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Despite the government's recent efforts to advance girls' rights to education in Uganda, female literacy and school attendance remain low, with 35 percent of girls dropping out. The country should use the Gender Equality Strategy for the Continental Education Strategy for Africa 16-25 (GES4CESA) to accelerate the establishment of a gender-sensitive education system and ensure that all girls and women have the tools they need to have a better future.
Over the last couple of years, Uganda has faced a lot of criticism for its education system. Many experts have shown concern about the varying trends in teaching that focus mainly on assessment at all times as opposed to encouraging learners to be critical thinkers. Others have criticized its inability to ensure gender equality. The system has since gone through numerous changes, including changes in the curriculum, increased funding by the government, and the increased role of the private sector in the provision of education from primary to university education level. However, none of these seems to fix the problem of gender inequality.
The United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative reported that more than 700,000 girls in Uganda between 6 and 12 have never attended school. In addition, around half of girls between the ages of 15 to 24 are illiterate, and four in five girls don’t attend high school. The country also still has a low female literacy rate and school attendance rate, with 35% of girls dropping out of school. To advance gender equality in education, the education system needs to be gender-responsive by design.
This, therefore, calls for an urgent need to speed up the establishment of a gender-sensitive education system that ensures that girls and women can fully participate in the teaching and learning process. And what better tool is best suited for this problem than the GES4CESA, as recommended by the Global Partnership for Education. The Gender Equality Strategy for the Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016-2025 (GES4CESA) was launched during the 3rd African Union Specialized Technical Committee on Education, Science and Technology (STC-EST) in December 2019 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
GES4CESA is a tool developed to assist the Member States in reorienting their education and training systems in order to ensure that as many girls and women acquire the knowledge, competencies, skills, innovation, and creativity required to foster Africa’s development.
The tool is anchored in the commitment of the African Union to gender equality in all aspects of life. The strategy supplements the Continental Education Strategy for Africa 2016-2025, providing an opportunity for African member states to take a strategic approach to address gender inequalities, the exclusion of females in particular, and vulnerable persons in general, as well as integrating gender equality into and through education, from early childhood development to tertiary levels, including technical and vocational education and training.
A report on gender-responsive education sector planning showcases experiences from Malawi, South Sudan, and Zimbabwe, clearly showing that countries that have undergone training sessions on gender-responsive education sector planning (GRESP) and GES4CESA have good performance indicators on girls’ and women’s education.
The report also highlights how education policies should look beyond gender parity in school enrollment in order to put gender equality at the heart of education through gender-sensitive plans and policies. Gender-responsive education sector planning is an essential tool for advancing gender equality in and through education.
If the tool has evidently shown good performance in our neighboring countries, perhaps it's time Uganda picked up a leaf or two.