An evaluation of an out of school program to increase access to education for children in the rural areas of Zimbabwe
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After independence, Zimbabwe made significant progress in providing access to education for almost all children. The policy environment for supporting education for all is positive as the country is party to the all the major international agreements that promote education for all and the right to education, and has domesticated these in the Constitution and other legislation. However, with the introduction of the Economic Structural Adjustment Programme in the early 1990s, followed by the economic crisis of 2000 to 2008, this momentum was not maintained. Many children dropped out of school before completion, and others did not to go to school. The Fit for Life Programme was implemented to offer second chance non-formal education to children aged between 15 to 18 years who did not complete formal primary education or never went to school. This research evaluated effectiveness of the Fit for Life Programme in increasing access to education for children in the rural areas of Zimbabwe. A process evaluation approach was applied and questionnaires were used for data collection. The results revealed that the Fit for Life Programme was effective in increasing access for Out of School children in the rural areas of Zimbabwe. The livelihoods and quality of life of the beneficiaries who graduated from the programme differ from those children within the communities who did not enrol in the programme as they are in engaged in ill social behaviours. However, the research also revealed that the programme had some shortcomings which were not anticipated and this was a setback in achieving some of the objectives in some of the programme areas. The shortcomings included a relatively high dropout rate and high levels of absenteeism by the beneficiaries and lack of a MoU. Absenteeism was a major challenge in the programme resulting in a longer training period. The study concluded that the Theory of Change was effective in analysing the implementation of the Fit for Life Programme. Recommendations were made on the improvement of the Fit for Life Programme and these included enhancement of the non-formal vocational and technical training by providing more opportunities for the children; strengthening the implementation of education policies on the ground by availing the necessary resources to monitor and evaluate progress; making education affordable and accessible to all children and conducting more research on areas that need further attention on the problem of out of school children.