In Zimbabwe, 1 in 5 secondary school age girls do not attend school. Half of school-age young people with disabilities have no access to education.
Marginalised girls in 11 of the poorest districts of Zimbabwe face a number of complex and inter-dependent barriers to accessing education, including gender, age, religion, child marriage, economic status, ethnicity and disability. Girls' limited access to education is underpinned by pervasive gender inequality. Working with the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education, the SAGE project targets out of school girls aged 10-19 who have never enrolled in school, who have dropped out before completing basic education, including girls with disabilities.
Without additional support to help these girls catch up, they would be left behind and unable to progress with their education or training. The SAGE project, funded by UK aid from the UK government, will enable 21,760 adolescent girls, who are highly marginalised and out-of-school, to improve their learning outcomes in literacy and numeracy and transition to education, training or employment. A consortium, led by Plan International UK and including faith-based, academic and private sector actors, will focus on providing high-quality, accelerated, non-formal education in 132 accessible, girlfriendly community-based Learning Hubs.
The OU is the academic lead for SAGE and is codesigning the accelerated learning programme and materials, co-supporting community educators and buddy teachers. The community educators facilitate learning sessions for the girls in the Learning Hubs. The buddy teachers form a learning support network with the community educators. The OU is also leading on two participatory research studies which explore the aspirations of out-of-school girls and peer support relationships between community educators and buddy teachers.
The girls will enrol in a two-year programme of accelerated learning in foundational literacy and supporting them in achieving Grade 5 outcomes. On completion of the programme, girls will transition onto clear and supported pathways to further training, income generation or continuation of mainstream education. In addition to improving educational outcomes, SAGE will support adolescent girls having increased self-efficacy and life skills. As a result, the girls and their families will acquire skills and have increased access to financial resources. Through gender sensitasation, communities will adopt more positive gender attitudes and will take action to support and protect girls. The project works with local communities and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education in ways that will enable communities to sustain their Learning Hubs after the end of the project, and for these Hubs to be recognised within the mainstream education system.