World-leading programme design in Kenya

Our work in Kenya, part of the UK government Department for International Development (DFID) Girls' Education Challenge, has been identified as one of the most effective GEC Step Change projects in the world.

'We are particularly proud of the work we do in Kenya to improve the life chances of some of the country's most disadvantaged girls,' comments Chief Executive Patrick Brazier. 'To have our work verified as one of the most successful interventions of its type in the world is a real accolade and testament to our insightful solution design and experience of large-scale implementation.'

We designed our programme – Wasichana Wote Wasome, Kiswahili for ‘let all girls learn’, and known locally as WWW – to improve the life chances of some particularly disadvantaged girls. The programme was implemented in two distinct and very different contexts: largely rural arid and semi-arid lands (ASAL) and urban slums in the major cities of Nairobi and Mombasa. Although different in many ways, these two settings have in common the prevalence of communities that are extremely deprived economically, where women and girls often lead very difficult lives.

A holistic approach for sustainable change

Our focus was on 500 primary schools across the two contexts: 250 schools in the ASAL counties of Turkana, Marsabit, Samburu, Tana River, Kwale and Kilifi and 250 schools in the suburban slums in Mombasa and Nairobi. We identified out-of-school girls in the local communities served by these schools and encouraged them to enrol or return. We sought to ensure that those girls already in the schools stayed in school, and had a positive experience, with good outcomes in terms of academic performance, healthy lifestyles, ambitions and self-confidence. Our programme adopted a holistic approach engaging with girls – and also boys – together with their parents, teachers, school leaders and community representatives.

DFID commissioned an independent global review of the GEC programme of which WWW was a part. This used a particularly rigorous evaluation methodology including a randomised controlled trial comparison of the performance of the girls that we supported, with a control group of girls outside the programme. The DFID independent evaluation identified WWW as one of the most effective GEC projects in the world; not only did many girls re-engage in education but the academic achievements of the girls in school were particularly impressive. 
The independent evaluation confirmed that 88,921 specific girls had been direct beneficiaries of the intervention. In terms of literacy gains, girls supported through WWW did better than girls supported through any other GEC Step Change intervention; they performed at a statistically significantly higher level than girls in the control group.

The target group of girls that we supported did particularly well in literacy but also made progress in numeracy outcomes. WWW was the only GEC Step Change project in the world that showed a significant difference for both literacy and numeracy for Lower Primary girls.

Although the primary focus was on the girls, the evaluation considered that a similar number of boys – almost 90,000 – also derived benefit from the improvements to teaching and learning in the target schools.
A wider group of almost 180,000 students – both girls and boys – in the ASAL and urban slums, also benefitted from the project. 

Additional indicators of success

In addition to the findings of the independent evaluation study there are additional indicators of success: we agreed a project target that 6,000 out-of-school girls should be both identified and enabled to enrol. In fact, we greatly exceeded this target: 9,596 out-of-school girls were enrolled in school, including 320 previously out-of-school teenage mothers.

By the end of the project a survey of girls' attitudes in the schools we were supporting revealed 93% of girls reporting that they were ‘happy at school most or all of the time’ compared to a baseline response of 85%. 

We administered a survey exploring the attitudes of community leaders – of both genders – at both the beginning and the end of the project. At the baseline only 57% agreed with the statement that 'vulnerable girls in our community should attend school'. By the end of the project this figure had risen to 84%. 

As well as these impressive quantitative metrics, we also have powerful qualitative testimony from the girls themselves. Some of the most moving accounts come from the teenage mothers, who had been both excluded from education and stigmatised until new, life-changing opportunities were made available through WWW.

'After I became pregnant, I felt the whole world had abandoned me. Upon enrolment, I found the teachers supportive of my resolve. They were ready to listen whenever I was down. In addition, being a member of the school club helped me. The club members were like family to me. They made me feel part of them. I no longer felt like a stranger. I could now concentrate on my studies. On top of that, I got time to discover my talent: football. I love football very much.' 

F, age 15 

'I have gone through a lot. I had given up in life. Thanks to the teachers and Wasichana Wote Wasome, I have new hope. The teachers allow me to come home to breastfeed the baby. My family is also supportive; they stay with my baby as I attend classes and sometimes bring her to me for breastfeeding. In a way, I feel that the baby has been a blessing to me for I now have a new resolve to pursue education. I am more focused and self-driven. I want to transform the economic status of my family through education.' 

M, age 16  

What next?

Based on the success of Wasichana Wote Wasome, DFID is funding a major follow-up intervention in the same eight counties of Kenya. The new project, Wasichana Wetu Wafaulu – Kiswahili for 'let our girls succeed' – is supporting 72,000 girls currently in primary school to complete their current phase of education, achieve improved learning outcomes and transition successfully to a productive and positive next phase.