Pro-active initiatives increasing girls university enrollment

Pro-active initiatives increasing girls university enrollment

Date: January 1, 1970
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It’s a cool afternoon in the commercial capital of Tanzania, Dar es Salaam, the weather can be considered a little luxury in the usually hot city. Lilian Mushi , a first year student at Dar Es Salaam Collage of Education (DUCE) is busy selling her manifesto to become treasurer of the new college’s club, known as Tuseme, which means ‘let us talk.’

“I will open the club account; come up with projects to ensure that the new college’s club has a sustainable funding and I will be faithful,” she says to other students. Most of Tuseme Club members are girls who joined the college through a pre-entry science programme for girls, designed to encourage their continued science studies at the university level.
Such programmes can mean that girls, who otherwise would have dropped out of the system, have a chance to further their studies, and improve their futures. The beneficiaries of the DUCE programme are those whose grades fall short for university admission under government sponsorship after their advanced secondary schooling.
Perpetua Urio, gender-mainstreaming coordinator for DUCE, says the girls in the programme went through pre-entry training prepared by the college before they officially registered in the university.
A similar programme has been going on at the University of Dar es Salaam for several years now and has proved successful, not only increasing girls’ enrollment in science faculties, but the university as a whole. Though women still only represent just one third of students found on campus, the female percentage at the University of Dar Es salaam has rise from 16 percent in 1990’s to 26 percent.
Pupil enrollment ratio in primary school is almost 50/50, but this goes down at the secondary and university level. In many instances, this is because of the pressures of family responsibilities and lack of priority placed on girls’ education.  Multiple responsibilities often make it more difficult for girls to get the grades needed to proceed to university.
Early marriage is another reason for girls falling enrollment rates. Tanzanian law allows girls aged as young as 15 to get married with parental consent and between 20% and 40% do so before reaching adulthood, according to the United Nations Population Fund.
Urio is happy with the performance of the 53 students under the pre-entry programme, as most of them have performed very well in their university examinations. She said that some of them have even done better than students who joined the university with high marks.  
DUCE is looking forward in increasing the number of girls through the special programme next year, to 100 girls. The gender coordinator explained that the college failed to achieve its goal of enrolling 100 girls in the first phase (2006/07) because of lack of information to the targeted group.
Urio added that Tuseme Club members will be ambassadors of the pre- entry science programme to the girls in secondary school. Liliani Mushi, who is majoring Biology and Chemistry, is grateful that the programme gave her the opportunity for higher education, adding that the college academician have been helpful and encouraging.
Mushi insists that girls can do sciences, as like any other subjects. In her opinion, most girls are not interested with science due to perceptions that usually associate sciences with men.
The young women at DUCE don’t have far to look for role models to find women succeeding in their chosen carreer. 31-year old Rainfrieda Ngatunga is head of the Public Relations department of DUCE. With two thousand students, she is among the few young women who are part of managerial teams in the country.
 As a head of Public relations, Ngatunga has a major responsibility of maintaining a good image of her college before the eyes of the public. This is a real achievement in country like Tanzania where women are hardly given opportunities to be part of the managerial or decision-making bodies.
Ngatunga she secured the managerial position few months after completing her Masters degree in Development Study from University Of Dar Es Salaam-UDSM. She adds that the four years experiences as a radio journalist at Tanzania Broadcasting Services helps her in attending a day-to-day activities at DUCE.
Ngatunga says that girls should seek good education, be confident and determined to reach on top. The DUCE’ official also says women should cultivate the culture of advancing themselves academically. Talking on where she sees herself in the near future with a smile on her face Ngatunga replied, “I want to study PHD degree and eventually became a lecture in University.”
Ngatunga discourages women who are tempted to give up their dreams once get married. Ngatunga said that it’s not right for them to do so but they should learn to balance their time on when to attend family matters, study or office works.
There are many challenges in getting more girls into schools at every level, primary, secondary and university. However, pro-active initiatives and strong role models can go a long way in encouraging girls to go to, and stay in, school. Education means empowerment and a brighter future, and if it requires a little extra effort, that is what schools and government must do.
Bestina Magutu is with Radio Tanzenis in Tanzania. This article, produced during a GL “Business Unusual” training workshop, is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service that provides fresh views on everyday news.

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