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Girls from poorest districts in Zimbabwe begin accelerated learning programme

Girls from some of the poorest districts in Zimbabwe are beginning an accelerated learning programme that will transform their chances in life.

They are the first cohort to join the innovative programme, which will offer more than 21,000 girls aged 10-19 the chance to ‘catch up’ their education at one of 132 community-based Learning Hubs being established in Zimbabwe over the next five years.

The programme, called SAGE (Supporting Adolescent Girls’ Education) is part of the UK Aid funded Girls’ Education Challenge, which now in its second phase, is supporting up to 1.5 million marginalised girls to access a quality education in 17 countries. SAGE is designed for girls who have never been enrolled in school or have dropped out before completing their basic education.

The girls are using study materials co-developed by The Open University with consortium partners, and the Zimbabwean Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education. The material is designed to be accessible and relevant to the lives and interests of the girls.

Many have additional vulnerabilities, including girls with disabilities, from ethnic and religious minorities, adolescent mothers, from single-parent households, orphan girls living with extended family, at risk of early marriage, or engaged in child labour.

The Learning Hubs, set up in a range of buildings identified by the communities themselves, provide safe and inclusive learning spaces, where girls who are mothers can bring their babies, and those with disabilities will receive additional support.

The girls will attend sessions three times a week to gain basic literacy and numeracy skills in a supportive, inclusive, safe and girl-friendly environment.

SAGE is run by a consortium of five partners led by the charity Plan International and supported with £12.1 million funding (with an additional £1.1 match funding) from the UK Government’s Department for International Development (DFID) as part of its flagship Girls’ Education Challenge.

It is designed to take the girls to Grade 5 standard (equivalent to UK Year 6) in just two years, after which they will be given continuing support to transition to mainstream education, training, entrepreneurship or employment.

OU Education Senior Lecturer Dr Liz Chamberlain, the Academic Director of SAGE, said the project is about ‘capacity building for girls’, with the girls themselves having input into the learning materials.

All the learning materials will be open access, and the project envisages they will be re-purposed and re-used across Zimbabwe to support the government’s non-formal education policy.

SAGE will work with local communities and the Ministry so that communities can independently sustain and manage the Learning Hubs after the project funding ends.

The OU’s SAGE Project Co-ordinator Martha Tengenesha said:

“The programme offers a second chance at education for girls who have had a negative experience of formal education or been marginalised due to their life experience.

“It is delivered in a manner which recognises and accommodates the real life needs of girls to give them the best chance at getting an education and improving their life chances.”

Charlotte Chishava from Plan Zimbabwe said that the first 63 Learning Hubs had opened in June and since then there has been ‘a hive of activities’.

“Formal learning started on 17  June. We wish all our learners a successful and enjoyable learning experience.”

Find out more

The Open University has been committed to international development for more than 20 years. Find out more about our International Development Office.

The Department for International Development Girls’ Education Challenge is supporting up to 1.5 million girls across 17 countries. Find out more here:

About Author

Hannah is part of the Media Relations Team at The Open University, working with the Faculty of Wellbeing, Education and Language Studies. With experience both agency and in-house, Hannah has worked on campaigns for a number of large corporate companies and brands, including RBS, NatWest, Travelodge, Audible, AA and the Royal Academy of Dance. She has completed a Masters in Publishing Studies from Oxford Brookes and is currently studying towards a DipHE in Computer, IT and Design. In her free time she enjoys photography, reading and going to the theatre.

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