Home » Human Rights » Progress On Meeting SADC Gender Targets in Education

This is the fourth in a series of articles analysing regional progress on gender equality and women’s empowerment.

“Education is one of the better performance areas among Sadc member states but this varies among countries,” reports the Sadc Gender Protocol Barometer 2014, annually published by Gender Links.

As the 2015 deadline for reviewing progress in meeting the Sadc Gender Protocol targets approaches, education and training have come under the spotlight not just in Southern Africa but at the continental and international level.

The same publication notes that less than half of the 15 member states have achieved the gender parity targets at each of the three levels — primary, secondary and tertiary. Specifically, countries committed to enact laws that promote equal access to and retention in primary, secondary, tertiary, vocational and non-formal education in accordance with primarily the Sadc Gender Protocol Article 14 on Education and Training.

The protocol also sought to facilitate adoption of gender sensitive educational policies and programmes addressing gender stereotypes in education and gender-based violence, amongst others.

The attention is due to the expiry of the deadline of 2015 set to analyse progress during the review of the Sadc Protocol, the Millennium Development Goals and also the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Fourth World Conference on Women. In all, education was one area of concern.

The Barometer shows that in 2014, only seven out of the 15 member states had attained the target of 50 percent representation in primary education across the board. Tanzania leads the pack with 52 percent representation followed by Lesotho at 51 percent during the years 2009-2012. Botswana, Malawi, Seychelles, South Africa and Zimbabwe achieved gender parity in 2013. Lowest performance has been registered in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) at 46 percent.

For secondary education, the barometer states that nine countries reached parity with Lesotho being the highest scorer at 57 percent and DRC once again coming in last at 36 percent. For tertiary education seven countries stood at 50 percent or higher.

Mauritius and Lesotho shared the top position at 61 percent followed by Seychelles at 57 percent. DRC stood at 32 percent, an increase from its 26 percent consistent position for the years 2009 to 2012.

There is consensus that in a lot of the Sadc countries, the challenge lies not in a shortage of laws and or policies but on implementation. Every year, budget allocations fall short of aspirations guaranteed in these instruments, resulting in continued deference of actions to ensure realisation.

Government expenditure on education, for example, in the year 2014 was seen to be very low as a percentage of the GDP with Lesotho at 13,1 percent being the highest followed by Botswana and Namibia while Zambia at 1,3 percent was the least. Zimbabwe was on 2,5 percent.

It has been noted that of the budget allocation to education, majority investment goes into the primary school level, tapering off for secondary then tertiary level.

For Madagascar, Mozambique and Tanzania, more than half the budget goes to primary education, in fact the latter spends 67 percent, possibly aersely affecting the other levels. The 2014 Barometer also shows a worrying trend of missing information on budget expenditure statistics for secondary and tertiary education.

Sadc countries’ comparison on percentage of education allocation against the total budget expenditure shows that Tanzania is investing most in the sector at 27,5 percent, trailed by Lesotho at 23,7 percent while Angola is at the bottom with 4.4 percent.

Increasingly, education is being seen not in isolation to other development goals but as an integral part. This has seen increasing campaigns in the Sadc region and beyond to make the links between education for example with sanitation, gender based violence, governance, HIV and Aids and sexual and reproductive health rights.

Organisations such as ActionAid, among others, have run multi-year campaigns to highlight issues of violence against girls in education.

Issues of lack of sanitary ware as a hindrance to girls’ attendance in school have been recognised as needing prioritisation.

Article 12 of the African Union (AU) Protocol on Women’s Rights to Education and Training also exhorts States Parties to take all appropriate measures to ” . . . eliminate all stereotypes in textbooks, syllabuses and the media, that perpetuate such discrimination and protect women, especially the girl-child from all forms of abuse, including sexual harassment in schools . . . ”

The Protocol also commits States Parties to take specific positive action to promote literacy among women, promote education and training for women at all levels and in all disciplines, particularly in the fields of science and technology and promote the enrolment and retention of girls in schools and other training institutions and the organisation of programmes for women who leave school prematurely.

The 58th Commission on the Status of Women in 2014 noted the significant progress made by countries in net primary school enrolments and towards eliminating gender disparity in primary education enrolment relating to MDG 2 which seeks to achieve universal primary education, but expressed concern that the heavy focus on numbers has resulted in less focus on completion, educational quality and learning outcomes.

The Commission further notes the lack of progress in closing gender gaps in access to, retention, and completion of secondary education, which has been shown to contribute more gly than primary school attendance to the achievement of gender equality, the empowerment and human rights of women and girls and several positive social and economic outcomes.

The concept of free and compulsory primary education in its current form has also been criticised as it strains facilities such as classrooms and teachers, affecting the quality of education when more resources should instead be allocated, there should be ger governance of schools, better teaching and curricula, and educational reforms to ensure the continent ensures progress.

Five countries in the region Namibia, Swaziland and Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia have laws and policies that make primary education free and compulsory.

Agenda 2063 on The Africa We Want, by the African Union cites “… the critical role of Regional Economic Communities as building blocks for continental unity, and holding ourselves and our governments and institutions accountable for results”.

SADC is one such regional economic community.

Virginia Muwanigwa is a gender activist and Chairperson of the Women’s Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ) which is the focal point to the SADC Gender Protocol Alliance. She is also the Director of the Humanitarian Information Facilitation Centre (HIFC). Contact, ginnyvee@gmail.com

Source : The Herald