One particular challenge facing education in Africa is the high dropout rate among female students. A report from the South African Institute of International Affairs says about 40 million African children are not in school. Of these, about two-thirds are girls.
A Ugandan educational specialist told English to Africa reporter Joana Mantey that in trying to deal with the problem, it is important to support female education due to its likely impact on development. Florence Kanyike says one way to do this is building the confidence of girl students through gender-based clubs called “Tuseme” (“Speak Out”) in Tanzania and Kenya, and the “Girls Education Movement” (GEM) in Uganda. Kanyike is the Ugandan coordinator for the Nairobi-based Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE).
Another way to support female education is to make schools gender-friendly, such as by establishing separate toilets for boys and girls. Many girls drop out of school because of insufficient privacy, and at times ridicule by boys, during menstruation.
Kanyike says, “Educating girls is important because of the traditional role given to women. The division of labor puts a lot of responsibility on women in terms of energy conservation, food security and environmental protection. Therefore when educated they are able to do this effectively.” Most female students in Africa drop out of school when they reach puberty, while others do so when they get pregnant. Kanyika attributed this to ignorance and to the traditional preference for sons.
“They need counseling and guidance, which is not provided in most cases. Therefore most of them make mistakes with their body. They are not able to determine what is good for them and many end up being manipulated into sexual activity and therefore [get] pregnant…. Many are not given an opportunity to get back into school because their parents [feel] they have wasted money.”
She said the Tuseme clubs – by “providing an opportunity for girls to speak out on issues that affect their education and life” – also build confidence and strengthen the commitment to get a good education.