Using Technology to Enhance the Re-introduction of Education amongst the Most Vulnerable Girls in Zimbabwe
Partner: Stephen Lewis Foundation
Over 70% of Zimbabwe’s population lives in chronic poverty, and over 13% of adults aged 15-49 are HIV positive. In fact, Zimbabwe has the 6th highest prevalence of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Furthermore, HIV prevalence among girls increases drastically with age in Zimbabwe: currently 2.7% of girls aged 15-17 are living with HIV – a number that increases to 13.9% by the time they are 23-24.
Mavambo Trust (Mavambo Orphan Care) works in the most impoverished areas of Harare, Zimbabwe, where residents are deeply affected by constant poverty, ill health, violence and an absence of government and social services. HIV flourishes in such environments, and there are too many children who have been orphaned by AIDS and who are being raised by grandmothers. Mavambo Trust was founded in 2001 specifically to support these children and their caregivers with holistic efforts to provide them with access to education, legal support, and psychosocial and healthcare.
Mavambo Trust staff have been successfully administering and expanding their organization for almost 18 years. The Stephen Lewis Foundation and Mavambo Trust have worked together since 2006. Since then, they have entered into 15 consecutive agreements for funding.
The Mavambo Learning Centre specifically targets children, between the ages of 8 and 12, who are not in school. It offers a holistic bridging program of accelerated learning, nutritional and psychosocial support, and legal and social services, with the eventual aim of helping the children to integrate seamlessly and successfully into mainstream educational systems.
Mavambo Trust’s main programs, which all focus primarily on orphaned and vulnerable children, also support children who are at risk of dropping out of school because of an imminent or temporary unavailability of funds for school fees, uniforms or supplies. They also support some in-school students who are struggling scholastically or who have medical, psychosocial or household needs that might jeopardize their ability to continue and commit to their education.
Mavambo’s innovative approach to accelerated learning has won awards and been replicated through other similar programmes in southern Africa.
A $50,000 grant from 60 million girls will provide accelerated learning, school fees, uniforms and psycho-social support to 110 primary and 100 secondary school girls, and send 120 vulnerable girls to the annual community camps for psycho-social, sexual and reproductive rights and career counselling.
In efforts to meet the needs of children whose education is threatened, the addition of the Mobile Learning Lab (MLL) is an important component of the project. The possible benefits of offline resources and technology are many. It will mean that children who are re-entering school will do so with the valuable skill of knowing how to use technology. In addition, children already in school and in need of extra tutoring and support could access the MLL privately, and those temporarily forced to leave school could continue to study, communicate and learn.
The girls targeted in this project are girls living with HIV, girls living with a disability, girls living with a chronically ill caregiver, girls living in grandmother-headed households, the daughters of female sex workers, and girls living on the street. Mavambo will also target adolescent girls and young women by offering access to part-time or continuing education, through the Mobile Learning Lab. Boys will also benefit from the grant through access to the Mobile Learning Lab, which would be, in part, a public learning service available to all children.
The medium- and long-term term impacts will be considerable. Up to 220 girls will stay in school and graduate. They will be monitored for physical and psychosocial health and will receive HIV prevention and sexual and reproductive health education – therefore avoiding early pregnancy, unhealthy or abusive relationships, dangerous employment (such as sex work and bartending), early marriage, HIV infection, addiction, etc. They will be encouraged to identify and pursue their academic strengths, thus increasing their self-esteem, employment potential, postgraduate opportunities, etc. They will be mentored by girls and women, and many will become mentors themselves, thus perpetuating the cycle of girls’ education and empowerment. They will learn about advanced Internet and technological skills and innovations, further preparing them for advanced studies, professional or self-employment, mentorship, etc.
As well as continuously monitoring the needs and psychosocial well-being of the communities where they work, in general, and children they support, in particular, Mavambo Trust also collects a series of user and access statistics, which it tracks meticulously. These include case files for every child receiving educational, health, psychosocial and/or emergency support, and attendance numbers for the Learning Centre, library and support group programs.
Why partner with the Stephen Lewis Foundation?
The Stephen Lewis Foundation and 60 million girls have a longstanding relationship of mutual trust, respect and support. We share the same unflinching awareness of and commitment to the primary place of girls’ education in any efforts to improve the human condition. The fit between 60 million girls and Mavambo Trust is equally clear. Its entire ethos and programme of work is built around a dedication to the education of children – and of girls in particular – as the main tool for avoiding poverty, violence, HIV infection, early marriage and pregnancy. This grant targets all the issues around girls’ education, health, independence and safety that 60 million girls is committed to.