Let's Learn! Midline Evaluation of the Tiphunzire Project by Theatre for a Change Malawi
Although Malawi has made significant progress in addressing gender differences in enrollment rates, some 22% of primary school-aged girls do not attend school, while 60% of girls enrolled do not attend school regularly. Furthermore, although enrollment rates have evened in the early years of primary school, more boys are enrolled in later primary years. Dropping-out or missing school results in lower completion rates for girls compared to boys in Malawi, and this is often due to early pregnancy or early marriage. A study on the effect of sexual and reproductive health (SRH) choices and educational trajectories of youth in Malawi show that girls who miss one or more school terms due to pregnancy are less likely to return to school than their counterparts who dropped out for other reasons.
Through funding from the UK Department for International Development’s (DFID) Girls Education Challenge (GEC), Theatre for a Change (TfaC) is implementing Tiphunzire! (Let’s learn!), a set of intervention activities that aim to improve the access, retention and learning outcomes of marginalised girls in 225 primary schools in rural and peri-urban Malawi through improved sexual reproductive health. Through a partnership with the Malawian Ministry of Education, Science and Technology (MoEST), TfaC selected intervention schools and trained over 360 female teachers in specialized skills to meet the needs of marginalized girls and to engage others in the school and the wider community in the promotion of girls’ education. Teachers from Tiphunzire are known as “Agents of Change” (AoCs). TfaC has provided further training and financial support to AoCs throughout project implementation.
AoCs organize weekly afternoon Girl Clubs for both in-school and out-of-school girls. Participants engage in interactive group activities to learn about sexual and reproductive health (SRH), build self-confidence, and train literacy and numeracy skills. These clubs incorporate both in-school and out-of-school girls, many of which have later enrolled back in school. AoCs also support their fellow staff and school authorities in the adoption of Child Protection Policy (CPP) and age-friendly and gender sensitive teaching methods. Tiphunzire also organizes periodical outreach activities with schools and communities and has developed strategic partnerships with local government and civic society organizations through their intervention model.
Scope of Work
The Midline Study synthesized from past learning and tested assumptions affecting implementation in order to improve upon selected strategies and inform future programming.
The Midline Study answered the following key evaluation questions:
To what extent has the project reached and affected marginalised girls?
What impact has Tiphunzire had on marginalised girls’ learning?
What impact has Tiphunzire had on enabling marginalised girls to be in school?
What has worked, why and with what effects?
How sustainable are any changes the project has led to?
To estimate the project’s impact, this study measured Tiphunzire’s attribution to the changes in learning outcomes, access and retention of a stratified sample of Girl Clubs’ participants using a quasi-experimental approach. This approach relies on the study of a ‘counterfactual’ as a way of controlling for unobserved phenomena and of estimating the project’s achievement by means of a fixed effects regression model.
To determine the impact of Tiphunzire’s Project, we analysed a cross-sectional dataset of 1768 marginalized girls participating in Tiphunzire activities since 2013. The data was analysed through three fixed effects regression models using literacy, numeracy and attendance scores as dependent variables. By virtue of its cross-sectional nature, this approach follows a quantitative appraisal of the project’s achievement on the levels, rather than changes, in education outcomes.
For benchmarking exercises, assumption testing and programming the Midline Study also relied on a Household Survey with Parents and Caregivers and a Semi-Structured Questionnaire with Marginlized Girls.
In order to triangulate quantitative findings, and explore effectiveness, relevance, and sustainability, the Midline Study also conducted a number of FGDs and KIIs with project stakeholders.
Whether a girl is pregnant, has ever been pregnant, is married or living as married, or is sexually active is associated her attendance. Sexually active girls attend schools 29% fewer days than average, girls who have been pregnant attend 46% fewer school days on average and girls who have given birth attend, on average, 51% fewer schools days than non-mothers. Girls who are married or living with men as if married attend 23% fewer school days than their unmarried peers. This finding validated a central assumption of the project, that positive sexual and reproductive health is associated with attendance outcomes.
Increased attendance leads to higher learning outcomes in literacy and numeracy. Our findings suggest that attendance is a strong predictor of literacy and numeracy outcomes. Girls who attended school more frequently exhibited higher literacy and numeracy scores as measured through the Early Grade Reading Assessment and the Early Grade Mathematics Assessment.
The Tiphunzire project positively impacted the literacy outcomes of margainlized girls. For a sample of 1090 participants the regression model found that the Tiphunzire project had an impact at the statistically significant levels.
The Midline Study demonstrated that the intervention positively impact on literacy outcomes of marginalized girls. These results are driven by a theory of change whose assumptions have passed statistical testing. From this study’s data, it is possible to tell that sexual activity and marriage are becoming increasingly unrelated and rates of sexual initiation during early teenage years are high among in-school girls and even higher for out-of-school girls. Although sexual activity does not necessarily result in lower learning scores, it does affect a girl’s attendance to school. The same can be said for mothers, married girls and girls who have been pregnant. Given that a higher attendance leads to higher learning, the intervention's focus of improving the knowledge of sexual and reproductive health and rights has been legitimized according to multiple analyses. The emphasis of the project on improving the self-esteem and academic self-efficacy is also well placed, as the relationship between these psychological traits and learning outcomes, attendance and healthy SRH choices has clearly been established. Perhaps as a result, Tiphunzire participants are significantly less sexually active than their control counterparts.