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Chapter 5 - Zimbabwe

5.1. Educational provision in Zimbabwe: An overview
5.2. Knowledge generated
5.3. Government policy
5.4. Donor interventions
5.5. NGOs and the struggle for gender equality
5.6. Conclusions and recommendations

5.1. Educational provision in Zimbabwe: An overview

5.1.1 Primary and secondary schools
5.1.2 Secondary school examination results
5.1.3 Tertiary education
5.1.4 Non-formal education

The present education system in Zimbabwe is the outcome of the colonial education system inherited at independence in 1980, and the attempts of the post-colonial state to effect some change over the past 18 years. Post-colonial education policy and the resultant changes in the education system were not isolated, specific to education only, but an integral part of overall socio-economic policy.

5.1.1 Primary and secondary schools

When Zimbabwe attained independence in 1980, the ZANU [PF] government initiated mass free education to eradicate educational inequalities that existed during the colonial period. More schools had to be built and this resulted in the massive expansion of schools mainly in rural areas. Rural district councils, with the assistance of parents, embarked on rebuilding schools that had been destroyed during the liberation struggle. On the grounds of cost, it was decided that the new schools should be co-educational.1

1 Fay Chung, Camfed Conference, Cambridge, 1995.

Similar developments took place in secondary education as well. Huge enrolments in secondary schools were accommodated by the construction of new, and rebuilding/repair of war-damaged schools in rural areas which were previously extremely disadvantaged. Government day secondary schools and district council schools (which were termed "Upper-Tops") were established. The number of secondary schools in the country rose from 197 in 1980 to 1,535 in 1995.

The GOZ's commitment to mass education can be seen from the budgetary allocations to this sector (see Table 1). Since independence, education has been allocated a relatively high proportion of the national budget annually. Compared with other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Zimbabwe spends a large share of its national income on education. In 1980, the vote to education was 18.1 per cent of the national budget, by 1996 it had fallen to 11.8%.² Whilst remaining a high proportion of the vote, government expenditure on education has been decreasing, particularly since the start of the structural adjustment Programme (ESAP) in 1990. Recurrent expenditure (particularly salaries) absorbed most of the education vote in 1996 (91.7 per cent).³ An insignificant proportion of the budgetary allocation goes to finance capital expenditure. While overall expenditure on education has increased, it has not kept pace with growth in the system.

² Codes and Allocations, 1980-1996, Ministry of Education, Harare.

³ An insignificant proportion of the budgetary allocation goes to finance capital expenditure.

Table 1: Education Expenditure as a Proportion of Recurrent and Capital Expenditure


Education Votes (ZW$)

% of Budget

Recurrent Expenditure

% of Vote

Capital Expenditure

% of Vote

































































1. Codes and Allocations 1980-1996, Ministry of Education, Harare.

2. Estimates of Expenditure 1980-1996, Zimbabwe Government, Harare.

The rate of expansion of schooling in Zimbabwe in the first decade of independence (1980-1990) was phenomenal; primary school enrolments increased threefold while secondary enrolments jumped by tenfold. Zimbabwe was close to achieving UPE in the late 1980s. The dramatic expansion of primary education facilities after 1980 led to huge increases in primary school enrolments, from 1,235 994 in 1980 to 2,482,508 in 1995 (See Table 2). The Surveillance Survey in 1995 of 9-12 year olds showed that 94% were enrolled in school, suggesting that almost all Zimbabwean children get at least some primary education (GOZ and UNICEF, 1996). Despite the increase in enrolments of both boys and girls, fewer girls were enrolled than boys, although the gender gap has narrowed during the 1990s. Overall enrolment figures, however, disguise huge variations in enrolment countrywide with the lowest rates being found in the commercial farming areas (CFAs).4

4 The CFA's had the highest proportion of 6-17 year olds reported to be not in school. (UNICEF, 1996).

In January 1992 school fees were introduced for urban primary schools and, although safety nets have been created through the Social Development Fund, there is doubt that these are working effectively (Chisvo, 1993 and 1996). The introduction of school fees and the sizeable increases (in real terms) in foreign exam fees (due mainly to devaluation) has raised the overall costs of education in Zimbabwe at a time when incomes are being eroded.

Table 2: Gross enrolment rates in primary school by sex


Total population aged 6-13 years

Total Males

Male GER

Total Females

Female GER

Gross Enrolment Rate (%)


1 489 149

643 953


592 041




1 787 805

1 142 480


1 074 398




2 342 143

1 073 452


1 011 545




2 409 148

1 168 450


1 126 484




2 547 115

1 162 565


1 143 200




2 477 453

1 258 465


1 178 206




2 618 245

1 260 694


1 205 698



Source: Education Statistical Analysis, Educational Development Indicators, MOE, Harare 1994. Female population figures taken from the 1992 census.

Since 1980, Zimbabwe has implemented a policy of automatic promotion in primary education which strongly discourages the repetition of grades. As a consequence, the repetition rate is negligible. UNICEF's achievement tracking of examination results in 1995 showed that, although overall pass rates in the Grade 7 examination results are low (i.e. below 50% for maths), there was no significant difference recorded between the performance of girls and boys.

Table 3: Drop-out rates for pupils during transition from grade 7 to form 1

























Source: A Sector Analysis of Education in Zimbabwe 1995, UNICEF, Harare, 1995.

It is estimated that over 25% of pupils entering Grade 1 fail to complete Grade 7. The drop of out rates from primary school of rural children are particularly high with about 10% of students leaving after one or two years (Levine, 1996). Fewer girls than boys in Zimbabwe complete their primary schooling, which means that fewer girls reach the level required for transition to secondary school. Furthermore, the attrition rate in the transition from primary to secondary school for girls has increased from 21% in 1985 to well over 30% since 1990, that is, since ESAP was introduced (see Table 2).

Despite the overall increase in the proportion of girls attending secondary schools since 1980 (see table 5), progressively fewer girls are enrolled in the higher secondary grades. Furthermore, the drop-out rate for girls once enrolled at secondary school continues to be much higher than that for boys (see Table 4) and, despite fluctuations, the gap between male and female drop-out rates has consistently risen since 1985. Table 5 shows that overall secondary level enrolment declined by 9% between 1991 and mid 1993 which was most likely due to increasing education costs combined with increasing poverty. These factors together with significant increases in 'O' level fees between 1990 and 1992 led to a 14% drop of students doing this key exam (Lied, 1995).

Table 4: Drop-out rates for secondary school pupils between form 1 and form 4


Boys %

Girls %






















Source: Sector Analysis of Education in Zimbabwe 1995, UNICEF, Harare, 1995.

The higher attrition/lower completion rates for girls from Form 1 to Form 4 means that fewer girls than boys leave school with the qualifications to continue their education in tertiary institutions or with qualifications suitable for employment in the formal sector. Once having dropped out, girls are less likely than boys to re-enter the formal education system (UNICEF, 1994).

The data reveal that very few pupils of either sex make the transition from Form four to Form six. The gender gap in attrition rates has remained fairly stable between 1985 and 1995, with the overall rate being 91.6% for boys and 93.1% for girls in 1995. Again, girls are disadvantaged with regard to obtaining the requisite qualifications to enter most tertiary educational institutions, particularly universities.

Table 5: Secondary school enrolments by sex


Total Males

Total Females

% Females

Total Enrolment


42 140

32 181


74 321


287 061

194 393


482 000


381 030

291 626


672 656


397 954

312 665


710 619


368 060

289 274


657 344


358 198

285 503


643 701


361 473

295 784


657 257


386 120

323 818


709 938


1. Gender Equity in Education, 1994, UNICEF, Harare
2. Zimbabwe Basic Fact Sheet on Education, 1995

5.1.2 Secondary school examination results

'O' level pass rates have declined as secondary school enrolments have increased. The decline in performance of both sexes has been explained by the deteriorating quality of provision (Bennell and Ncube, 1994). The 'O' level examination is key in Zimbabwe because it provides potential access to job market opportunities. In overall terms, girls do not perform as well as boys, particularly in science subjects and other subjects gender-typed as masculine (Gordon, 1995a). In the Zimbabwe Junior Certificate (ZJC) for 1993, 1994 and 1995, there is a substantial difference between the performance of boys and girls, especially in science and maths (UNICEF, 1996). However, this gender gap in educational outcomes is most distinctly observed at 'O' level, where male students do better in all subjects except languages. Ministry of Education (MOE) figures show that, on average, twice as many male students as female passed one science subject with Grade 'C' or better. A similar situation exists with regard to mathematics. An examination of the pass rates in languages, however, shows that girls outperform boys in the local languages, Shona and Ndebele, and do marginally better than boys in English (see Table 6).

More boys than girls obtain 'A' grade passes in core subjects at ordinary level. The gender gap is particularly evident in science and mathematics with three times as many boys as girls obtaining an 'A' in science. Unfortunately, it is not possible to construct a time series for secondary school examination data by sex, as gender disaggregation of statistics only started in 1993, with assistance from UNICEF.

Table 6: Percentage of Students by Gender who passed with Grade C or Better in Ordinary Level Core Subjects




























































Source: Ordinary Level Examination Results Analysis November, 1991, 1993 and 1995, Ministry of Education Examinations Branch, Harare.

A different situation pertains to performance at 'A' level where candidates constitute the top 4% of school students in the country. More girls than boys pass with grade 'E' or better. However girls still tend to be weaker in mathematics than other subjects at this level, and do less well than boys. Girls outperform boys particularly in the arts subjects and biology. While it is encouraging to note that girls at 'A' level do as well as boys, it must be borne in mind that most girls study arts subjects and they are an even more highly selected minority of each cohort than boys.

5.1.3 Tertiary education

Tertiary education is dominated by males. At both teacher education and technical education colleges, men outnumber women, with the exception of private teacher training colleges where since 1993 more women have been enrolled than men. The proportion of women teachers rose from 39% in 1985 to 50% in 1995. However, national figures mask the preponderance of male teachers in rural areas.

The proportion of women enrolled at technical colleges and vocational centres rose from 29% in 1990 to 37% in 1995 (UNICEF, 1993). However, in technical and vocational training institutions, females remain under-represented and are concentrated in areas traditionally gender-typed as feminine and under-represented in technical fields (see Table 7).

Table 7: Technical Colleges and Vocational Centres - Enrolment by Gender



All Technical/Vocational

























































Source: A Sector Analysis of Education in Zimbabwe 1996, UNICEF, Harare.

A similar situation exists in all tertiary education institutions including the universities. Female students at the University of Zimbabwe, for example, have typically comprised 25% of all students in every year since 1980. In 1993, however, an affirmative action policy was introduced by the University that allows female undergraduates with two points lower in 'A' level examinations than their male counterparts to be admitted. This had the effect of raising the proportion of women from 26% in 1995 to 29% in 1996 (Dorsey, 1996). As at lower levels of the education system, women are particularly under-represented in the faculties of science, agriculture, and engineering. They tend to he concentrated in the arts, social science, education and medicine. In 1992, only 17% of students registered at the University of Science and Technology in Bulawayo were female (MNAECC, 1994). At university, in contrast to secondary school there is no evidence of significant differences in achievement by gender.

One of the consequences of the lower numbers of women entering tertiary education, particularly in the areas of maths, science and technology is that there are few role models for girls and women to emulate.

Not surprisingly, given much higher drop out rates for females coupled with their relatively poor performance in national examinations as compared with males and their very limited participation in science and technology subject areas, women are under-represented in key areas of the economy and employment. In the formal employment sector women constitute only about 7 per cent of the skilled and semi-skilled workforce and approximately 12-16 per cent of the total workforce in this sector (Chisvo, 1996).

5.1.4 Non-formal education

Non-formal education initially focused on adult literacy after independence. Over 80 per cent of participants in the Adult Literacy Programme are women. Accurate figures for literacy rates are difficult to obtain with different sources yielding different data. However, what is clear is that there are more women than men illiterates in Zimbabwe (25% and 14% respectively in 1995). Adult literacy rates have not fluctuated greatly since 1980 nor has the gender gap between men and women illiterates, which was 11 percentage points in 1995.

In conclusion, despite the fact that Zimbabwe managed to achieve near parity of enrolment at primary school between boys and girls by 1994, the gender gap continues to widen further up the educational ladder. A higher proportion of boys make the transition to secondary school and the gender gap in favour of boys has not diminished in the 1990s.

However, at every transition point in the education system, a high proportion of girls than boys drop out. There has been little improvement in the performance of girls at 'O' level and they obtain poorer results than boys in all subjects except languages. The gender typing of subjects at secondary school as well as poor performance, restricts of the access of girls to careers requiring a maths, science or technological background. Female representation at university, although steadily improving, remains below one-third of total enrolments. The same level of under-representation of females exists with regard to vocational technical training although the sex segregation of subjects is even more pronounced than at university.

5.2. Knowledge generated

5.2.1 Statistical overviews
5.2.2 In-depth research
5.2.3 Research impact

There is a paucity of literature relating specifically to gender and education in Zimbabwe. In general, where these gender concerns are raised, they form only one section of articles, papers and research reports on education, or, only one section of overviews of gender issues (the status of women and girls) in Zimbabwe.

Most of the literature to date has been generated by donor agencies, based on research commissioned and funded by these organisations in connection with their aid programmes. The ostensible reason for this research being undertaken is to inform policy and to identify specific interventions and strategies. There has been a strong bias in favour of quantitative research and the production of statistical data. Very little in-depth qualitative research on gender and education in Zimbabwe has been undertaken.

5.2.1 Statistical overviews

A number of statistical overviews on gender and education have been produced, based on data from government ministries, including the MOE and the Ministry of Higher Education (MOHE) and the Central Statistical Office (CSO). The statistics have been analysed and interpreted to reveal nation-wide trends and patterns. The information generated by this research has been utilised to highlight large gender gaps in access, persistence and examination performance, and as such have been extremely useful for gender advocates in their dialogue with policy makers and politicians in the ministries that deal with women and education.

In an effort to bring about a change in attitudes towards the education of the girl child and to gender sensitise the educators and general public, it is clearly necessary to present solid statistical evidence to support arguments for specific gender redress programmes. Reports of this kind are important for influencing policy changes in education, identifying areas where more research is needed and encouraging researchers to investigate these problem areas and for monitoring current trends (UNICEF, 1996).

Much of the most widely used statistical data appears in section 5.1. In addition to its utility for gender advocates, the research discussed above has highlighted problematic areas which require further investigation, such as:

· Higher attrition rates for females than males with the gender gap increasing as each cohort ascends the educational ladder;

· The lower pass rates for girls in public examinations, particularly in maths and the science and technical subjects;

· The under-representation of women students in tertiary education, particularly in the technical colleges and in the science and technology departments/faculties of universities and polytechnics;

· Regional and urban/rural disparities in female enrolment in schools;

5.2.2 In-depth research

There have been very few studies which analyse the underlying causes of the gender inequities revealed by the mainly statistical research discussed above. A proper, in depth understanding of these causes is clearly crucial for the design and implementation of programmes and interventions that seek to redress gender inequities in educational provision. A limited amount of field research has shed some light on a number of specific problems and, has strongly influenced the formulation of gender and education policies and projects among donor agencies, in particular UNICEF and Sida.

Attitudes of parents: Parental attitudes towards the education of girls are shaped by a number of factors, most notably, what other children in the household go to school and for how long, the purposes for which girls are educated, occupational and social aspirations and knowledge deemed appropriate for girls and women. In Zimbabwe, the fact that parity in enrolment of girls and boys at the primary level has almost been achieved indicates that most parents, even the poorest, believe that some education for girls is necessary. However, research has revealed that most parents regard education as more necessary for boys than girls. Many also consider that the levels and types of education necessary and desirable for girls and boys differ. Studies by Gordon (1995a; 1995b) and Nyagura and Mupawaenda (1996) found the following attitudes, beliefs about and perceptions of girls to be extremely widespread:

· Girls are inclined to be too interested in boys and romance.

· Girls are easily seduced, tending to be promiscuous and thus involving themselves in sexual activities.

· Girls get pregnant and waste their education.

· Girls are not serious about education.

· Girls marry and join their husband's families thus parents will not benefit from the investment in their daughters' education.

In addition, Gordon (1995a; 1995b) found that parents tend to believe that girls are less intelligent and academically able, physically weaker, and less courageous than boys. Not surprisingly, girls' attitudes, beliefs, perceptions and aspirations almost exactly mirror those of their parents (Gordon, 1995a; 1995b). Gordon (1995a) found that due to the ubiquitous belief that the main role of women is as wife and mother, girls are involved in domestic labour and chores which leave them with little time to study or do their homework.

Attitudes and expectations of teachers: Within schools, the attitudes of teachers, both male and female, towards girls are little different from those of parents. Girls are generally believed to be less academically able and less interested in education than boys. Nor do teachers feel it within their power or responsibility to assist girls to improve their academic performance.

Sexual harassment and abuse of females: The sexual abuse and harassment of female pupils and students is rampant in Zimbabwean educational institutions (Gordon, 1995a; 1995b; IBRD, 1992; Zindi 1994). Not only are females sexually harassed by male students, but also by teachers. This can take the form of verbal harassment - teasing, derision - and other behaviour aimed at belittling and embarrassing girls which appears to be very common (Gordon, 1995a). Also common, and increasing, is the sexual abuse of adolescent girls, including statutory rape, by teachers and other male members of staff (IBRD, 1992). Zindi concluded that "there is no doubt that sexual harrassment is rife in institutions of higher education throughout Zimbabwe" (Zindi, 1994:184).

The gender-typing of school subjects and occupations: As discussed in Section 5.1, gender-typing of subjects and occupations remains pervasive in Zimbabwe. Girls tend to be channel led into the arts and other subjects typed as feminine and it appears that girls themselves select to study subjects which they type as "feminine" when offered the same choices as boys. Pupils tend to opt for subjects which they perceive as prerequisites for occupations to which they aspire and which, like their parents and teachers, they rigidly gender-type. In general girls aspire to occupations that are perceived as appropriate and fitting for women, nursing, teaching, domestic work, clerical and secretarial work (Gordon 1995a; 1995b)

Gender stereotyping in school textbooks: The content of school textbooks that reinforces gender stereotyping has come under scrutiny. A recent study which examined 42 primary school books found that:

"Gender stereotyping and prejudice against women in virtually any roles outside the home is a continuous thread in primary school pupils' textbook [sic] and teachers' books in all subjects." (Brickhill, 1996:21).

Women are consistently depicted as mothers and housewives and there are no instances in which men are shown participating in domestic or household activities. Men are portrayed in adventurous decisive roles, and are associated with property. The books do not portray the reality, nor the diversity of male and female roles and activities which exist in Zimbabwe today. To some extent, more recently published books have improved their treatment of gender although many state government schools do not have the funds to buy them.

5.2.3 Research impact

In general, the literature on gender issues encompassing education concerns, consists of broad overviews of the status of girls and women in Zimbabwe in all spheres of life: employment, health, land ownership, legal status and rights, and education. Often the same data is brought forward repeatedly to support the same conclusions. A small number of authors all cite each other, and all the data, however presented, stems from the same sources. Not surprisingly, therefore conclusions drawn and recommendations made tend to be repetitive.

It must be borne in mind that gender issues in education have only very recently been seriously raised in Zimbabwe. The major thrust, as noted above, was to afford every child access to primary education and to redress the racial and urban-rural imbalances that were inherited at independence. As a result, individuals, institutions and organisations involved in research on education issues initially focused on these aspects of education. Furthermore, until very recently, there was no NGO or group of gender advocates organised around issues of gender and education in Zimbabwe.5 NGOs have tended to focus on issues of women and the law, violence against women, and the economic empowerment of women.

5 Even the FAWE chapter in Zimbabwe remains dormant despite the fact that a former Minister of Education was one of the founding members.

Where there has been in-depth research on the above problems, education, fairly understandably, has been raised only in relation to these issues. The knowledge generated by this research, has, in the main, been utilised to inform non-formal education programmes and interventions organised around the specific concerns of the particular organisation which has undertaken the research. Some examples of this are, the inheritance rights of women and violence against women.

Another key factor is that research in Zimbabwe is funded mainly by donor organisations As a result of conditionalities imposed by aid and the donor's own agendas, donor-driven research is not necessarily congruent with local concerns and priorities. Thus, only when donor organisations began to focus on gender issues in education, did funding become available for research on gender in Zimbabwe.

Statistical data and studies which produce evidence of gender inequities and makes these issues visible are obviously very valuable for gender advocates. They are the means by which policy and other decision makers have been made aware of many aspects of gender inequalities in Zimbabwe. However, generating data on gender problems has too often been offered as evidence of commitment on the part of policy makers, ministries and donor organisations to redressing gender equities in education and tends to have a limited utility once the issue has been highlighted. It is essential, therefore, to move to a deeper level of research and analysis in order to understand the nature of the structures and processes which perpetuate gender inequalities in education in Zimbabwe. Such in-depth field research is necessary in order to identify and clarify the nature of specific barriers and problems facing girls and women within the education system. It is on the basis of such knowledge that appropriate policies and interventions can be put in place.

Only the few studies in Zimbabwe mentioned above that have focused exclusively on gender and education issues have attempted to discover the causes of the observed statistical patterns and trends. These studies have produced knowledge which has contributed to an understanding of the causes of problems in important areas, and have thus informed programmes of action and interventions recently put in place.

5.3. Government policy

5.3.1 Policy issues
5.3.2 Gender policies and the emergence of gender equity as an issue in education
5.3.3 Gender issues in education: policies and practice

5.3.1 Policy issues

In the first decade after independence, policy statements emphasised the need for equity and development and, in particular, the dismantling of the system of racial segregation which had existed during the colonial period. The major thrust, therefore, was to redress social and economic disparities based on race and to enable every child in Zimbabwe to have access to at least primary schooling.

Certainly, at independence the new Mugabe government indicated an awareness of gender issues and inequities. Steps were taken to rectify some of these inequities particularly in the realms of family law and employment. Women and children were also the target of increased health care provision. In spite of the fact that no gender specific rights for women had been included in the Constitution (Gordon, 1996; Kazembe, 1986), the government early on displayed some commitment to redressing the unequal position of women.

The stated policy of the government at independence, Growth with Equity (1981) was based upon the manifesto of the ruling party, ZANU (PF). The overriding aim was to create a non-racial egalitarian society. In ZANU (PF)'s Election Manifesto, women were for the first time acknowledged as a disadvantaged group, by both the ruling party and the state. With regard to education, the Manifesto included, "the abolition of sex discrimination in the educational system", as one of its six "cardinal principles" (p12).

The gender gap existing in all spheres of society was viewed as an anomaly which could, however, be altered by piecemeal reform. The state's most serious attempt to rectify discrimination against women was in the area of legislation relating to the legal status of women, and the position of women in family law and employment. In 1982, the Legal Age of Majority Act came into effect which conferred majority status on African women at the age of 18 years for the first time. Also legislation was passed securing for women, amongst other things, protection from discrimination in the workplace, equal pay for equal work and maternity leave (Gordon, 1996). However, as two bodies of law, Customary and Common, continue to operate, the legal position of women, particularly with regard to family law, remains ambiguous and discriminatory (Ncube, 1987; Stewart, 1987).

With regard to education policy, "gender neutral" policies have been perceived as means by which equity, including gender equity, can be achieved. The category of sex is omitted despite the ruling party's stated commitment to the abolition of discrimination against girls in education. Initially, equality of educational opportunity was perceived as equality of access.

In the First National Transitional Development Plan 1982/83 - 1984/5, the fact that fewer girls obtained education prior to independence was identified as a problem of the inherited educational system requiring resolution (GOZ, 1983). However, the next plan, the First Five-Year National Development Plan 1986-1990 (GOZ, 1988) made no reference to gender inequities in the education system.

Education policy in the first decade after independence reflected GOZ's perception of education as a human right, the means by which racial inequities could be redressed and the major means by which development could be achieved. The state embarked upon an impressive programme of educational expansion in order to achieve universal primary education, and secondary and tertiary education facilities were also expanded rapidly. Girls and boys both benefited from the expansion of education facilities and the introduction of "free" primary education. Free primary education, in this context, referred to the fact that until 1992 no tuition fees were charged at any government or rural council school. There were, however, other costs incurred. More specifically, parents were expected to pay a general purpose fee, and several of the following: sports fees, building or development levies and fees for material and equipment used in practical subjects. Communities were also involved in the construction of many of the new schools and were expected to contribute their time and labour to develop school infrastructure. Enrolment does not seem to have been affected by the introduction of fees for primary schooling in urban areas from 1992. This is probably because by that time a 'culture of learning' had been firmly established.

Since independence, the gender gap has persisted throughout the education system with respect to performance. However, gender inequality was not viewed as problematic until the early 1990s when the government's attention was drawn to these issues by donor organisations and NGOs.

Even so, the Zimbabwe Government has never produced a formal gender policy. There is evidence that the government was aware of the gender inequities existing prior to and at independence, and some steps have been taken to redress the most glaring inequalities. However, the lack of a coherent national policy has led to piecemeal reform.

The massive and very rapid expansion of education facilities achieved within the first five years after independence certainly benefited girls as well as boys. However, the focus was on improving access and little attention was paid to other aspects of the system causing gender inequities. Only in the 1990s have issues of efficiency, quality, and the gender-gap come to the fore. Furthermore, whilst there was an attempt to develop and expand education at all levels, government was unable to provide secondary and tertiary education for all pupils graduating from primary education. Secondary education was not free, and this fact alone led to differential access for children from different social classes and of different genders.

Attention has been drawn to the following with regard to government education and employment policies:

· the need to concentrate on improving education quality, especially in disadvantaged rural schools;
· the inadequate supply of jobs for the majority of school leavers;
· the failure to achieve universal primary education (Berridge, 1993:12)

In 1998 an Education Review Commission was established to make recommendations for improving the quality and relevance of education in Zimbabwe.

5.3.2 Gender policies and the emergence of gender equity as an issue in education

The focus on women's and girls' education by donors and at international fore since the late 1980s has clearly influenced politicians and senior policymakers in Zimbabwe. Zimbabwe is signatory to several international conventions on the elimination of discrimination against women, including the UN General Assembly's Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. It has also been represented at a number of international conferences concerning both education and women. Furthermore, the influence of donor and multinational organisations which have increasingly incorporated a gender dimension in their policies and programmes, has also been felt in Zimbabwe, particularly since 1990.

Since independence, there have been two Government ministries dealing with education and one with women's affairs. The Ministry of Education is responsible for primary and secondary education, while the Ministry of Higher Education covers all formal post-secondary education.

The MCCDWA and MNAAECC: At independence, a new Ministry of Cooperative and Community Development and Women's Affairs (MCCDWA), headed by a woman minister, was created with a mandate to identify areas in which women were discriminated against and to initiate measures and interventions to redress the situation. However as Batezat and Mwalo (1989) note, projects of this ministry were neglected and under-resourced and those targeting women were left for NGOs and donor organisations During the 1980s, the government's policy on promoting gender equality in society was aimed at the progressive removal of all customary, social, economic and legal disabilities facing women (Batezat and Mwalo, 1989:58). The MCCDWA was tasked with spearheading the neglected rural population and effecting the integration of women in development. The major emphasis was on reaching women at grassroots level and it had an impact in terms of outreach and material support for its adult literacy and early childhood care and non-formal education, and the mobilisation of women to become involved in income generating projects.

The creation of the MCCDWA, whilst evidence of the Government's commitment to gender equity early on, was based on the belief that womens' issues could be addressed and inequities redressed by piecemeal reform in areas where these inequities were most visible. This view, which also accounts for the lack of a national gender policy, led to the neglect of gender issues in many state organisations (Batezat and Mwalo, 1989). By and large, therefore, where gender was raised as an issue in governmental institutions and departments, this was through the advocacy and commitment of individuals and external organisations

Since the early 1990s, the Ministry of National Affairs Employment Creation and Cooperatives (MNAECC), has had responsibility for womens' affairs. Both the current minister and permanent secretary of MNAAECC are women. At present the Department of Women's Affairs is engaged in producing a national gender policy in the wake of the Beijing Conference on Women.6 In Zimbabwe, women have limited representation in the public domain. For example, in 1994, 11% of the 150 MP's and only 8% of 37 ministers and governors were women (UNIFEM, 1996).

6 UNIFEM is supporting is the production of a national gender policy.

The Ministry of Education: Little attention was focused on gender issues within the MOE until the early 1990s. Initial awareness of gender issues and gender sensitivity were introduced by international and donor organisations particularly Sida and UNICEF. In keeping with the gender policies of these organisations country plans of action did contain a gender perspective and specific components dealing with the gender gap in education. In order to obtain aid from donors, the MOE was obliged to accept this condition, even if half-heartedly at first. Thus, it can be seen that donors tended to play the role of gender advocates.

One element of donor support to MOE has been research on gender issues. Based on the findings of this research, the MOE accepted that something must be happening within the education system which introduces a selective bias against girls. In other words, the system may "push out" girls. Alternatively, there could be something happening outside the education system which "pulls" them out of school. Possibly, and most probably, it is a combination of both sets of factors (MOE,7 1995:49).

7 This Ministry, now named the Ministry of Education (MOE) was previously named the Ministry of Primary and Secondary Education and then the Ministry of Education and Culture (MEC or MOEC).

Since 1993, the MOE has targeted "those factors that are malleable for manipulation through the education system" (MOE). In 1994, with support from UNICEF, the MOE designed an in-depth, multi-pronged programme of action to address the problems of the girl child, The resulting Gender Equity in Education Project (GEEP) was included in the Zimbabwe/UNICEF Programme of Cooperation for the period 1995-2000. The project's aims are the following:

1. Design and establishment of gender equity programmes in the MOE for (i) sensitising the policy makers and parliamentarians of the project's aims and the needs of the girl child and (ii) sensitising and mobilising the support of decision-makers and opinion leaders at the national, provincial, district and community levels;

2. Development of a gender-neutral primary school curriculum for Grades 1 and 2 in all core subjects by reviewing and rewriting all curricular materials to make them gender neutral;

3. Production of a film on the position of the girl-child;

4. Development (by independent experts with assistance from MOE and UNICEF) of training modules on gender sensitivity and awareness for adults;

5. Devising strategies for raising girls' pass rates in Maths and Science by 5 per cent in primary schools (MOE, 1995);

6. The MOE has embarked on a number of actions and interventions in order to implement GEEP. An integral part of this project has been the generation of knowledge based on research, which has been utilised to inform various aspects of the programme.

There can be no doubt that there is a de facto gender policy and a fair measure of gender sensitivity in the MOE despite the lack of a clearly articulated overall gender policy. Whilst GEEP is tangible proof of this de facto policy, it addresses only some of the key issues in the education sector and is mainly concerned with primary education. Other broader policy concerns are not addressed by this project including, single-sex schools, male-female teacher ratios, and affirmative action measures. A further question that has not been addressed is the lack of gender training as part of pre-service teacher training courses.8

8 Teacher education, however, is the responsibility of the MOHE and not the MOE.

The Ministry of Higher Education: Whilst there is recognition in this Ministry that women are seriously under-represented in all areas of tertiary education, the Ministry has no formal or clearly articulated gender policy, nor do there appear to be any programmes or projects in place which deal specifically with the redress of gender inequities in higher education. Information obtained during interviews indicated that there has been practically no research on gender within this Ministry.

While the MOHE does have a broad gender policy (MOHE, 1995), this is neither explicitly stated nor systematically implemented (Chisvo, 1996). MOHE interviewees were unable to give instances of the way in which this policy was being effected, beyond citing some follow up on a study on the participation of women in the engineering and science subject areas.

In broad terms, it appears that the serious under-representation of women in higher education is viewed by MOHE officials as the outcome of the policies and practices of the MOE (with respect to primary and secondary education) and, as such, the solution to the problem is seen to lie with the MOE. The lack of women students and staff in the science and technical areas of tertiary education is generally seen by MOHE officials as the responsibility of women themselves who are "not interested" in these disciplines. There is no joint effort by MOE and MOHE, to explore these issues nor to collaborate on remedial action.

As with the MOE, donor supported projects have included some gender components. However, with most donors now focusing on basic education, donor funding for higher education has fallen considerably since the early 1990s. This has meant that the role of donors acting as gender advocates with respect to higher education has been very limited. There is considerable evidence of a lack of gender sensitivity in the MOHE.9

9 Interviews with MOHE officials.

5.3.3 Gender issues in education: policies and practice

The GEEP addresses a number of important gender concerns in primary education. However, the lack of an overall Government gender policy, and coherent ministry policies, combined with the lack of coordination and joint action on the part of all the ministries which are responsible for the various levels and aspects of education are factors which have contributed to the failure to tackle gender inequality in the education sector in a comprehensive and systematic manner.

i) Girls' and women's lower participation in post-primary formal education

Both negative parental attitudes towards girls' education and the ever increasing costs of schooling under ESAP undermine attempts to improve girls' participation in post-primary education. Safety nets for poor children have not been effective for a number of reasons. For example, the procedures are so complex that poorer parents are unable to understand how they can apply for exemptions (Chisvo, 1994).

ii) Academic under-achievement of girls at secondary school and under-representation in the science and technology areas

Neither the MOE nor the MOHE have attempted to address the negative attitudes and expectations of teachers regarding girls outlined in Section 5.2.

iii) Pregnancy policy

The MOHE has a contradictory pregnancy policy. Women falling pregnant at teacher training colleges, whether married or not, are obliged to withdraw from the college. In theory they are entitled to re-apply after giving birth and may resume their studies. In practice, readmission is not monitored by MOHE and is left to the discretion of individual college heads. There is no such practice, however, at technical training colleges.

Until recently, the MOE policy on pregnancy in schools was clear cut. Any girl falling pregnant was immediately expelled with no possibility of re-admission after the birth. Although this policy has allegedly been revised (in 1996) to allow for the re-admission of girls after giving birth, interviews revealed that there has been no formal mechanism for readmission or monitoring put in place. There is need for a clearly articulated and rigorously implemented pregnancy policy to facilitate re-entry/continuing education of women and girls during pregnancy and after giving birth.

iv) Gender in the Curriculum

A few measures have recently been taken promote gender in the curriculum. The MOE's Curriculum Development Unit (CDU) has begun to address gender stereotyping in textbooks and there are on-going efforts to introduce gender into parts of the curriculum.10 The most effective programme to date has been the Women in Law Project (WLP) which was initiated by NORAD as part of its gender and development focus. The aim of the project is to spread information on the legal position of women and provide educational material on women and the law. The project is located in the MNAECC and has an advisory committee including individuals from NGOs and the legal profession. The WLP identifies schoolchildren as an important target group in their campaign to counter gender negative cultural influences. WLP focuses on three areas:

· Introducing modules on Women and the Law into the curriculum, initially in social studies.
· Provision of workshops on gender in the curriculum for teachers and heads
· Media programmes covering such issues as family law, maintenance and rape.
· Schools drama competition for secondary schools.

10 Supported by Sida.

The WLP also organises gender training for CDU personnel. The project has become a conduit for the introduction of gender in the curriculum.

The Gender Equity in Education Project commits the GOZ to promoting Family Life Education (FLE) in primary and secondary schools. School advisory officers who used to take up issues of sexuality are being phased out and Education for Living (EFL) now operates in secondary schools, while an AIDS/HIV project is directed also at both primary and secondary schoolchildren. Both contain information about sexual health and relationships.11 EFL is generally ignored by teachers who do not have enough time, nor do they feel competent enough to deal with the subject matter in the AIDs/HIV project.12 Despite such initiatives, there is an urgent need to introduce a comprehensive approach to gender across the whole school curriculum concurrently with teacher training.

11 Materials are supplied by UNICEF who have also developed an evaluation scheme for teaching in the AIDs/HIV project.

12 Interviews with CDU personnel, Harare.

The role of gender advocates in the MOE and MOHE: As far as education in Zimbabwe is concerned, the major gender advocates have been external to the two ministries of education. Furthermore, they have not been local individuals or groups within local civil society. Gender and education concerns were first raised and introduced within the MOE and MOHE by donor organisations and gender objectives were subsequently incorporated into country education programmes as specific conditions. Sida and UNICEF have been the most active donors with regard to gender and education in Zimbabwe. Whilst Sida initially introduced gender awareness in the early 1990s within in MOE, UNICEF has emerged as the more influential and active of the two organisations as far as gender is concerned.

Initially, UNICEF's approach was that of producing evidence on the extent of gender inequities in the education system. The main objective thrust was to influence top policy makers within MOE, notably the then Secretary for Education and to work with him in placing gender on the agenda within this Ministry. Thus a 'top down' approach was taken, initially on an informal basis.

Information obtained from interviews suggests that there have been a number of differing responses to the introduction of gender issues by non-Zimbabwean stakeholders. A major problem has been the lack of cross-cultural sensitivity on the part of some of the gender officers of external agencies. In general, 'donors have been too pushy regarding gender and are not aware of the social/cultural context in which they are operating'.13 Feminism is often perceived as informing the agenda of Western development organisations and as a threat to Zimbabwean culture and norms. In some cases, this has lead to resistance on the part of ministry officials.

13 Interview, Education official, Dutch embassy, Harare.

The top-down approach taken initially by UNICEF has also been problematic for the following reasons:

· The initiation of gender projects and advocacy work was identified with individuals who were personally committed to the gender equity ideal and projects. Other officials felt excluded or by-passed which meant that the sustainability of the projects was jeopardised when these individuals left the Ministry. Thus, the institutionalisation of gender has been weak.

· Initially, no gender sensitisation or training was carried out within the MOE. There were also male officers who felt excluded and had little or no understanding of the issues. In fact, some still claim that they are not certain about the true meaning of gender and its implications.

All of the issues discussed above are interrelated and interdependent and cannot be dealt with in isolation.

5.4. Donor interventions

5.4.1 DGIS
5.4.2 Sida
5.4.3 UNICEF

The most important donors supporting the education sector are Sida, UNICEF and DGIS. The exact proportion of the education budget funded from overseas sources is not known. Until the early 1990s, well over half of foreign aid went into the tertiary sector, most notably various types of technical and professional training and support for university education. Since then, however, both donors and GOZ have prioritised basic education. It is clear, however, that the most glaring gender inequalities are in secondary and tertiary education.

The planning section of the MOE is formally responsible for donor coordination but, in practice, little coordination has taken place. Gender is a cross cutting issue in the UN agencies. UNESCO coordinates education, whereas UNICEF and UNFPA are active in the health sector and UNIFEM works with the Ministry of National Affairs. There is a general lack of coordination between the two United Nations education agencies. A thematic group meets bi-monthly at UNESCO to discuss education and sometimes MOE officials are invited to participate. Duplication of donor supported interventions in the gender area has been frequently discussed, along with the need for a clear policy framework. Without such a framework, it is generally accepted that donor priorities often prevail. As one donor official put it, 'At present the MOE is overwhelmed by donors and they do not stand up to agencies'.14

14 Interview, Education official, Dutch Embassy, Harare.

5.4.1 DGIS

The bulk of Dutch support to education has shifted from the tertiary level into basic education and training. DGIS funds a community based Early Childhood Education and Care programme through UNICEF. From 1996, it has supported institutional development at Mupfure Self-Help College (channelled through HIVOS). The cornerstone of Dutch support to basic education is the Better Schools Programme (BSP)15, a nation-wide scheme to improve infrastructure for the professional development of teachers, heads and education officers. The MOE has responsibility for implementation. Gender components are built into all projects and programmes of DGIS. Gender was included in the BSP from the outset and a consultant was hired to help the MOE to develop a gender framework for the programme. However, there are no clear guidelines for introducing gender which is usually done on a 'trial and error' basis.16

15 The teacher training component is worth £4.2 over five years.
16 ibid.

5.4.2 Sida

Sida is the most important bilateral donor in the education sector in Zimbabwe, although its education disbursements as a proportion of total aid fell from 54.5% in 1990/91 to 37.4% in 1995/96.17 Since 1995, Swedish aid to education has mainly focused on primary schooling which includes primary teacher training. Sida's accumulated disbursements to education in Zimbabwe up to mid 1996 amounted to approximately £64 million (Side, DESO, 1996). In 1997, Zimbabwe was the fourth largest recipient of Swedish aid to education.18 Sida switched from project to programme support in the 1990s and a number of areas were phased out in 1995 including teacher training and radio learning.

17 Sida, Sweden-Zimbabwe Development Cooperation, Harare.
18 Personal communication education section official, DESO, Stockholm.

Sida's aid is programmed on a three year cycle. The current 1995-1997 programme is the first where gender is separately delineated with its own budget of £1 million. The other key activity areas are: planning, and monitoring, research and evaluation, curriculum development and textbooks (mainly in maths, science and environmental science), special needs education, buildings (particularly support for disadvantaged schools and rehabilitation of schools in commercial farming areas) and the Zimbabwe Foundation for Education with Production (ZIMFEP). Sida also supports capacity building in the MOE and MHE as well as providing funds for education policy reform. However, disbursement of funds has been a persistent problem. In future, Sida wants to shift to budgetary aid although this has been made contingent upon the GOZ embarking on a comprehensive education reform process.19 Sida has constantly stressed its commitment to local ownership and the process of dialogue with local partners.

19 Interview, First Secretary, Swedish Embassy, Harare

Although girls have benefited from Sida projects and programmes prior to 1995, there were no specific gender inputs with the exception of a small scale scholarship programme to enable farm school children to attend either primary or secondary school, 70% of whom are required to be female. By 1996, 90 children had gone through this programme. Interestingly, an evaluation of this programme in 1996 suggested that the girls were in urgent need of advice on sexuality as their pregnancy rate in one region was 28% (well above the national average).20 Sida also sponsored training of officials at the MOHE which mainly benefited women. Tackling gender stereotyping in school textbooks was only introduced as part of the new programme. After a number of delays in finalising the 1995-1997 programme, the MOE hired two local consultants to help them develop gender related activities. Gender sensitisation exercises began in early 1997 to cater for MOE middle and senior officials.

20 P.P. Pfukani, for MOE (Research and Evaluation) 'Preliminary Report of an Evaluation of the Effects of the Sida Scholarship fund'.

As discussed earlier, Sida has sponsored a number of research and sector studies to assist the direction and design of its policies. The education sector report of 1990 (Colclough et al) commissioned by Sida, while pointing to the inequitable distribution of resources in Zimbabwe's education system, paid little attention to gender issues which partly explains the lack of a gender perspective in the 1990-1995 Sida programme. The 1995-1997 programme which prioritised gender was strongly influenced by research undertaken by Rosemary Gordon, an academic at the University of Zimbabwe (UZ).21

21 Interview, 1st Secretary Swedish Embassy, Harare.

In conclusion, Sida has played a vital role in educational planning and staff training of MOE personnel as part of its commitment to capacity building. More recently, it has made concerted efforts to introduced gender into its programme with the MOE. Research findings have strongly influenced Sida's recent prioritisation of gender. Sida also recognises the importance of local ownership of gender initiatives and is helping to facilitate this process. However, operationalising the gender aspects of its education programme has been a slow process.

5.4.3 UNICEF

UNICEF has a long history in Zimbabwe which goes back to the liberation struggle. In the 1980s it supported curriculum reform in primary and teacher training.22 UNICEF alerted GOZ to the gender problem in the early 1990s and it became the driving force behind the Gender Equity in Education Project which started in 1993. This took place in the context of the organisation's global interest in promoting Education for All and women's empowerment. The 1995-2000 Programme of Cooperation with the MOE emphasises the development of community capacity. Its gender specific interventions in education form part of the 'Girl Child Initiative' (GCI) funded by CIDA who also fund the GEEP.23 UNICEF is more involved in implementation than other aid agencies and works closely with the MOE at central and regional levels. It provides funding and logistical support to MOE teams in the field.

22 Interview with a former Permanent Secretary MEC.
23 Interview, education official, UNICEF, Harare.

The following projects and programmes (linked with GEEP) are aimed at improving the learning outcomes of girls:

· Encouragement of gender disaggregated statistics since 1993. Information is still piecemeal and UNICEF would like to see a composite document.

· A manual for teachers to help them identify and handle gender stereotypes. It covers issues such as the innate ability of boys and girls as well as sex bias in the use of language.

· A role model reader to be incorporated into teacher resource centres.

· A video about the girl child entitled 'Mwanasikana' (in Shona).24

· A holiday coaching scheme in maths and science for girls which started in 1996. Books and equipment are supplied to primary schools throughout Zimbabwe. Forty-five girls have been selected from poor schools and brought to a central venue for coaching. An applied research component has been added to the project in order to discover why girls do not perform well in maths and science. In an attempt to promote institutional change, the experiences of this project will be fed back into teacher training.

· Sensitisation of female college lecturers.

· Performance and achievement of children will be monitored by working with the exams branch to generate more information on performance in Grade 7, 'O' level

· A girl mentor programme being developed with the intention of targeting five girls from three districts. They will receive funds to buy uniforms and pay school fees and in return provide mentoring services for other primary school girls.

· Production of a facilitator's manual for the sensitisation of school development committees from 1996.

· Provision with MOE of gender sensitising sessions for secondary school heads.

· Plans to sensitise teacher training college principals if the MHE will cooperate25.

· Examining curriculum and examinations for gender sensitivity. Also provision of material to support the development of the CDU's AIDs/HIV programme for schools.

· The Sara communication initiative is being piloted in several districts to assess its suitability for Zimbabwe although there is some doubt on the part of UNICEF
Zimbabwe as to whether it is culturally relevant. However, affecting attitude change is central to the UNICEF project.

24 In 1996 UNICEF began an impact assessment of the video's impact on communities and 'A' level.

25 This comes Under the management skills programme which trains both school and college managers.

UNICEF's gender initiatives overlap substantially with Sida's programme. Until the end of 1996 there was limited cooperation between the two agencies but they are in the process of working out a degree of complementarily in their gender focus in education.

UNICEF places a strong emphasis on providing gender-related information and analyses which it feeds back into policy formulation and implementation. From UNICEF's point of view, Gordon's research (1995b) highlighted the need to change school culture and atmosphere and to change teaching methodologies so as to improve the participation of girls.26 UNICEF will help MOHE to introduce gender sensitisation into teacher training in the near future.

26 Interview, education official, UNICEF, Harare.

The 1994 Situation Report on Children and Women in Zimbabwe emphasised the declining quality and relevance of the education system and also raised concerns about girl's drop-out from both primary and secondary school. In conjunction with the examinations council, UNICEF produced an achievement tracking document in 1997 which will be used to monitor the progress of gender initiatives. Monitoring mechanisms are put in place at when the programme is developed, although it is premature to assess the overall impact of UNICEF's gender interventions many of which are at an early or developmental stage.

More broadly, UNICEF wants to see a reformed education system with greater flexibility. Since the early 1990s, it has played an important advocacy role in support of the girl child in Zimbabwe. UNICEF, with its parallel interest in health, is in a strong position to support girl's education while taking on board issues such as AIDS/HIV which affect young girls to a greater extent than boys.

With regard to gender, UNICEF has managed to move to the implementation stage more effectively than Sida. This is partly because of their different approaches and also there has been greater staff continuity in education in UNICEF Zimbabwe. If UNICEF's Girl Child Initiative is to is to have any meaningful impact, further attention needs to be paid to teacher training and curriculum, which are key areas that have barely been touched by recent initiatives.

5.5. NGOs and the struggle for gender equality

Prior to Independence, NGOs were at the forefront of the liberation struggle. After independence, however, they assumed a more developmental role. But since the late 1980s, NGOs (including women's organisations have reverted to more of an advocacy role). In 1996, the government brought in the Private Voluntary Organisations legislation which gives the state power to suspend the executives of NGOs. A number of local and foreign NGOs protested strongly, but this was to no avail.

Apart from some adult education projects, only a few NGOs in Zimbabwe have directly addressed gender issues in education. Five important womens' organisations are considered: The Musasa Project, Women's Action Group (WAG), Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAFF), Women in Law in Southern Africa (WLSA), and the Zimbabwe Women's Resource Centre and Network (ZWRCN).

The Musasa Project was established as a training and advocacy organisation in 1988 to tackle the problems of rape and domestic violence in Zimbabwe. The approach developed by the project has been one of fostering change with various institutions, notably the police and judiciary in the way in which they deal with domestic violence. During the 1990s, the project has had a high profile and has succeeded in attracting significant donor funding (mainly from NORAD, Sida and CIDA). It has now institutionalised training for the Zimbabwe police and this will be extended to the judiciary and teacher training institutions. Its education department organises sessions on domestic violence for secondary school students and research is conducted on issues such as child sexual abuse which it uses for campaign purposes. Thanks to collective pressure from the Musasa project and other women's organisations the government is considering the introduction of domestic violence legislation.27 The project has made very tangible gains and has brought the issue of sexual violence to centre stage in Zimbabwe.

27 Interview with the director of the Musasa Project, Harare.

The Womens' Action Group (WAG), one of the most radical women's NGOs28. It was formed in 1983 as a women's coalition to resist the rounding up of women in public places. It became an active proponent of women's rights and has consistently lobbied parliamentarians and has worked closely with other women's NGOs such as the Musasa Project. During the 1990s, WAG has began organising outreach programmes throughout the country to raise awareness of key gender issues concerning marriage, inheritance and land. Its magazine, entitled 'Speak Out', is widely circulated. WAG also runs an important health information project which has researched women's perception of their health problems. Major outputs include a book on AIDS and the reproductive system which has been widely disseminated. WAG staff and volunteers also give talks in schools on reproductive health issues. WAG has campaigned strongly for greater social sector spending and action to address the AIDS pandemic and has also lobbied for changes in the Marriage and Inheritance Acts demanding that wives be able to inherit land directly.

28 WAG is considered to be one of Zimbabwe's most effective lobbying organisations for women's rights.

Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAFF) emerged from the law reform caucus network set up by two African conferences on 'women and the law'. An office was set up in Harare in 1991 with the intention of lobbying and advocating for women's legal rights. Its main funder is the DGIS. Promotion of legal literacy forms a central part of WILDAFF's work as well as a campaign to educate people regarding potential changes in existing laws. Seminars on legal rights are also organised for teachers.

Women in Law in Southern Africa (WLSA). The objectives of WLSA are to improve the legal position of women in Zimbabwe and five other countries in the region. Lobbying for law reform focuses on the interaction between customary and general law. The view of WLSA and other groups is that the present version of customary law is prejudicial to women. The research undertaken by WLSA is intended to inform and influence action being taken to improve women's legal position. Action research is integrated into their legal rights campaigns. The research generated by WLSA is used by other NGOs including WILDAFF. The action wing of the organisation has disseminated research findings to other NGOs and government departments. WLSA are also closely involved in the Women and Law project based in the MNAECC. As part of this project they help organise plays for school children around social issues affecting women.

Zimbabwe Women's Resource Centre and Network (ZWRCN) was established in the 1980s. It has built up a high quality documentation centre which collects and disseminates information on gender. A wide range of people, (both local and foreign), use the centre which also produces an informative news bulletin covering a wide range of gender issues. ZWRCN currently operates in three main areas: documentation, advocacy and training. Its work is organised thematically. In 1996 land and housing were the main focus. Although ZWRCN has never specifically targeted the education sector, ZWRCN initiates debates on GAD issues and, in 1996, organised a debate on engendering the curriculum. ZWRCN is currently building up an extensive gender training capacity and offers its services to other NGOs, donors and government. In March 1997, for example, ZWRCN organised gender sensitisation for education officers from the MOE. In late 1997, it trained 50 more gender trainers and test materials for the production of a gender training manual.29 The organisation emphasises the importance of getting people to define issues from their own perspective. ZWRCN plays a key role in coordinating advocacy around women's issues in Zimbabwe.30 Its main funder is the DGIS.

29 Most of the information here comes from an interview with the advocacy and gender training officers at ZWRCN.

30 For example, in March 1997 the second reading of the Estates Bill was opened to suggestions from women's groups. WLSA and others made submissions and ZWRCN put together a summary.

The Cambridge Female Education Trust (CamFed)31 was founded in 1992. It consists of two partner organisations CamFed UK and CamFed Zimbabwe. Although it is not a 'home grown' NGO, it is one of the few NGOs to directly address the problems faced by girls in schools. Having identified the economic causes of low enrolment of girls in rural secondary schools, by 1997 CamFed was providing financial assistance to 621 girls attending senior primary and secondary school. The project aims to encourage parity of enrolment at selected rural secondary schools at the same time as raising the self esteem of girls. It seems to have achieved a measure of success with very low drop out rates of girls being registered in the programme.32

31 In 1997 CamFed's funders included CIDA, UNICEF and several private charities.
32 However, the overall impact of the programme awaits an external evaluation in 1997.

A number of conclusions emerge from the review of the activities of local NGOs concerned with gender issues:

· All, the locally based NGOs have in some way promoted a feminist viewpoint which challenges patriarchal attitudes in the society. Their research efforts have been closely tied to lobbying and advocacy. Women's NGOs are constantly faced with the accusation from critics in government and the community that feminism goes against African culture. The director of the Musasa Project offered the following response to this criticism: 'There is no 'real' culture in Zimbabwe. A clear policy framework is needed which sets limits to what Zimbabwe will tolerate'. Furthermore, there is unanimous agreement among the NGO community that the government urgently needs to produce a coherent set of gender policies.

· In the field of legal rights, despite considerable advocacy and lobbying efforts, it is often difficult to measure gains.33 It was the view of some NGOs that donors should make greater use of conditionality to affect change in the area of gender equality. Although few have focused directly on the education system as such, their collective efforts have helped to create an enabling environment for changes in the education sphere.

33 Interview, programme officer, WLSA, Harare.

5.6. Conclusions and recommendations

Compared with the other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Zimbabwe has high levels of participation in the formal education system. Both boys and girls have benefited from government policies which resulted in the rapid expansion of educational provision after independence. Even so, the gender gap in the transition to secondary school has widened since 1985. For various economic, cultural and social reasons, negative attitudes towards girls in both school and community, although less than before, have persisted. Compared with Malawi and Tanzania, there is a limited amount of research available to explain these attitudes and inequalities. What little that has been available has been used by donors in particular to frame their gender policies in the education sector. Government interventions through ministries of women and education have failed to formulate coherent programmes to tackle these gender inequalities in education. This could well be because Zimbabwe is seen as relatively well off in terms of educational provision, with the result that gender equality in education has not been prioritised by policy makers. Even though no local NGOs have focused on gender and education, since the late 1980s, women's organisations have helped to raise the general level of awareness around gender equality issues.

The GEEP initiated by UNICEF in conjunction with gender advocates in the MOE in the early 1990s has started to be implemented. The role of external organisations in gender advocacy has been both considerable and fruitful. There is, however, a need for greater local involvement and initiative with regard to gender equity in education if the momentum already established is to be accelerated and sustained.

The following recommendations include those made by the Zimbabwe working group at the research dissemination seminar held in Harare 12th-13th January 1998.

1. Government Policies

· The government needs to produce a clear gender policy as soon as possible.

· A comprehensive package of gender interventions should be developed, preferably in the context of wider educational reform.

· Priority areas for intervention are curriculum, examinations and teacher training (for both schools and colleges).

· A greater transparency in decision making by government and donors is essential for the development of gender interventions.

· The inspectorate should be included in all gender sensitisation programmes.

2. Donors

· Greater coordination is needed amongst donors (particularly Sida and UNICEF) who have similar gender objectives in their education programmes.

· Gender sensitivity training sponsored by donors should be part of a wider gender strategy whose primary concern should be with developing mechanisms to institutionalise gender in the education system.

3. Gender Issues and Teacher Education

· Gender issues need to be made part and parcel of teacher training.
· The in-service training of teachers should include gender issues.

4. Policies and Practices on Pregnancy

· The pregnancy issue should be reviewed at all levels of the education system with a view to developing a coherent policy of readmission and support for unmarried girls and women.

· Counselling should be provided for these students.

5. Sexual Abuse in Educational Institutes (rape/sexual abuse)

· There is a need to determine the nature and extent of sexual abuse in Zimbabwean education institutions.

· Preventative measures should be put in place so that fewer victims are subject to abuse.

· Harsher penalties should be imposed on the perpetrators of sexual abuse.

· Issues concerning sexuality (i.e. AIDS/HIV, pregnancy, rape) should be tackled in the curriculum.

6. Promotion of Women to Positions of Decision-making and Influence

· In order to encourage qualified women to apply for and take up senior positions in the educational system, particular attention should be paid to women's problems in the job market.

· With regard to teacher training colleges in particular, the Ministry of Education should be more sensitive to the constraints operating against women by providing support and suitable facilities.

7. Women and Vocational Training

· There is a compelling need to open up opportunities for women and girls in non-traditional areas of vocational training.

· Facilities should be made available to enable girls to participate fully in vocational training. For example, appropriate toilets and changing rooms should be provided.

8. Early Learning Education Teachers (ELET)

· In the light of the predominance of women in ELET training and teaching, men should be encouraged to train at this level in order to avoid perpetuating the existing gender role models.

Lessons from Single Sex and Co-educational Schools

· Research should be undertaken in order to identify the factors which explain the success of girls in single-sex schools in order to draw lessons to support girls in coeducational schools.

Reduction to Disparities in Rural/Urban Schools

· More resources should be channelled into rural schools, particularly in the commercial farming areas in order to improve levels of access and achievement of all children.

Content of Educational Material

· A review should be undertaken of the content of educational materials which are presently gender-insensitive.

· Efforts should be made to ensure that teachers are aware of their pedagogical practices.

Coordination and Networking

· Better coordination is needed between the two education ministries as well as other relevant ministries.

· Civil society needs to be more involved in the design and implementation of education policy. The Ministries of Education should link up with NGOs and the wider community in the process of policy design and implementation and experiment with participatory methods.

Gender Coordinating Unit

· In order to promote ongoing communication between interested parties, a gender coordinating unit should be established to deal with gender issues across the entire educational system. The location of such a unit should be decided by persons both inside and outside of government ministries.

The Education Review Commission

· The current Commission of Enquiry into Education and Training should be used as a basis for advocacy and lobbying to promote the specific needs of girls and women.

· The needs of other disadvantaged groups i.e. handicapped children should also be addressed.


· Present research outputs regarding gender and education are limited in scope. There is a need to clarify the nature of problems faced by girls in a number of areas. It is important that donors should continue to support research initiatives both inside and outside of the education ministries. This research will help to identify factors in the school system which have contributed to poor educational outcomes for girls. More research is needed particularly with regard to the issue of pregnant schoolgirls and the gender disparities in vocational training.