PAP and AU-CIEFFA collaborate on ‘return our girls to school’ campaign

 

Parliamentarians are key partners in bringing back our girls to school and vital instruments in the adoption of continental legislation to promote education of the girlchild.

This was the message by Dr. Rita BISSOONAUTH, Head of the African Union’s Centre for Girls’ and Women’s Education in Africa (AU-CIEFFA) at a roundtable on learning opportunities for out-of-school girls.  The roundtable took place in Midrand during the second ordinary session of the Pan African Parliament (PAP)’s Fifth Parliament.

African parliamentarians shared lessons and challenges on the progress of gender equity in their respective countries’ education systems during a panel discussion led by Dr. Bissoonauth where representatives from Mauritius, the Central African Republic, Cape Verde, Uganda and Morocco shared their country experiences.  

In is keynote address, Hon. Stephen MASELE, First Vice-President of the PAP shared some worrying statistics about African youth’s access to education. 

By 2030, he said only 12% of African youth will have access to tertiary education, with only 5% of that being in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is particularly disconcerting considering that by 2050, Africa’s population will rise to 2 billion of which more than half (1.1 billion) will be young people.

“If we focus on delivering results, harnessing innovation and improving financial mechanisms we can turn the education crisis into an opportunity. The future generation of Africa depends on it,” said Hon Masele.

Hon. Marie Claire Jeanne MONTY, Deputy Chairperson of the Permanent Committee on Education, said in Mauritius, the drop-out rate of girls was lower than that of boys in secondary school. However, at tertiary level, young women dropped out more often than men, because of having to balance too many commitments.

Hon. Lucia Maria Dos PASSOS, Chairperson of the Committee on Gender, said her country, Cape Verde, promulgated a law in 2017 that allowed and supported pregnant girls to continue to pursue their education. Cape Verde has also developed a plan for including children of immigrants into the formal education system.

HON. JACQUELINE AMONGIN said retention remained a major challenge in Uganda and patriarchal dominancy resulted in young girls being married off to pay for a boy child’s education. However, she said Uganda had successful measures in place to prevent discrimination of women at tertiary and higher education level.

In her presentation on the reintegration of girls into school, Madame Yanke-Ouattara SIMONE from CIEFFA said the organisation had launched the out-of-school girl project, following the realisation that several successful on-the-ground projects existed to include girls in the education system after dropping out.

The purpose of the project is to share in-country best practices and adopt frameworks for implementation. It also aims to establish evaluation mechanisms and guide to support governments and development partners with projects that reintegrate young girls into school.

“We needed to collaborate more closely with MPs to learn about the projects they undertake to successfully bring girls back to school in safer teaching and learning environments. Some measures already exist in your countries and it helps us to know about them,” she said.

Ms. Simone said in addition to working with parliamentarians, the project reached out to schoolgirls to better understand why they are reluctant to return to school after pregnancy and to convince them to take up their education again.

Some MPs shared experiences on the fear of being stigmatised when returning to school after teenage pregnancy. In Namibia, the Government supported girls to return to a different high school to avoid the perceived shame of facing fellow learners when going back to school.

Mr. Yougbare BOUBAKAR, from CIEFFA, says the engagement with PAP started two years ago with a presentation to African parliamentarians about the legal and institutional frameworks covering women’s rights to education.

“We put forward a compendium of international, national and regional frameworks to MPs in 2017 to see how they can assist in implementing such frameworks at national level,” says Mr Boubakar.