We were delighted to host the UK’s Special Envoy on Gender and Equality, Alicia Herbert OBE, as part of her visit to Rwanda to attend the Rwandan government-led Women Deliver summit. On the second day of her visit, Alicia visited our Building Learning Foundations (BLF) Programme to observe a girls' club activity at GS Mburabuturo, a government school located in Kigali.
She was met at the school by the Director General of the Rwandan Ministry of Education (MINEDUC) in charge of Policy Analysis, Rose Baguma, as well as EDT’s Regional Director for Sub-Saharan Africa, Richard King, and BLF’s Team Leader, Silas Bahigansenga.
BLF has piloted girls’ clubs in 42 schools across ten districts in Rwanda since 2021. Following the pilot and the finalisation of the girls’ club curriculum, there are plans for the girls’ club initiative to be scaled up to reach all schools in the country, as part of a whole-school approach to gender.
In her welcoming remarks, Director General Baguma said: “To achieve gender parity in education, we have done […] the review of the girls’ education policy, which EDT has been supporting us with through FCDO. We believe that the girls’ education policy will serve as a roadmap to achieving quality education for all. The main reason we reviewed the policy was to ensure that it aligns with the global trends and national priorities. The Ministry of Education has been working with BLF to create an enabling system for the girls’ education work in Rwanda. The system […] is not only ready develop policy, but also implement it and remove barriers that affect girls, such as stigma, social norms, violence and poverty, among others. Alongside that, BLF has also been testing an approach to girls’ clubs. They have been very effective to provide a safe space where life skills are taught and discussed in order to empower both girls and boys to make informed decisions about school and their future, as well as building their confidence, self-esteem and personal resilience.”
At the school, Ms Herbert interacted with members of the girls’ club, who were participating in a learning session on confidence building and self-esteem. The girls were discussing characteristics of people with high- and low self-esteem.
Speaking to the girls, she said: “Thank you for making time to host me in your club. I am glad that you all like the club activities. I encourage you to please stay in school so that you can be able to achieve your dreams in future. When I was growing up, I didn’t have the chance of being part of a girls’ club. You are lucky – do not take this opportunity lightly”. She also highlighted the great efforts made by the government of Rwanda to advance gender equality and women’s empowerment.
During the visit, Headteacher of GS Mburabuturo, Mathias Sindayigaya – who is also a BLF Local Leader of Learning – also spoke about how the BLF programme has supported teachers of English and Mathematics in his school.
“BLF has been training all our English and Mathematics teachers in P1-P5. They gave us mathematics essential learning materials and textbooks that are helping our learners. BLF introduced a very good programme of girls’ clubs to my school, which is really empowering the most vulnerable girls to become better performers in school, [and to] have increased self-esteem and confidence,” he explained.
The impact of the BLF programme in its entirety was also noted by Ms Herbert during her visit. “I was in Rwanda in 2018, when the language of instruction was recently changed to English,” she commented. “And I could see how difficult it was for the teachers and learners. But coming back here a few years later, I am impressed to see that across P1 to P3, performance in English and Mathematics [improved] by over 57%, thanks to the FCDO-funded programme that has worked with your Ministry to make this happen.”
Building Learning Foundations is a UK aid-funded programme to establish the foundations for learning at primary level in all public and government-aided schools. It is focused on early grade English and numeracy, and began in July 2017 and is due to end in September 2023.
Early endline results show that gains in English were greatest for P3, showing a 66% increase in grade-proficient performance, from 17% at baseline (in 2018) to 83% by endline (in 2023). Boys and girls continued to perform similarly in English, with 77% of boys performing at grade-proficient levels, compared to 76% of girls. Meanwhile, in mathematics, pupils’ grade-proficient performance doubled, with an average 23% increase in the proportion of grade-proficient learners from 16% in 2018) to 39% in2023. Gains in mathematics were greatest for P1 students, with 71% of students performing at a grade-proficient level by 2023, up from 36% in 2018.
We were delighted to welcome the UK's Minister of State for Development and Africa, Andrew Mitchell, to the Second National Symposium on Girls' Education, organised by our Building Learning Foundations (BLF) programme in Rwanda on 31st August 2023.
The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) has given Building Learning Foundations (BLF) a rating of A+ in its 2023 review. It is the second time BLF has achieved this excellent rating since starting in 2017.
In recent years, huge strides have been made in girls’ education. In many countries, girls are now just as likely to attend primary school as boys. More girls than ever before are finishing primary school and transitioning to secondary education, and in many countries, female university graduates easily outnumber their male counterparts. So why do we still need to talk about girls’ education? In this article, we explore the systemic challenges which continue to prevent many girls from accessing and completing high-quality education, and the implications of these inequalities for millions of girls and their communities worldwide.