Girls in farming and rural communities in Zimbabwe are still victims of gender inequality as only 10 to 19 percent of them are proceeding to secondary school, it has emerged.
This came out of baseline surveys conducted by a local organization, Farming Communities Education Trust (FACET), in Mazowe District.
Early marriages, teenage pregnancies, long distances from schools, and a lack of resources have been cited as the most common reasons girls in rural and farming communities fail to progress to secondary education.
Local civil society organizations are concerned that the trend is prevalent in most parts of the country despite the existence of government policies promoting equal education opportunities for both sexes.
Zimbabwe’s Education Amendment Act of 2019 allows pregnant girls to stay in school, and bans school authorities from expelling them.
But this is not the reality on the ground, said FACET project coordinator Respect Tsvanhu.
“There are policies and legislation that allow the girl child to proceed with school even if she is pregnant but the community is not accepting that.
“In most cases you hear a parent saying I cannot let my child interact with a young mother at school, she will be influenced badly. These policies are there on paper but are not well known out there,” Tsvanhu said.
Education Coalition of Zimbabwe (ECOZI) programme assistant, Wadzanayi Chitiga says an attitude change in society is what is needed to ensure girls enjoy their constitutionally accorded rights.
“We are trying to go into communities and speak to parents, community leaders, and school leaders to change their attitude. All the right policies are there but it’s the mentality within the family setup that has to change,” Chitiga said.
Over 20 local civil society organizations in the education sector, including FACET and ECOZI, convened in Harare this week to discuss strategies to educate rural communities on the importance of girls, education following observations that girls are largely being marginalized.
There have also been calls for the government to increase the national budget allocation to the education sector to 20 percent, in order to improve access to education for all.
Last year government allocated only 13 percent of the national budget to the education sector.