We should embrace girl-child education
Posted Thursday, October 10 2013 at 01:00
AS the world is commemorating the International Day of the Girl-Child for the second time, this year’s theme is “Innovating for Girls Education and Learning”. The day was declared by the UN General Assembly in 2011, recognising that world over, particularly sub-Saharan African countries, girls are doubly marginalised and denied their rights simply because they are young and are female.
The International Day of the Girl Child serves to recognise girls as a population that faces challenges, including gender-based violence, early marriages, teenage pregnancy, child labour and discrimination at work and at home. In war situations and during emergencies, girls more than boys will bear the brunt of violence, torture, rape, defilement and forced marriage, including forced slavery in armed conflict.
In Uganda, the girl-child education situation is gradually changing. However, society is yet to appreciate the intrinsic value and contribution of girls in the transformation of communities. We still have people in this 21st Century, who think that educating girls is a waste of time and resources. Even the environment under which the girls live and operate has got minimal role models who could be of help in shaping their aspirations and goals in life. For instance, you will find a young girl deep in a rural setting who will tell you that her goal is to become a housewife!
We must all join efforts to support girls’ education and their retention in school. Primary school enrolment statistics point towards gender equality (49 per cent girls 51 per cent boys). Greater access to schooling is, however, not enough. Fewer girls, less than 30 per cent, who start Primary One, complete Primary Seven on time. The same applies for secondary education. According to the Education Sector Annual Performance Review 2010, secondary education completion rate for girls was only 32 per cent compared to 45 per cent for boys.
Special measures are called for to help girls join, stay in schools and learn. These should address the often cited factors for school dropout ranging from early marriages, early pregnancies, lack of scholastic materials such as books and pens, lack of basic sanitary facilities such as toilets and changing rooms in case of menstruation, sanitary pads plus changing dresses. Girls are also faced with heavy domestic obligations where they bear the sole responsibility of looking after homes and digging before going to school.
The above challenges affecting girls can also be addressed by the society changing the perception about the girl-child. If you are a responsible parent, it is your duty to ensure that your daughter is in school other than being in the kitchen or garden during school hours. This is not to say that girls should not do any household chores but this should be done at the right time which won’t infringe on their education.
Justine Nakiwala, Communications Manager Plan Uganda