Zimbabwe has long been hailed as being one of the most literate countries in Africa with a literacy rate of over 90%. This can be attributed to the comprehensive basic education system which comprises both formal and non-formal education structures. The formal school system is comprised of full time base education to children, ages 6 to 12. The informal school system was designed to provide basic education to children and adults, who due to various reasons, such as long distances to school or inability to pay school fees, cannot attend formal school. The informal system has two specific programmes - the Zimbabwe Basic Adult Education Course (ZABEC), which provides basic primary education to out of school learners. , and the Part Time Continuing Education (PTCE) which provides basic secondary level education to learners, but these two programmes have been largely dysfunctional since 2001.
Due to decades long economic challenges that have limited the government’s financing of education and pushed households into deep poverty, the quality of education has vastly deteriorated, non-formal education structures have suffered severe neglect, and thousands of children have dropped out of school as households struggle to meet the costs related to education.
In 2011, OSISA partnered with World Education Inc. /Bantwana Initiative, and funded the development of Out of School Study Groups (OSSGs) to provide basic, accelerated “catch up” education to children who had been out of school for extended periods of time. OSSGs are community sites where out-of-school children and youth are provided basis literacy and numeracy skills through an accelerated learning programme taught by trained facilitators. This model, later called the Zimbabwe Accelerated Learning Programme (ZALP) was recognized, adapted and scaled up nationally by both the Government of Zimbabwe and UNICEF, and was designed to prepare children for reintegration into the formal school system. As a result of this and other efforts, the Government of Zimbabwe developed a new non-formal education policy and declared all schools centres of non-formal education. This policy, while signalling government’s recognition of the growing challenge of out of school children, is yet to be fully implemented. Additionally the national out-of-school model only provided basic primary education, and did not address the growing number of secondary school aged youth out of school. In Zimbabwe, 17% of the estimated 1.2 million children who are out of school are of secondary school age (13-16 years), and they were not being reached by the national out-of-school model.
About the Second Chance and Inclusive Education Project
In 2014, after the successful implementation and scale-up of the OSSG model for primary school aged children, OSISA funded a two year pilot project to resuscitate the Part Time Continuing Education (PTCE) programme as a strategy to provide non-formal education to the growing number of secondary school level children who are out of school and give them a second chance at education. The pilot was also designed to expand opportunities for children with disabilities and advocate for implementation of inclusive education policies at the national level that affect both children with disabilities and those out of school. PTCE is a flexible approach that enables learners in varying circumstances, such as learners living with disabilities, to access secondary education in platforms other than formal secondary schools. Under the two year pilot, World Education/Bantwana is facilitating the set-up of PTCE centres in government schools, identifying and training teachers in non-formal education methodologies, inclusive education and referrals, and facilitating the reintegration of leaners into the formal education system. The pilot also includes an economic strengthening component for the caregivers of the PTCT learners which includes trainings on internal savings and lending methodologies to help them save money and pay for their child’s education. To address the institutional financial barriers of funding a non-formal education programme, the project is also piloting income generating projects for the schools to help them address the operational costs related to implementing PTCE.
Emerging benefits of the PTCE and disability programmes:
Since its inception in 2014, the PTCE and disability pilot has achieved the following results:
Accelerating progress towards national implementation of the new Non-Formal Education (NFE) policy: The pilot is accelerating the registration of schools as NFE centres in the project’s operational areas. As World Education/ Bantwana partners engage district officials to register OSISA-funded PTCE centres as government centres of education, the same officials have become increasingly familiar with the new NFE policy. In Zvimba District for example, the Government has requested World Education/Bantwana to support a district-wide registration of schools as PTCE centres rather than the few that were targeted by the pilot. This district wide approach will see increased numbers of out of school children and youth accessing education.
Provision of flexible basic education to children and youth out of school: The pilot is providing basic secondary education to out of school children and youth in a flexible manner. Learners enjoy flexible learning hours, which enable them to attend to caregiving and other duties that were keeping them from school in the past. To date, the pilot has registered 5 PTCE sites and supported the independent registration of another 5 centres, allowing a 59% increase in enrolment, and this upward trend is expected to continue.
Provision of inclusive education and referrals for learners with disabilities: The current education system is not adequately equipped to provide inclusive education to children with disabilities. Under this pilot, an emerging benefit is the increased capacity to address the needs of learners with disabilities which has been achieved through caregiver sensitisation, teacher training, and the development of a functional referral protocols that guide caregivers, volunteers and teachers on where to go for specific disability related services.
Extending focus and benefits beyond the classroom: An emerging benefit of the project is how learners and their caregivers are experiencing opportunities to gain practical life skills outside the classroom such as gardening, poultry rearing, welding and carpentry. Children at the sites receive wraparound services ensuring that their other non-educational needs are met such as health assessments, food and nutrition services, and child protection services.
Links to the formal school system for visibility and integration: Building on the lessons learned and achievements of previous OSISA funded models, the current project is designed to foster links with the formal school system, with a curriculum that enables PTCE learners to write the same national examinations as children in formal school, which enables them to seamlessly move into the formal school system when possible.
In order to remain flexible to the needs of out of school children, the following refinements to the program will be made
- Diversify the curriculum to place more emphasis on vocational and technical education for older learners;
- Provide trainings on non-formal teaching methods, classroom management, disability management to facilitators so that they are better equipped to provide accelerated and inclusive education;
- Continued advocacy for non-formal education policy implementation, with a focus on involving national in addition to district officials in the day to day activities, so they understand the practical considerations related to the policy and can help push the regulations that are needed to successfully implement the programme.
With this pilot, OSISA and World Education/Bantwana are providing a second chance to secondary school aged children who had fallen out of school, while expanding opportunities for children with disabilities. These activities are also influencing national policy implementation providing lessons that will shape the broader national agenda regarding equity in education for all children in Zimbabwe.