ADDIS ABABA — Just more than 32 percent of Ethiopian girls are enrolled in education up to ninth grade, and less than 4 percent continue to eleventh grade, according to the Institute of International Education (IIE). Even fewer continue their journey to higher education. A recent IIE program increases higher education among Ethiopian girls.
Ethiopian women have one of the world’s lowest literacy rates at 41 percent, and this is much lower than for Ethiopian men. The gender gap continues into the economy with a little more than 30 percent of women holding professional positions.
The IIE Higher Education Readiness program (HER), implemented in 2013, aims to provide young women in Ethiopia from under-served communities with resources to advance to higher education. The program offered two groups of 100 girls entering eleventh grade scholarship support to complete their secondary education and access tools to continue to university.
This year, the three-year program concluded and the IIE released the impact report of the HER program. The program’s evaluation was based on tracking two groups of participating girls against a control group of their classmates showed the significant impact the resources had on the girls and their families.
Out of 100 primary participants, 89 percent of the students were enrolled in higher education one year after graduating from secondary school, and 100 percent of those who went on to university have successfully completed their first year, according to the IIE.
Within the second group of 100 girls, 98 percent of the students enrolled in higher education. HER students also achieved the highest possible results in the national exam in both schools.
Not only did the program impact the academic success of the individuals that took part but also had a noticeable impact on their perceptions of the importance of education.
According to the final impact report, 96 percent of HER students better understood the importance of education and “indicated greater leadership skills and qualities than the comparison group”.
The program increases higher education among Ethiopian girls as well as their self-worth, the impact study found.
“HER students discovered for themselves that their value as women is equal to that of men,” the report stated. “This understanding changed how they perceive themselves and affected their behavior and plans for the future.”
Another impact was that on the families and communities of the HER students. One student’s guardian stated, “The educational support that is given to her has changed me too. I have understood on practice why educating women is educating the society.”
Younger siblings also showed signs of being influenced, with one HER student stating that her younger sister has become a HER participant after having such a positive role model. The program showed large successes with the students and had positive impacts on their communities.
“Just as HER students were having a profound impact on their immediate surroundings in school and at home, they were impacting and changing their wider local and global communities,” the report stated. “They successfully applied hard and soft skills to help their communities and were recognized in the wider Ethiopian community as future country leaders.”
The program’s achievement went far beyond initial projections. The IIE team continues to follow the HER students until their graduation from university, measuring the long-term impact the program has on participants. Further contributions will likely be seen as the program increases higher education among Ethiopian girls.
– Riley Bunch