GEM for MDG 2
By Shruti Parmar
While most countries are on-track to achieve the MDGs by 2015 galvanised despite all differences to help the world’s poor, it is essential to remember that poor people do not need poor solutions. Numbers need to be substantiated with quality when meeting the targets of the MDGs. MDG 2 Achieve Universal Primary Education has a single sub target-
Target 2A: Ensure that, by 2015, children everywhere, boys and girls alike, will be able to complete a full course of primary schooling
- Enrolment in primary education
- Completion of primary education
- Literacy Rate
Learning outcomes i.e. the basic quality of education ensued, youth skills and the impact on secondary and post secondary education, that may have negative long-term economic consequences according to a study by Eric A. Hanushek and Ludger Woessmann, are not being discussed in MDG 2. Further, the EFA global monitoring report has said that by current trends we would miss this MDG by a large margin. Add to this, aid to education is on a decline.
However, a Government of Uganda project launched in association with the UNICEF, the Ministry of Education and Sports (MoES) and Forum of African Women Educationists (FAWE) by the in 2001 offers some hope. The Girls Education Movement (GEM) is a project that takes a more sensitive look at the crisis of education and offers a holistic approach to achieving MDG 2. The underlying principle at GEM is to involve girls in achieving their Right to Education through the institution of GEM Clubs in primary schools, thus making it a child-centric and child-led grassroots movement.
The project addresses the hygiene and sanitation coverage in schools to make them girl-friendly and encourage girls’ school enrolment and reduced dropout rates. It also takes into account the bias of parent and teachers against girls’ education (especially in science and maths) and trains teachers in gender responsiveness i.e. to treat girls and boys equally. By an open discussion of girls’ safety and security due to violence, sexual harassment and discriminatory cultural practices, girls are empowered with knowledge, skills and confidence to protect themselves and their peers. Music, dance, drama and debates are also conducted as gender sensitization tools. The GEM club helps keep boys in school as well through peer-to-peer counselling and leadership workshops are also part of the Project.
Community Mapping is another technique that the girls undertake to carry out Go to Stay in school, Back to school, Stay in school campaigns. Gulu district in Uganda for example brought back 199 girls (36 child mothers) and 69 boys in the first quarter 2006 through Community Mapping.
Today, the GEM project is not an organisation but groups of children across Africa who are working, not just talking or discussing, to bring a positive change in the lives of African girls and boys. Through their networking, lobbying, encouragement and facilitation they are creating a critical mass of support for the cause of an MDG that’s struggling to be achieved. There’s a lesson there.