Photo: Focus group discussion with Grade 6 and 8 girls in the Wolaita Zone, SNNPR, Ethiopia
In celebration of International Day of the Girl, STS is pleased to highlight our research supporting girls’ education in Ethiopia. Despite considerable progress in increasing girls’ access to education in Ethiopia, important barriers persist. One of the key challenges facing girls in the country is successful transition from primary to secondary school. In recognition of this challenge, the Supporting Transition of Adolescent Girls through Enhancing Systems (STAGES) project, implemented by Link Community Development (LCD), aims to transform access to secondary education for girls – and boys – in the Wolaita zone of Ethiopia as part of the DFID-funded Girls’ Education Challenge-Transition (GEC-T). STS is conducting mixed‐method, gender‐sensitive, monitoring and evaluation for STAGES over the course of the project from baseline to endline.
As the project’s external evaluator, School-to-School International (STS) recently presented the findings of the STAGES baseline evaluation in a dissemination workshop in Hawassa, Ethiopia held in early October 2018. Workshop participants included Ethiopia’s Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples’ Region (SNNPR) regional education bureau and Wolaita zone and district (or “woreda”) education officials. The baseline study was conducted in spring 2018 and included learning assessments – Early Grade Reading and Mathematics Assessments and Secondary Grade Reading and Mathematics Assessments – evaluation surveys, and qualitative tools – focus group discussions and key informant interviews. Qualitative inputs were gleaned from multiple respondent types: primary school girls and boys, teachers, parents, school directors, and zone and woreda-level education officials. The findings of the baseline evaluation will inform STAGES’ and local education officials’ understanding of barriers to girls’ education in the Wolaita zone at the primary and secondary level. In addition, a key focus of the evaluation will be to gain a deeper understanding of the lived realities and challenges faced by some of the hardest to reach girls. Some key qualitative findings from the baseline are highlighted below:
- Girls in the Wolaita zone who are married, have children, are orphans, or have a disability face additional barriers to accessing and thriving in their education at both primary and secondary levels.
- As girls age and move through upper-primary and into secondary school, the pressure to marry and begin childbearing increases—and may be prioritized over a girl’s education.
- While strong progress has been made through LCD’s previous work in the Wolaita zone on reducing stigmatization and other challenges associated with menstruation, absenteeism related to menstruation remains a challenge for some girls.
- While there has been increased awareness of the negative impact of the high level of household chores on girls’ success in school, as well as some reduction in the level of chores noted in response to LCD awareness-raising, high burdens of household chores continue to be an impediment to for many girls.
- Migration, rural to urban migration, as well as international migration, was identified as disruptive to many girls’ education, especially during the transition to secondary school.
- While distance to school was not identified as a major challenge for access to the primary school level, distance to secondary schools
- Embedded social and cultural norms around gender, such as preference given to male children to attend school persists, as girls may be perceived as having the option to better themselves through other pathways such as marriage.
Based on these and other findings from the baseline study, STS will continue to work with LCD in providing recommendations on how best to address and mitigate barriers that girls in the Wolaita zone face at the primary and secondary school levels, especially for the most marginalized girls.
Meet the Team
The baseline study and external evaluation of the STAGES project is managed by STS Technical Manager, Casey McHugh, with technical leadership from Hetal Thukral, Ph.D., STS Director of Evaluation and Research.
In addition to her role as the Evaluation Manager, Ms. McHugh brings expertise in qualitative research, mixed-methods evaluation, and gender and education in sub-Saharan Africa.
Dr. Thukral is a leading education researcher with over a decade of experience designing and implementing high quality studies in the US and abroad. She has deep experience in designing and conducting rigorous mixed-method evaluations of education projects throughout sub-Saharan Africa and Asia.