The UK Department for International Development’s Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC) is helping up to a million of the world’s poorest girls improve their lives through education by funding projects around the world. Wasichana Wote Wasome in Kenya is one such project and Education Development Trust headed up this life-changing, large-scale project.
Our Wasichana Wote Wasome (Swahili for ‘let all girls learn’) programme was part of the UK-funded worldwide Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC) to help marginalised girls in Kenya improve their lives through education. Implemented between 2013 and 2017, the project aimed to improve the life chances of some particularly disadvantaged girls in arid and semi-arid lands (ASALs) and urban slums. Although different in many ways, these two settings have in common the prevalence of communities that are extremely deprived economically, where women and girls often lead difficult lives.
In Kenya, girls in ASALs and urban slums face multiple challenges and barriers – societal, cultural and geographical – that prevent or make it difficult for them to access education. In the ASALs, the value attributed to girls’ learning is still low, leading to large gender disparities in enrolment and learning outcomes. In rural districts of Turkana and Samburu, for example, the ratio of boys to girls passing their end of primary school examinations is more than 3:1. Concerns over safety, the long distances to school and the costs lead to girls being enrolled late and withdrawn early. Untrained teachers, combined with girls’ low aspirations and poor health, lead to low learning outcomes and dropout.
Our project set out to drive sustainable change and so worked across four dimensions: the community, the home, the school and the girl herself. It applied a holistic, integrated approach to behaviour change combining interventions across the four dimensions in order to overcome the complex barriers to girls’ education.
Activities addressing the girl in the community were aimed at changing the society within which the girl lives to be more cognisant of and supportive towards girls’ education and to respect girls’ rights more widely. They included community dialogue and awareness, engagement with men and boys, enrolment campaigns and resource mobilisation.
Activities addressing the girl at home aimed at improving the home environment to facilitate attendance and learning. Community health workers visited homes to persuade parents/carers to send all school age girls to school and provide advice on education where needed. The poorest families received direct financial support to enable them to cover the costs of schooling. Back-to-school kits were provided as an incentive for families to enrol their daughters and to reduce the financial burden on households.
Activities addressing the girl at school aimed at strengthening the school environment to be more conducive to girls’ attendance and completion. Teacher and leadership development were key dimensions and teachers received coaching on literacy and gender-friendly pedagogy while a whole-school behaviour change approach was used to address gender inequality, discrimination and adolescent health.
Activities addressing the girl herself were aimed at improving girls’ readiness to learn by improving their physical and psycho-social wellbeing, their self-confidence, their aspirations to succeed in education and their awareness of child rights. Peer support networks were fostered through the creation of clubs for girls and boys.
An independent evaluation identified WWW as one of the most effective GEC projects in the world. Not only did many girls re-engage in education but the academic achievements of the girls in school were particularly impressive.
Enrolment and retention
Whereas the project targeted 80,000 girls, more than 89,230 were reached in the eight counties. In addition, 9,426 out-of-school girls have been supported to go back to school against a target of 8,000. Also, 6,000 girls at risk of dropping out of school were supported, through various means, to remain in school.
Girls who initially could fluently read a story and answer two comprehension questions – at most – can now answer 3 out of 5 comprehension questions correctly. For numeracy, the mean mark for intervention schools improved by 7% compared to a 4% increase for comparison schools, an indicator of positive impact of the project. In addition, the mean mark for intervention schools improved by 7% compared to a 4% increase for comparison schools. Other additional outputs included:
I have gone through a lot. I had given up in life. Thanks to the teachers and Wasichana Wote Wasome, I have new hope. The teachers allow me to come home to breastfeed the baby. My family is also supportive; they stay with my baby as I attend classes and sometimes bring her to me for breastfeeding. In a way, I feel that the baby has been a blessing to me for I now have a new resolve to pursue education. I am more focused and self-driven. I want to transform the economic status of my family through education.
Wasichana Wote Wasome schoolgirl, age 16
The UK Department for International Development’s Girls’ Education Challenge (GEC) is helping up to a million of the world’s poorest girls improve their lives through education by funding projects around the world. Wasichana Wote Wasome in Kenya is one such project and Education Development Trust headed up this life-changing, large-scale project.Download now