Adolescent girls are often forced to leave school in Africa, but a new programme is bringing the classroom to them
Brac’s ‘study club’ targets girls who have dropped out of secondary school so they can continue to receive academic tutoring. Photograph: Chris Noble/Aurora Photos/Corbis
We face tremendous problems keeping girls in school as they transition through adolescence. In Sierra Leone, 30% of reported rapes take place in the school environment, and a recent ruling banned “visibly pregnant” girls from school. When the school itself becomes a hostile setting, it should come as no surprise that dropout rates shoot up.
Education programmes tend to fall short when it comes to dropouts. Brac schools have raised primary and pre-primary enrolment rates in six countries, getting 1.3 million more children into classrooms – most of whom are girls and all of whom would otherwise be left behind. But we need to think more creatively when it comes to adolescent girls who have already dropped out.
We are piloting a programme in Tanzania – where only 36% of all children go on to secondary school, mostly boys – to educate girls who have already dropped out. I recently visited the northern region, where dropout rates are highest. In Mwanza, I met a girl named Kesy. She’s just completed her primary leaving examination for grade 7. “My parents did not let me go and see my results, nor did they go to see it. I did not go back to school after that,” she told me.
Girls like Kesy drop out for a host of reasons: poverty, early pregnancy or marriage. They also face gender-based violence and harassment, parental indifference and traditions that inhibit girls’ ability to make their own decisions. I’ve even heard stories about parents bribing teachers to declare their daughters dead so they don’t have to return to school.
It is impossible for girls to return to school after they have dropped out. Catching up would require a costly course in self-study, which few can afford. We’re exploring an alternative: bringing schooling back to the girls, rather than vice versa.
Kesy is now part of a Brac “study club”, a programme that targets girls who have dropped out of secondary school or were unable to continue schooling because they failed the primary leaving examination.
We’ve set up 150 study clubs – girls-only safe spaces, situated in borrowed or rented rooms outside the school setting and within walking distance of girls’ homes. The girls, numbering about 13 per club, meet five times a week, receiving academic tutoring in the mornings and life skills education in the afternoons. Each club is led by a “community tutor”, a recent secondary school graduate from the area, who receives a small stipend.
We provide a limited number of self-teaching textbooks, which are shared among groups of three or four to save costs. We also provide educational materials such as books and pens for the girls. They are registered in, and the tutors are trained by, the government’s Institute for Adult Education (IAE), the entity charged with overseeing continuing education. Brac provides additional support through monthly refresher training for the tutors.
In Tanzania only 36% of children go to secondary school. Photograph: Graeme Robertson
To fill the community tutor positions, we drew from Brac’s existing networks of microfinance groups and livelihood programmes. We also conduct community and parent meetings to heighten awareness of the importance of keeping these girls on an educational track.
We aim for a holistic approach that will give the girls a second chance at education and make them more aware of their capabilities. The combination of education and life skills along with parental awareness will help them reach their potential.
The results so far are positive but anecdotal; an independent evaluation will determine how and whether we scale. However, the support and enthusiasm from the community and government is inspiring. The pilot now reaches 1,950 girls in five regions, operating with support from UK Aid’s Girls Education Challenge.
The idea of safe spaces for girls isn’t new to Brac. We have already recorded remarkable changes in their lives through participation in a programmes called Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA), which combines life skills and livelihood training with micro-loans in a girls-only club setting. These clubs operate in five countries in Africa.
In Uganda, where 70,000 girls belong to these clubs, a randomised control trial recorded a drop in pregnancy rates, a rise in self-employment and 83% fewer reports of forced sex. These were all attributed to participation in ELA clubs, which are run in partnership with the MasterCard Foundation.
But until now, we haven’t applied the safe spaces concept to academics. There are others working in this area in Tanzania, but we don’t know of anyone doing similar study clubs. Unicef, the Forum for African Women Educationalists (Fawe), Camfed and Tanzania Education Network are looking at ways to keep girls learning, with Unicef particularly concerned with keeping options open for young mothers.
Brac has committed to scaling up girls’ education and empowerment efforts, and piloting new ones like these, in at least eight countries. To do this, we look forward to learning from others as part of the Collaborative for Harnessing Ambition and Resources for Girls’ Education (Charge), which brings together 40 organisations pursuing similar goals under the umbrella of the Brookings Institution.
I can see the difference the Tanzania study clubs are already making. These girls have enthusiasm, will and ambition. Many declare they want to be teachers. We need to give them the tools they need to build their futures.
Rafiath Rashid Mithila is the senior manager of education at Brac International
28 July 2015, Dhaka. At the seminar on ‘Way forward to stop child marriage’, experts demanded that the minimum age for marriage should be kept18 years. The seminar, organised by BRAC on 28 July 2015, was attended by government representatives, local representatives, Nikah registrars (kazis), religious leaders (Imams), and representatives from human rights organisations, non-government organisations and media.
Sheepa Hafiza, director of BRAC’s gender justice and diversity and migration programmes, presented the keynote paper. The major findings of the keynote paper included opinions and recommendations collected from the workshops held in 19 sub-districts of Bangladesh. A total of 1,294 people participated in these sub-district workshops, including representatives from local government, civil society, NGOs, and religious leaders.
State minister for Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA), Meher Afroz Chumki said, “There is no scope for confusion on the minimum age for marriage. It remains 18. Our government is a women-friendly government and will not take any step that will affect women’s overall welfare.”
During the open discussion the religious leaders, local government representatives and speakers suggested using voter ID or birth certificate to confirm the age of girls and boys; stop illegal appointments of sub-kazis, and holding regular discussions to raise awareness on this issue during various social and religious gatherings.
Present as a special guest, Dr Rasheda K Chowdhury, executive director of CAMPE said, “We have to strengthen the birth registration offices, so that no one can change the original birth date.” She added, “Girl child drop out from school is one of the major reasons for child marriage. It has been observed that a major drop outs happen when stipends are stopped due to less than 80 per cent attendance for girls. Sanitation is a major factor here influencing girls’ attendance. So the government needs to ensure sanitation at schools as well.”
The seminar was chaired by BRAC’s executive director, Dr Muhammad Musa. In his concluding speech he said, “Along with enforcing the law, we have to create a social movement to prevent child marriage. We need to bring a change in our patriarchy-based social psyche”.
Present as guests were chairperson of Jatiyo Mahila Parishad, Ayesha Khanam, former chairperson of Women and Gender Studies Department of Dhaka University, Professor Nazma Chowdhury, DIG of Police, Mili Biswas, country representative of DFID Sarah Cook, and Farzana Rupa from Channel 71.
BRAC has established an office of the Ombudsperson with a comprehensive mandate to investigate any incident of misadministration and misuse of power within BRAC. This includes grievances such as corruption, abuse of power or discretion, negligence, oppression, nepotism, rudeness, arbitrariness, unfairness and discrimination. BRAC's current ombudsperson is Ms Rokeya Sultana.
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Risk Based Internal Audit (RBIA)
Risk based internal auditing (RBIA) as a methodology that links internal auditing to an organisation's overall risk management framework. RBIA allows internal audit to provide assurance to the Finance & Audit Committee that risk management processes are managing risks effectively, in relation to the risk appetite. Under this audit, Internal Audit Department will focus on the risky areas of the internal control systems rather than the total process of a system.
System Audit is one of the latest auditing models which was introduced at BRAC Internal Audit Department in 2016. System Audit is designed to ensure and report to the management about the adequacy and effectiveness of the overall control system already operated and to report for further system enhancement and development.
Information Systems Audit
To pay attention to the need of information security and control as well as information resource and components management, Information Systems Audit has been initiated this year. For this Information Systems Audit Program and Checklists have been developed incorporating Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA) standards and global best practices.
Compliance services helps to identify whether the organisation’s internal and external compliances culture is practiced or not. Following are the compliance services:
Physical verification of inventory, fixed assets and cash
Physical verification of inventory, fixed assets and cash is an important part of the organisation’s internal controls. As a part of periodic requirement, Internal Audit Department conduct an annual physical count of inventories, assets and cash to verify actual quantities, values and amounts.
Internal Audit Department conducts Surprise Audit considering the nature and level of risks as well as assessment of Internal Auditors.
Special Audit/ Investigation
Any special audit and investigation is carried out by Internal Audit Department individually or jointly with the other departments if assigned by Finance and Audit Committee.
Internal audit department of BRAC and BRAC International is headed by the Director, Internal Audit. With professional experience of more than 18 years in internal control system, assurance, accounting, compliance management, risk management, income tax and legal affairs, Director ensures the delivery of responsibilities that IAD of BRAC and BRAC International has been entrusted with.
Currently IAD is empowered with a total of 282 permanent staff of which 239 works under BRAC and 43 works under BRAC International. Most of IAD staff has professional accounting and auditing background. A considerable number of senior officials of IAD are members of professional bodies like ICAB, IIA, ACCA and ISACA.
|Total number of staff||239||43|
|Number of staff with professional accounting and auditing background||145||18|
|Staff with one or more membership of professional bodies from the following:||23||9|
|Institute of Internal Auditors, Bangladesh (IIAB)||13||2|
|Institute of Chartered Accountants of Bangladesh (ICAB)||3||1|
|Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)||1||-|
|Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)||5||4|
|Certified Public Accountant (CPA) -Tanzania||-||3|
|IICFIP (International Institute of Certified Forensic and Investigative Audit Professionals)||-||1|
|Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA)||1||1|
|ISO/IEC 27001 Lead Auditor||3||-|
Internal Audit Department of BRAC and BRAC International(BI) is committed to assist BRAC and BRAC International by providing an independent appraisal within BRAC and BRAC International to determine the appropriateness, soundness and adequacy of the organisations' accounting, financial and operational controls. These appraisals provide information and recommendations to stakeholders. In addition to the formal and regular audits, we are happy to answer questions and give advice regarding specific policies and procedures and act as consultants on internal controls.
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Internal Audit Charter
Internal Audit Charter provides the framework of internal audit procedures in BRAC and BRAC International. This has been approved by the Chairperson of BRAC and by the Finance and Audit Committee of BRAC. The Charter primarily aims to define and establish the following elements for Internal Audit Department (IAD) of BRAC and BRAC International:
To know more about internal audit charter of BRAC and BRAC International, you may download the Internal Audit Charter from the following link:
Core Functions of Internal Audit Department
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Office of Director
Internal Audit Department, BRAC and BRAC International
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Tel: 88 02 2222 81265, Fax: 88 02 2222 63542
BRAC's internal control system is designed to get reasonable assurance about effectiveness and efficiency of operations, reliability of financial data and compliance of applicable rules, regulations and procedures. Management's integrity, attitude, actions, and ethical values help raise consciousness control among the staff. BRAC management believes that controls are important to achieve the objectives and to communicate its view to staff at all levels. Clear policies and procedures, documentation process, table of authority, segregation of staff duties, supervision and accountability have made the organisation transparent. Considering the internal control a continuous process BRAC periodically reviews and modifies the system in the changing circumstances. At the top of its control mechanism, there exists the willingness of BRAC governing body to ensure internal control and transparency.
BRAC became a full charter member of the INGO Accountability Charter in December 2013. The INGO Accountability Charter was incorporated in 2008. It is registered as a company in the UK and having its secretariat in Berlin, Germany. The objective is to create and develop a charter relating to the accountability of non-governmental organisations. At present there are 26 full charter members. Please visit the link to the Charter website for details: http://www.ingoaccountabilitycharter.org.
The Accountability Reports submitted by BRAC are available in the website of INGO Accountability Charter at this link: http://www.ingoaccountabilitycharter.org/home/charter-members/brac.
Child Protection Policy:
In December 2010, BRAC's governing board adopted the following child protection policy,
BRAC Child Protection Policy
Gender Policy: BRAC promotes gender equity and equality within the organisation. To provide the right direction and guidelines to all BRAC staff, BRAC has implemented Gender Policy and Sexual Harassment Elimination Policy,
BRAC Gender Policy
BRAC Sexual Harassment Elimination Policy
BRAC has for over forty years made the safety of the participants of its programmes as well as the safety of the employees of its programmes and enterprises of paramount importance in the way it has conducted its (anti-poverty) work.
BRAC Safeguarding Policy
Memorandum of Association: Memorandum of Association - BRAC (Revised in 2013)
7th October 2014
11 November 2014