In Zimbabwe, just like most low-income countries, girls and boys face multi-dimensional barriers in their quest to realise their right to quality education. These barriers vary between contexts and are recognised to be a complex combination of economic and socio-cultural issues. These include school location, absent parents, religious beliefs, inadequate resources, irrelevant curriculum, poverty and teenage pregnancies – which skyrocketed during the COVID pandemic, Furthermore, adolescent girls from poor families in rural areas are also more likely to drop out of school into child marriages to enable families to get the bride price. Such challenges require school leaders and teachers to take up innovative skills that will create learning environments that are responsive to the needs of diverse girls and boys.
In an inspiring collaboration, the British Council Zimbabwe and the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education jointly launched the Leading Learning for Gender Equality Programme (LL4GE). Initiated in 2021 and ongoing, aims to strengthen the abilities of school leaders in Zimbabwe's primary and secondary schools, with a particular focus on improving the quality of teaching and learning while addressing challenges faced by girls in their respective schools. Piloted in three districts, including Uzumba-Maramba Pfungwe, Muzarabani and Beitbridge with support from Higherlife Foundation, the programme has since expanded to cover more Districts.
Using a combination of face-to-face workshops, online learning and school-based projects, LLGE worked with school leaders to develop school visions and plans that promote an open and inclusive school culture as well as facilitate a gender-sensitive school culture by encouraging teachers to explore and develop their attitudes and values on gender equality and take on gender-responsive pedagogies. The programme also equipped school leaders with the skills to use gender-disaggregated data to monitor, evaluate and improve the quality of teaching and learning and take actions to address gender disparities through school-based projects. This programme therefore seeks to address some of the underlying values and norms that support gender inequality and promote gender-sensitive and gender responsive institutional policies, practices and pedagogy across targeted schools.
As a result of participating in LL4GE programme, school leaders became more assertive and teamwork was greatly improved with school leaders and teachers planning and delivering lessons as a team. Both parties were able to give each other feedback. As a result, the quality of teaching and learning greatly improved. School leaders and teachers are now more intentional about giving learners room to excel in various clubs and sports. The gender-sensitive and inclusive school culture has led to girls becoming more confident and take on STEM subjects without fear. Female teachers were also teaching science subjects which previously were male-dominated.
The programme has been described as a ‘game changer’ by educational leaders in the system. The programme has proved that it has the potential to improve teaching and learning outcomes in schools. For example, the Education Inspectors indicated that they can actually differentiate between school leaders who participated in the programme from those who have not. The programme is significant to all stakeholders – including school leaders, teachers and learners. The school-based projects revealed the pivotal role that school leaders play in creating teaching and learning environments that support safe, equitable and quality education for girls and boys in Zimbabwe
In summary, the Leading Learning for Gender Equality Programme is making significant strides in enhancing educational leadership, promoting gender equality and raising the quality of education in Zimbabwe's primary and secondary schools. Through a holistic training approach, ongoing support, and hands-on projects, school leaders are empowered to drive positive change within their educational communities. This initiative represents a significant step towards a brighter future for Zimbabwean education.