Link Community Development

Improving the quality of education in Africa

Improved Girls’ Learning in Rural Wolaita Zone

Women helping girls

The intended impact of this project is improved life chances for marginalised girls. At the end of this project 24,133 marginalised girls in rural Wolaita will be able to complete a full cycle of education and demonstrate improved learning. By ‘marginalised ‘, we mean economically deprived girls living in a remote rural area with high population density at risk of dropping out or non-completion of primary school. The project works directly with 56,683 marginalised girls and hopes to create an enabling environment for improved learner outcomes on a wide scale. In terms of measuring improved learner outcomes within the project period, we plan to enable 13,283 particularly marginalised girls at risk of failure to improve learning through access to additional tutorial classes and we anticipate that 25% of all other girls will also improve learning through the combined impact of all outputs.

Main Funder: DfID (Girls’ Education Challenge)

Total funding: £2,949,161

Date: May 2013 – April 2017


Read the summary report here



Girls' Education Challenge in Ethiopia



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The challenge

Whilst Ethiopia has made great progress in terms of narrowing the gender gap in primary enrolment and completion rates (particularly in urban schools), discrepancies remain high in rural areas. The most recent national learning assessment showed that the achievement level of girls is lower than that of boys, especially in rural areas. The long-standing social predisposition in Ethiopia tends to underestimate the role and power of girls and women in social development, but girls’ education has been shown to have major social, health and economic benefits in the wider community[1].

LCD Ethiopia’s experience in the Wolaita Zone of the Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples Regional State (SNNPRS) in south-western Ethiopia is that girls consistently underperform vis-à-vis their male counterparts in all core subject areas in both first and second cycle primary.  The baseline study for this project found that the average disparity between girls’ and boys’ performance in core school subjects for all schools in the project woredas (zones) was 4.8% for grade 4 students and 5.3% for Grade 7 students.

There is a need for holistic interventions to remove the obstacles girls face in in these marginalised rural areas. The main project inputs were suggested by girls themselves. There is a real, self-identified need to invest in girls in these communities.

Project Aims

‘Improved Girls Learning in Rural Wolaita’ aims to improve girls’ enrolment, retention and performance in 119 rural elementary schools. Working in all schools in four marginalised, densely populated woredas (districts) of Wolaita, the project will reach 56,683 disadvantaged girls.

The idea is to develop sustainable models that the education system owns and not to create islands of excellence or parallel structures which cannot be maintained / replicated.

We believe that change can only be achieved when accurate data about the current situation is gathered, analysed and provided back to stakeholders in understandable formats. This project invests in collecting information and creating platforms for data to be shared with pupils, teachers, parents, religious leaders, women’s association and youth association representatives, woreda, zone and regional officials. Then stakeholders will be in an informed position to plan for and implement activities to improve girls’ outcomes. We believe that interventions must work at community, school and woreda levels and with key policy-makers to have maximum impact. In LCD’s experience ‘demand pressure’ on schools and governments to perform complements political will and strong policies from service providers.

Project Activities

The project engages multiple stakeholders and builds on best practice to tackle underlying causes that prevent girls completing and performing in school. The project intervenes simultaneously in several key areas:

  1. Lack of accurate data about girls’ performance: data is collected about school performance, including issues which specifically affect girls, and girls’ attainment in core subjects is tested.
  2. Capacities to plan for and monitor girls’ education at all levels: School Directors receive leadership training (planning / monitoring girls’ education; gender policies); a school management simulation game helps school decision-makers to explore the challenges and benefits of girls’ education; PTA / School Improvement Committees’ capacity to address girls’ concerns is improved; school, cluster and woreda Gender Action Plans (GAPs) are developed; girls’ education conferences are held in each zone.
  3. Lack of accessible resources around key issues affecting girls: local language audio-visual resources, supplementary readers and classroom notes exploring key issues limiting girls’ outcomes are produced; there is cluster training on gender vulnerability to HIV/AIDS and HIV/AIDS Circles are supported.
  4. Socio-cultural beliefs and attitudes of community members, teachers and school managers: Female Learners Fora, Girls Clubs and Reading Clubs are established and supported; awareness-raising for parents and opinion leaders takes place through School Performance Appraisal meetings and Girls Education Advisory Committees (GEAC) campaigns
  5. Sanitation facilities: Toilets for female teachers and girls are upgraded; adolescent girls are provided with sanitary pads and advice from female teachers
  6. Quality of teaching and tutorial / extra-curricular support to compensate for the burden of domestic duties: teachers are trained in gender-friendly teaching methodology; girls’ tutorial classes are supported.

Case Studies

Case Study 1: Married at 13 - Early Marriage in Ethiopia

Case Study 2: How Sanitary Pads and Underwear Lead to Improved Learning

Case Study 3: Building Self-Esteem to Improve Grades and Attendance

Case Study 4: School Improvement Planning in Rural Ethiopian Schools

Headline achievements

Accurate data about girls’ performance

  • Gender Audits conducted in 118 schools
  • Girls’ Education Performance Reports shared
  • School Performance Appraisal Meetings (SPAM) facilitated for over 12,000 stakeholders
  • Signs of increased attendance & performance of girls

Capacities to plan for and monitor girls’ education

  • Gender mainstreaming courses for 82 woreda officials
  • Woredas appointing more female senior teachers / directors

Accessible resources around key issues affecting girls

  • Local language AV episodes, supplementary readers & teachers’ guide on ‘key themes’ received & distributed
  • 42,000 Wolaitignya reading books were distributed – the first in circulation!
  • Videos created by 12 local school girls in the Wolaita zone of Ethiopia can be found by clicking here.

Socio-cultural beliefs and attitudes

  • 5,000 community stakeholders participated in Girls’ Education Advisory Committee campaigns
  • Gender Club & Female Students Forum are now active in all schools
  • Girls’ report feeling more supported & encouraged

Sanitation facilities

  • Distribution of monthly soap allowance for 19,000 girls, and 152,000 reusable sanitary pads & underwear
  • Over 95% of schools provided sanitation rooms and 62 toilets have been upgraded

Quality of teaching and tutorial / extra-curricular support

  • Tutorial classes for 12,000 ‘at risk’ girls (4,260 hours per month)
  • Training for 447 tutors in basic reading & maths
  • Gender Responsive Pedagogy Training for 1,050 teachers

[1] ‘Girls Education Advisory Committee Organisational Structure and Directive’, SNNPRS Education Bureau, July 2011


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