Equal ed­u­ca­tion still an is­sue in Africa

Lesotho Times - - Africa -

LON­DON — Less than half of the world’s coun­tries have equal num­bers of girls and boys in school with not one sub-sa­ha­ran African na­tion achiev­ing equal­ity, ac­cord­ing to a United Na­tions re­port re­leased on Mon­day to mark In­ter­na­tional Day of the Girl Child.

A set of global goals agreed by the 193 UN mem­ber na­tions in 2000 aimed to end gen­der dis­par­ity in pri­mary and sec­ondary schools by 2005 and in all lev­els of ed­u­ca­tion by 2015.

The re­port by UN cul­tural agency UNESCO and the United Na­tions Girls’ Ed­u­ca­tion Ini­tia­tive said progress had been made, with the num­ber of coun­tries hav­ing equal num­bers of boys and girls in pri­mary and sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion ris­ing to 62 from 36.

But the re­port found still only 66 per­cent of coun­tries had equal num­bers of boys and girls in pri­mary school, only 50 per­cent in lower sec­ondary, and 29 per­cent in up­per sec­ondary.

Afghanistan was named as the worst per­form­ing coun­try for pri­mary en­rol­ment, but the six next most un­equal are all in Africa — the Cen­tral African Re­pub­lic, Chad, Niger, Guinea, Eritrea and Ivory Coast.

There was also a big gen­der gap in sec­ondary school­ing, with 19 coun­tries - all in the Arab states and sub-sa­ha­ran Africa — still hav­ing fewer than 90 girls for ev­ery 100 boys in 2012. In the Cen­tral African Re­pub­lic and Chad in 2012, half as many girls as boys were in sec­ondary school.

Irina Bokova, UNESCO di­rec­tor-gen­eral, said UN mem­bers have just set an am­bi­tious agenda for the next 15 years to end poverty, hunger and ad­dress in­equal­ity which in­cludes en­sur­ing all chil­dren have qual­ity pri­mary and sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion.

“Ed­u­cat­ing a girl ed­u­cates a na­tion. It un- leashes a rip­ple ef­fect that changes the world un­mis­tak­ably for the bet­ter,” Bokova said in a state­ment.

“Suc­cess in this en­deav­our is sim­ply not pos­si­ble with­out ed­u­cated, em­pow­ered girls, young women and moth­ers.”

The re­port said that as of 2012, it was es­ti­mated that al­most 58 mil­lion chil­dren of pri­mary school age were out of school, down from 106 mil­lion in 1999.

But just over half of th­ese live in sub-sa­ha­ran Africa, which is up from 40 per­cent in 1999.

Nine per­cent of chil­dren glob­ally are out of school with girls less likely to start pri­mary school in the first place but boys more likely to fin­ish early.

The re­port cited a list of fac­tors ex­ac­er­bat­ing gen­der in­equal­ity in school in­clud­ing gen­der based vi­o­lence, child mar­riage, the favour­ing of boys in fam­i­lies’ ed­u­ca­tion spend­ing, and the di­rect or hid­den costs of go­ing to school.

“We will never achieve (gen­der equal­ity) un­less we tackle the roots of im­bal­ance: so­cial bar­ri­ers and en­trenched dis­crim­i­na­tory so­cial norms,” said Aaron Be­navot from UNESCO who led the re­search.

Ed­u­ca­tion for girls is en­cour­aged by UNESCO.

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