… As the girls urge governments to address harmful practices and Support Resources
By Francis Maingaila Girls from across Africa gathered in the Zambian capital, Lusaka at a Bakhita Partnership for Education (BPE) sponsored Indaba for Girl Education in Africa to discuss issues and harmful practices that weigh them down. At the close of the three-day conference held at Urban Hotel in Lusaka under the theme: “keeping girls in school,” the girls came up with fifteen demands which were handed over to African Ministers. Zambia’s Minister of Education Daglus Siakalima, who received the demands on their behalf, assured the girls that their concerns will be taken care of. “Education is not only part of social control but also a channel through which to build a decent society,” he said. He added that uneducated teachers can lead entire societies into decay, and governments across the globe are investing in teacher education. Siakalima who also acknowledged that the girls’ demands were justified and necessary said it was important for girls to be kept safe at all times. For instance, Siakalima observed, the demand for a home-grown education system was essential in addressing Africa’s problems and caring for female children. He added that educating one girl in a given country was equal to solving a myriad of societal problems. And when presenting the demands to the African Ministers of Education, a UNESCO-Sustainable Development Goal Number Four (SDG4) Youth Network Member, Motunrayo Fatoke, demanded the provision of trained schools and counselors to keep up with the peculiarities of girls. She also called for the provision of free menstrual health care and wash facilities in schools and for the revision of the curriculum to include education and feminine leadership. Fatoke also demanded that decision-makers provide scholarships and funding for girls to learn and acquire concrete skills in related fields. She urged them to improve the quality of learning at all levels and provide increased support for foundational learning to ensure all children get early literacy activities and learn basic reading and writing skills in primary school. Additionally, Fatoke demanded that decision-makers provide quality and relevant training, professional development, necessary facilities, appropriate working conditions, and an innovative, safe, and enriching environment for teachers. She also called for the promotion of a broader and holistic vision of education that is founded upon the principles of peace and human rights and enables every young person, particularly girls, to lead a fulfilling, motivated, enjoyable, and quality life. Fatoke demanded that decision-makers support fully formed and established multi-stakeholder and public-private partnerships to ensure dedicated funding to transform education and close gaps in the quality of education between and within regions, public and private institutions, and urban and rural areas. She also called for the protection and increase of national and international education financing and the establishment of robust and democratic measures and procedures for transparent, accountable, and effective implementation of quality recommendations. Other demands include providing quality and relevant training, professional development, necessary facilities, appropriate working conditions, and an innovative, safe, and enriching environment for teachers, with a particular focus on young, female, and refugee teachers as representatives of teacher unions. The girls said the decision-makers are urged to ensure sustainable, flexible, accessible, equitable, efficient, and data-driven sources of funding that can effectively and strategically finance educational transformation. Furthermore, the girls called upon the government to build a safe learning environment for girls, including online platforms that address bullying, harassment, and physical, and psychological abuse. “Investment in gender-transformative education to create a present and future that is equitable and free from harmful gender stereotypes is demanded.”
The girls are the view that the decision-makers are also urged to promote a broader and holistic vision of education grounded on the principles of peace and human rights that enables girls, in particular, to lead fulfilling, motivated, enjoyable, and quality lives. Additionally, the girls said the decision-makers, particularly members, are expected to support fully-formed and established multi-stakeholder and public-private partnerships that can provide dedicated funding to transform education and close gaps in the quality of education between and within regions, public and private institutions, and urban and rural areas. “Particularly member states, are also called upon to protect and increase international and national education financing by safeguarding education budgets and increasing accountable resources.” “This will ensure that the most vulnerable and marginalized children, particularly those effectively collaborating across sectors and ministries, receive the necessary resources to reach the benchmark of 20% of the government budget for education,” she added. And BPE Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson Fr. Charles Chilufya urged African governments to support girls in their quest for a better life. Fr. Chilufya stated that all the speeches were pointing to the call for a better life for girls who are victims of stereotypes. He proceeded to explain that the Batitter Partnership for Education is a partnership for various stakeholders within the church, working to improve girls’ education amid the COVID-19 crisis. The BPE aims to respond to the call of the Holy Father to provide immediate relief to those who are suffering. It brought back over 1,500 girls who had previously left school due to financial reasons, early marriage, or other factors. The Holy Father also tasked them with finding deep and real solutions that recognize multiple underlying crises that reinforce each other. Fr. Chilufya stated that the Holy Father encourages them to bring together experts in science, education, psychology, and various fields to identify the reasons why the crisis is happening and how they can prepare for the future. The BPE aims to empower girls individually and improve schools to ensure a safe and conducive learning environment for both girls and boys. They aim to engage policymakers to create effective policies to achieve their goals. Their vision is inclusive and grounded in scripture – “I came that all may have life and have it to the full.” They believe in collaboration and are committed to ensuring that every girl is safe and in school. Fr. Chilufya concluded by stating that it is important to listen to girls’ experiences and understand the pain and violence they go through. He called upon some of the young girls to share their experiences and discuss their hopes and dreams for education.
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