Advancing Girls’ Secondary Education towards SDG 4 and 5
Close to 80% of the illiterate adult community in the world is found in Africa and Asia, that's more than 700 million people. A survey in the year 2000 by UNESCO found that only 52% of the school aged children were enrolled in schools and under 40% of them were girls, the same survey also established that 100 million women in Africa were illiterate with the 40 million children in need of basic education 68% of them were girls (Source UNESCO Institute For Statistics). So how can we reduce these figures by the year 2030, we need to look at the critical challenges faced by most and many African girls, In my country Zambia, Only 55% of girls/women over the age of 15 are literate and in boys/men 70% (Source CIA World Fact Book). So why is their a lower rate for women? common issues pointed out are
Cultural and Traditional influences
Unpaid Care Work and Child Rearing
So how can we as a community reduce these issues that have greatly affected the girl-child in the education sector. I believe to solve this problem it will not call for a straight forward plan or solution like increasing funding or reducing gender bias in selection, but instead a combinations of ideas from different stakeholders is what will solve this problem. In most cases the reason why the are less girls in school is due to cultural and monetary based issues, most families that opt not to send a girl-child (or children) to school experience the most extreme kind of poverty, and in doing so they believe that the opportunity cost of this girl (or child) going to school is much lower compared to her staying home and working, In other cases where the parents do not have sufficient funds to send both their children, a girl and a boy in this case, they would rather send the male child because they believe that the girl will get married and going to school will hinder her development in this area. In Sub-Saharan Africa conflict has lead to the region having the highest illiteracy prevalence rate in Africa. And in some parts of Eastern and Western Africa where dangerous practices such as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) are still being practiced has hampered the education of most girls. Another practice that has distorted education for the girl-child has been early marriages, although the number of early child marriages has reduced it is something practiced across Africa.
Reducing Gender Inequality By 2028.
Full idea description:
A study by a Harvard Professor showed that education inequality is the root of all other inequality and the mitigation of inequality within education would lead to less inequality in other sectors. If we are to achieve Sustainable Development Goal’s (SDG) number 4 and 5 by 2030 we need to a total overhaul of the system and thinking among the masses. I believe to achieve these goals we need a partnership between Governments, NGO’s, The private sector and The International Community, In the case The United Nations. The problems faced by girls in urban areas are different from those who are in the rural, although they are similar, and my idea is this 14 step program,
1. Reformation - In 1979 a convention took place that was adopted by the UN called The Convention On Elimination All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), It set rights and guidelines that offered women Equality in many sectors including education, It was signed by 180 countries. I believe this treaty must be looked at again and instead of giving women equality instead we should give them equity or an unfair advantage for a period of time, maybe 3 to 10 years, This will create better integration into the system not just education but also other sectors for girls and women.
2. Mentorship & Motivation – In my country I have noticed an inferiority complex among most women, this is not something that they develop in their older years but instead its a seed that grows from their time in school. During their time in school they don’t have a reason to finish school they believe I will finish, even if I don’t some man will come and marry me. We do not want the generations coming to think like this so we should create clubs or girl-child women meetings with women that have made it in society and then these clubs will have rounds in school to speak to these girls and motivate them. This will help girls aspire to be more and give them a reason to finish school.
3. The National Incentive – The international community should give nations a reason why to fund education for girls more, incentives can be offered by the international community like for example, the IMF can offer say if you
1. Increase the number of girls Enrolling in school
2. Increase the number of girls finishing school
3. Increase the number of women in leadership positions
and if you achieve these targets by a set percentage in a given amount of time we shall offer you debt reliefs.
4. Family Incentives – At rural level families in these areas see no gain for their children going to school and would rather they see her stay home and do some “unpaid care work” such as child rearing. If the government was to make an offer and say here is a tractor we shall plough your fields during the next farming and harvesting seasons but only if your children spend 90% of their time this year at school.
5. Dissemination Of Information – Ignorance in the rural areas is one of the leading causes of low girl-child school enrollment in Zambia. Parents need to be taught on the benefits of sending their children to school and moving away from practices such as early child marriage, female genital mutilations and cultural & traditional gender bias’. Families in the rural need to be taught more and sensitized about this. And also in the urban areas such projects need to be advertised more so that willing supporters can come on board.
6. Abstinence – Another leading cause is early unwanted teenage pregnancies, girls get pregnant and drop out of school. More organisations should teach abstinence and not safe sex as it has a higher success rate.
7. Statutory Age and of Consent – An increase in both these years would reduce early marriages, early unwanted teenage pregnancies and might help reduce planned marriage practices.
8. SDG number 6 – Clean Water & Sanitation: Ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all. In rural areas the girl child is deprived of important time to study due to cultural & traditional based Bias’ which state that a girls place is in the kitchen. A study showed that in rural areas 60% of a girls time at home to do house chores is spent on drawing water, many of the times these girls have to walk long distances and sometimes the places they get this water is disease infested unsafe waters. Drilling boreholes in rural areas would curb this time by half giving them more time to study and better reticulation in low income neighborhoods would have the same if not better effect.
9. Long Walk To Freedom – In rural areas most children might have to walk long distances to get to school. Some during the rain seasons might even have to cross rivers (The thought of this would make every parent think twice on sending their children to school). Solution Build more schools to those that need them or create mobile schools, some will argue where will the funding come from to do this, answer the fame hungry pop stars of today. A collaboration with these stars would benefit both our causes, she gets her front page headline for doing a concert for the girls in Africa, her album sells, we get the prospects of the concert, we build more schools, more girls have access to basic education which is the first and most crucial step to the next level of education.
10. Food attracts Children – Going back to the idea of getting girls early in school to develop their love for school the more girls we offer basic education the more that will want to carry on with their education up to secondary level and even further to tertiary level, so how do we attract more children to school, A tried formula, Which is used in low income communities in America, The public schools in these communities use food to attract children to school.
11. Corruption & Harassment – A common thing in secondary school (But not only secondary schools but also tertiary level institutions) Teacher offers girls more help and attention in class, study material (most of which is provided by the government and should be given freely to the students), extra credit and a pass in exchange for sex. Girls who face this kind of treatment do not have any authority to who they can report this to, If an office can be set up to investigate and receive such matters this would offer girls a much more clear minded environment to learn in which is critical for good grades.
12. Deficit In Female Teachers – The is already a need for more teachers in my country and within that statistic the number of female teachers is very low. We need more qualified teachers to achieve SDG number 4 by 2030. Sometimes pupils feel more open and comfortable with their teachers and the are cases when a girl has a girl issue to talk about and has no female teachers to reach out to, This can lead to rush decision. With most schools lacking a guidance Councillor it is these teachers who interact with them each day who take this row.
13. Parent Daughter Interactions – Similar to the above, Sex education in my country is a hard topic to swallow between parents and children, even aside from the sex parents are just not talking and being concerned enough for their children. The is great need for more parent-teacher meetings and mother-daughter interactions. Many girls make misdirected and misinformed decisions which would be cut down if more mother-daughter interactions take place, and more parent-teacher meetings would tell the parent in what areas that they could help their daughter in.
14. Girl Only Clubs – This lack of for girl only clubs where girls can interact and teach their young peers. With the main idea of these clubs to help girls with menstrual hygiene education and menstrual hygiene kits. It can put in place services and or facilities in the girls lavatory that would help her in such situations and put up posters in the same to guide girls experiencing this for the first time.
Category of focus:
Successful implementation of this idea would lead to a
1. Increased literacy rate among girls.
2. Increased number of girls finishing secondary education.
3. More women in decision making positions.
4. Achieving of SDG numbers 1, 4, 5, 8 and 10.
5. And help to achieve SDG numbers 2, 3, 6, 8, 9 and 11.
I wrote this thesis based on the problem I have seen in my country, Zambia so it will be best suited for use in Zambia but I believe this idea has the possibility of being implemented in most African regions facing gender inequality and it has the potential to be also used in the other regions facing similar problems.