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The role of ed­u­ca­tion in so­cioe­co­nomic devel­op­ment is an im­per­a­tive one, and di­rectly im­pacts so­cial in­equal­i­ties re­lat­ing to women and girls, which are em­bed­ded in all spheres of so­cial life – a prod­uct of the sys­temic ex­clu­sion of black peo­ple and women un­der colo­nial­ism and apartheid.

So­cial, po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic dis­crim­i­na­tion and in­equal­i­ties be­tween men and women pro­foundly shaped, and con­tinue to shape, the South African ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem and its out­puts. Yet, in­vest­ing in the ed­u­ca­tion of young girls only stands to ben­e­fit the country in its quest to curb in­creas­ing poverty.

In the Bah·’Ì teach­ings, there are two ex­tra­or­di­nary state­ments about the ed­u­ca­tion of women. First, that women’s ed­u­ca­tion is of greater im­por­tance than men’s ed­u­ca­tion and, se­condly, that not until the equal­ity of op­por­tu­nity in ed­u­ca­tion for the two sexes is es­tab­lished will any country thrive eco­nom­i­cally, so­cially or oth­er­wise. This be­cause women ac­count for roughly half a country’s pop­u­la­tion, per­form two-thirds of the hours worked, re­ceive one-tenth of the country’s in­come, and have less than one hun­dredth of the country’s prop­erty reg­is­tered in their names.

Women’s ed­u­ca­tion is one of the major vari­ables be­hind the rates of so­cial and eco­nomic devel­op­ment, and has been shown to have a pos­i­tive cor­re­la­tion with both. Ac­cord­ing to notable econ­o­mist Lawrence Sum­mers, “in­vest­ment in the ed­u­ca­tion of girls may well be the high­est-re­turn in­vest­ment avail­able in the de­vel­op­ing world”.

The most com­mon way to mea­sure how women’s ed­u­ca­tion ad­vances eco­nomic devel­op­ment is to look at changes in the growth of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct (GDP). This is done by first find­ing the cost of ed­u­ca­tion and the amount of in­come that would have been earned dur­ing years en­rolled in school. The dif­fer­ence be­tween the sum of th­ese two quan­ti­ties and the to­tal in­crease in in­come due to ed­u­ca­tion is the net re­turn that is re­flected through the econ­omy.

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port on ba­sic ed­u­ca­tion by the Stud­ies in Poverty and In­equal­ity In­sti­tute, both in­di­vid­u­als and coun­tries ben­e­fit from women’s ed­u­ca­tion. In­di­vid­u­als who in­vest in ed­u­ca­tion re­ceive a net mon­e­tary gain over the course of their life­time, and this gain cre­ates the over­all eco­nomic pro­duc­tiv­ity of a country.

World Bank lead ed­u­ca­tion econ­o­mist Harry Pa­tri­nos said: “The prof­itabil­ity of ed­u­ca­tion, ac­cord­ing to es­ti­mates of pri­vate rate of re­turn, is in­dis­putable, univer­sal.” The prin­ci­ple holds par­tic­u­larly true for women, who can ex­pect a higher re­turn than men on the re­sources they in­vest in ed­u­ca­tion.

Girls are un­der­rep­re­sented in school­ing, mean­ing that in­vest­ments aimed specif­i­cally at ed­u­cat­ing women should pro­duce big­ger regular earn­ings. How­ever, it is notable that a sub­stan­tive gap in GDP growth is ac­counted for solely by dif­fer­ences in the gen­der gap in ed­u­ca­tion.

The re­port also in­di­cates that, while the en­rol­ment of boys and girls at school is roughly equal, dropout rates among girls be­fore ma­tric are higher. This is be­cause girls’ ed­u­ca­tion is not seen as a pri­or­ity in tra­di­tional house­holds, and some­times girls find them­selves with the bur­den of hav­ing to head house­holds, or have to miss school sim­ply be­cause they don’t have san­i­tary pads. Girls are not just un­der­rep­re­sented, they are un­der­val­ued and face

WOMEN’S UN­DER­REP­RE­SENTED A re­port shows that while the en­rol­ment of boys and girls at school is roughly equal, dropout rates among girls be­fore ma­tric are higher

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