Girls’ education should not only stop at enrolling them in school, it should also ensure that girls learn and feel safe socially and physically ....

Girls’ education should not only stop at enrolling them in school, it should also ensure that girls learn and feel safe socially and physically while at school.The boy child inclusive for a better society. Girl Child education is a strategic development priority. Better educated women tend to be healthier, participate more in the formal labor market, earn higher incomes, have fewer children, marry at a later age, and enable better health care and education for their children, should they choose to become mothers. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation, (UNESCO), Uganda has the highest school dropout rate for females in East Africa. Many communities especially in rural Uganda traditionally prefer educating boys compared to the girls because ‘boys continue the family lineage whereas girls are married off and join another family; so why invest in girls?’while according The United Nations Girls' Education Initiative (UNGEI) 2018 reported that more than 700,000 girls in Uganda between the ages of six to 12 have never attended school. In fact, around half of girls between the ages of 15 to 24 are illiterate and four in five girls do not attend high school. According to findings found by Global Girl Child Youth Initiatives after carrying out a research Poverty is a key barrier to schooling. Data collected from 80 schools in Uganda suggest that the main barrier to a girl’s education is poverty. Due to limited finances, struggling parents see their daughters as a vital source of income. Instead of studying books, their girls are brewing and selling beer, traipsing to town to sell charcoal, working in restaurants, weeding or rearing animals. In short, families simply cannot afford to send their girls to school when an extra pair of hands can bring in some money. Girls are also forced to marry young in exchange for a decent ‘bride price’. Teenagers are often sold into marriage in exchange for cattle. In Rural parts of Uganda , the less educated girls are, the higher the bride price. The best preparation for marriage is to stay at home and help, not get an education at school. Approximately 35% of girls drop out of school because of early marriage and 23% drop out due to pregnancy. Over 15% of married women aged 20–49 are married by the age of 15 and nearly half (49%) are married by the age of 18. Teenage pregnancy rates are high - 24% is the national average but in some regions, 34% of teenage girls from the poorest households are pregnant compared to 16% of teenagers from wealthier households. Traditional gender roles keep girls from school Educating girls is not seen as a good investment - even having to buy a pen was enough to discourage some parents from sending their daughters to school. If there is spare cash, it’s the boy who benefits from an education. According to local tradition, a girl can always be married off for money. A male dominated society perpetuates gender inequality, so household chores, child care and caring for the sick are perceived as a female priority. These tasks are so time consuming that girls are left with little time to attend school. Many schools are not ‘female friendly’ and do not encourage girls to participate. At best, these girls are made to feel like second class citizens or worse, run the risk of being sexually abused. With few positive female role models around who embrace education, it’s difficult to break this cycle of harmful negativity. Some girls attempt to finish all their chores and attend school, but they end up working into the evening and are so tired the next day, they’re either late for school or miss it altogether. Unlike boys, they have no time for homework. Absenteeism and unfinished homework leads to knowledge gaps, falling behind and eventually girls dropping out of school altogether. Having failed their education, they are pressured into marriage. There’s also the trap of having to work to pay for their education – it’s a vicious circle. Then there’s the perceived threat of promiscuity – even amongst teachers and the girls themselves – that school ‘corrupts’ female students. There’s a popular belief that most female students are having sex, which consequently drives down their bride price. The school environment cannot protect a girl’s virtue as effectively as her home environment. The few girls who do have time for school face other challenges. Schools are often far away so it takes considerable time to get there on foot. Then there’s the poor quality of teaching, inadequate classrooms and infrastructure, limited books and resources, lack of security, hardly any toilets or running water, low morale of teachers and low achievement rates – none of which are conducive to a good education.Many girl in rural communities can't afford to purchase sanitary pads / towels yet those at menstrual cycle have to go the monthly cycle this leaves many girls to miss school. Almost three quarters of head teachers surveyed acknowledged that facilities for girls at their school were inadequate. Attending school during menstruation is particularly challenging - a lack of changing rooms, toilets and even doors means little privacy. In addition, a lack of wash basins, soap and sanitary products leads to poor hygiene. With the absence of such basic facilities, it’s hardly surprising that girls stay at home during their period. Given these circumstances, it’s also no surprise that boys’ academic performance is better than girls. Having established the key areas which need to be improved, Global Girl Child Youth Initiatives is working with local partners to transform girls’ education in Northern Uganda. Global Girl Child Youth Initiatives already works with schools and district governments in Gulu, Amuru,Kitgum, Abim and Uganda at large to strengthen education. The girls and teachers that we trained there reported a more supportive and inclusive treatment. The new research shows that much more work is needed.


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