring program has been particularly successful, helping struggling students “catch up” and improve their academic performance.
One successful component of the project is targeting girls’ improved reading and math skills. This is facilitated by tutorial classes and training of teachers/tutors.
The tutoring model offers six hours of tutoring services per week, in cycles of 12 weeks. In most communities, 75 struggling students (both boys and girls) from the upper grades of primary school are selected to participate in this program. The mid-term review found that this component had been very well received and that most interviewees indicated that the children’s grades had improved as a result of this tutoring program.
Interestingly, the mid-term review also found that the fact that a school is selected by the project actually led to increased motivation in the teachers – teachers’ attendance and commitment increased in project schools. Teachers selected in the tutoring program also improved their performance in the classroom (through the application of new techniques learned during the tutoring training).
Finally, the existence of the tutoring has also helped the poorest students stay on target because they are able to attend the tutoring sessions (which are provided free of charge to students) even if they were not able to attend school that day (due to the non-payment of school fees).
As one student from CRS’ project zone told the mid-term review team: “[At first, the other students] said that it was a class for ‘dumb’ students, for those who didn’t know how to read and write, but now – with the progress we’ve made with reading especially – lots of students are jealous and want to join our group!”