Musa (not real name) is a 14 – year-old girl who has never attended school who sells mopani worms which she picks, prepares and dries with her family. Every day she goes to sell her share of the mopani worms so as to help her grandmother fend for the family. Musa however always makes time to attend lessons under the Forum for African Women Educationalists – Zimbabwe Chapter (FAWEZI) community learning centre every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. Musa cannot write thus she joins the class that focuses on writing lessons unlike her sibling, nine-year-old Temba who attends a different class since he dropped out of school in grade two.
Musa and Temba are part of many adolescent boys and girls in Beitbridge and Matobo District who are out of school for various reasons depending on their age, sex, location and vulnerability. The prolonged closure of schools due to COVID -19 also buttressed the already existing challenges of child marriage and illegal cross border travel among teenagers in these areas thus contributing to an increase in school drop outs. Teen pregnancy is also a trend that has pushed girls out of school
In line with this challenges FAWEZI is implementing a project in these two districts where the organisation, is tracking and enrolling girls and boys between nine and fourteen years and giving them an alternative chance at education through community learning. The organisation recruited and successfully trained a group of 25 Educators and 25 Mothers in both districts to assist the learners for a six-month period under a pilot project funded by USAID and being implemented by FHI360 together with sub-partners. The Educators are either retired or unemployed qualified teachers and the Mothers are community cadres who were trained and equipped with skills to provide mentorship.
During learning and mentorship sessions, the Educators and Mothers reported that some fourteen-year-old children had never attended school and some are from child headed families. Most adolescents who were engaging in illegal gold mining, cross boarder trading and harvesting mopani worms for resell have been reported to constantly attend lessons during the three days classes per week.
Through this project, FAWEZI is motivating approximately 673 adolescents to go back to school through alternative learning pathways. Up to date a total of 62 have been re-integrated into formal school after passing assessment by the Educator, Mother with the help of the district level Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education (MoPSE).
SUSTAINABILITY OF THE PROJECT
In May FAWEZI in Partnership with MoPSE also trained representatives from schools surrounding the community centres on Gender Responsive Pedagogy (GRP). A school Head and Teacher were trained from each school on GRP with the aim of also generating interest in the project and also preparing them to accept learners who may be coming from the community learning centres. The schools were also supported with stationary for the roll out of the GRP also as motivation to support the community centres.