News / Africa

Cameroon’s Girl-Child Education Efforts Limping

Fewer than 18 percent of girls in Cameroon's Far North Region attend schools such as Maroua Government Bi-Lingual High School. (VOA/Ntaryike Divine Jr)                         Fewer than 18 percent of girls in Cameroon's Far North Region attend schools such as Maroua Government Bi-Lingual High School. (VOA/Ntaryike Divine Jr)
x
Fewer than 18 percent of girls in Cameroon's Far North Region attend schools such as Maroua Government Bi-Lingual High School. (VOA/Ntaryike Divine Jr)
Fewer than 18 percent of girls in Cameroon's Far North Region attend schools such as Maroua Government Bi-Lingual High School. (VOA/Ntaryike Divine Jr)
Ntaryike Divine Jr.
Cameroon has earned steady global plaudits for its efforts over the past decade at enhancing access to quality education for its children. UNICEF, for example, ranks the country’s net primary school enrollment rate of 88 percent, among the highest in West and Central Africa.
 
However, current figures display a persisting imbalance as girls continue lagging behind boys and observers now warn the country may well veer off the Education for All target of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals. 
 
According to countrywide statistics furnished by the Ministry of Women’s Empowerment and the Family, between the ages of 6 and 14, only 80 percent of girls attend school compared to 94 percent of boys.
 
Yawning Gender Gap
 
Gender disparity between boys and girls varies from urban areas to the far-flung poverty-stricken hinterlands, and especially in predominantly Muslim and polygamy-friendly communities. In the Far North Region, for example, more than 98 percent of boys are enrolled school-goers, against only 69 percent of girls.
 
The situation in Cameroon mirrors the bigger picture for Sub-Saharan Africa where efforts to recruit and keep girls in school are slow because of low perceptions of the benefits of education, public perceptions that girls don’t need education, extreme poverty and the low levels of education of parents of students. 
 
Cultural expectations of young girls are a major factor. “Forty percent of girls abandon school before they reach the fourth and fifth years of primary education,” said UNICEF’s Cameroon operations chief, Daouda Guindo.  “Thirty-one percent of girls get married before the age of 15.”
 
The country’s three northern and eastern regions with the poorest girl-child school attendance rates have been targeted as priority zones in need of strategies to improve young girls’ attendance. In the Far North Region on the fringes of the Sahara Desert, the situation is particularly troubling with fewer than 17 of every 100 girls in school.
 
Unwavering Chauvinism
 
Experts blame falling girl-child attendance on several social factors that relegate African girls to cooking, cleaning and having babies.
 
Listen to report on girls' education by Divine Ntaryike
Listen to report on girls' education by Divine Ntaryikei
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X

“Some parents prefer to give priority to boy education with the reason that the girl will be going on marriage soon and there’s no need to invest in her.  Some parents don’t have enough resources and prefer to focus on the education of the boy,” said Plan International Cameroon’s communications adviser, Jaïre Moutcheu.
 
And that’s not all. Despite long years of campaigning against child marriages, increasing numbers of adolescent girls in Cameroon’s north and east are still being forced into marriage.  Most times, the girls don’t know who they are getting married to, and can’t choose between polygamy and monogamy. 
 
Girl-Child Bridal Tyranny
 
“Yes. It’s true,” said13-year-old Boutou Farida Mohamat, a member of Cameroon’s Children’s Parliament and a student at the Maroua Government Bi-lingual High School in the Far North Region. “They just see the man on the day of marriage. Some of them are very old. The man can even be the great grandfather. It’s so possible,” 
 
For two years, Boutou Farida has been unable to forget her friend, a victim of premature wedlock who died during childbirth. 
 
Boutou Farida Mohamat, 13, is a member of the Children's Parliament of Cameroon and a student in Far North Region.Boutou Farida Mohamat, 13, is a member of the Children's Parliament of Cameroon and a student in Far North Region.
x
Boutou Farida Mohamat, 13, is a member of the Children's Parliament of Cameroon and a student in Far North Region.
Boutou Farida Mohamat, 13, is a member of the Children's Parliament of Cameroon and a student in Far North Region.
“I had one friend, but she’s no longer alive,” she said. “Her parents arranged a marriage for her and when it was time for her to give birth, she just died and they could not even operate on her to take out the child.  She was so small.  She was 12 years old.”
 
Elsewhere, civil society activists warn that growing numbers of girls in schools across the region are being targeted by teachers and male classmates. There are also reports that some local officials such as education delegates and gendarmerie commanders sexually abuse under-age students in the belief that having sex with virgins brings wealth and power. Many such abuses go unreported by parents who feel powerless to confront the abuses.
 
Although some incidents are not reported and statistics are not available Aminatou Sali Mourbare, the co-founder of Local Action for Participatory and Self-managed Development (ADELPA), said the number of reported cases is soaring. “We have cases of girls of four years being raped.”
 
“It’s happening all around here and people are aware,” Aminatou Sali said of rape and child abuse. More women are being encouraged to report incidents of rape and other abuse, “But most cases are shielded from public notice by the silence of parents,” she said. Some parents prefer secret arrangements because they fear that their girls will be stigmatized if the public knows they have been raped.  "But such silence to me is connivance,” she argued.
 
Lifting the barriers
 
The government works alongside UNICEF, Plan International and others to boost girl-child school attendance: building parent awareness, providing private toilet facilities, offering free textbooks and scholarships to girls, for example. However, dropout rates for girls are only timidly paying off.
 
“It’s not yet 100 percent, but we’re improving,” said Women’s Empowerment Minister Marie Therese Abena. “And it’s you, your brother, sister, grandmother who still believe in female genital mutilation; your grandfather who still believes in sending a girl to marry before the age of 15.

"So each one of us has to do his own share of the work so that we can see the girl-child evolve in our society and contribute.” 
 
Commemorating the second edition of the International Day of the Girl Child last October 11 under the theme Innovating for Girls’ Education, advocates agreed that educating more girls and women would increase the quantity and quality of human resources needed to drive forward the country’s development. Women comprise the majority of Cameroon’s over 20 million inhabitants but remain far under-represented in the country’s decision-making institutions.
 
Efforts by the government of Japan, UNICEF and the Cameroon government promote construction of hundreds of “girl-child friendly” primary schools, especially in areas with lowest girl enrollment by offering meals to improve girls attendance and increase support for grassroots women’s advocacy groups promoting girl-child education.  Hopefully, experts conclude, such interventions will help bridge the education gaps between Cameroon’s boys and girls in the near future.

You May Like

Will Cuba Follow the Southeast Asia Model?

Decision to restore ties between US and Cuba has some debating whether it will lead to enhancement or regression of democracy for Communist island nation More

Kenyan Designer Finds Her Niche in Fashion Industry

‘Made in China’ fabrics underlie her success More

Report: CIA, Israel's Mossad Killed Senior Hezbollah Commander

The Washington Post story says Imad Mughniyah was killed instantly by a bomb "triggered remotely" from Tel Aviv by Mossad agents More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Lateri
X
Deborah Block
January 31, 2015 12:12 AM
Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Jefferson's Library Continues to Impress, 200 Years Later

Two hundred years after the U.S. Congress purchased a huge collection of books belonging to former President Thomas Jefferson, it remains one of America’s greatest literal treasures and has become the centerpiece of Washington’s Library of Congress. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.
Video

Video Egypt's Suez Canal Dreams Tempered by Continued Unrest

Egypt plans to expand the Suez Canal, raising hopes that the end of its economic crisis may be in sight. But some analysts say they expect the project may cost too much and take too long to make life better for everyday Egyptians. VOA's Heather Murdock reports.
Video

Video Threat of Creeping Lava Has Hawaiians on Edge

Residents of the small town of Pahoa on the Big Island of Hawaii face an advancing threat from the Kilauea volcano. Local residents are keeping a watchful eye on creeping lava. Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Pro-Kremlin Youth Group Creatively Promotes 'Patriotic' Propaganda

As Russia's President Vladimir Putin faces international pressure over Ukraine and a failing economy, unofficial domestic groups are rallying to his support. One such youth organization, CET, or Network, uses creative multimedia to appeal to Russia's urban youth with patriotic propaganda. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Filmmakers Produce Hand-Painted Documentary on Van Gogh

The troubled life of the famous 19th century Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh has been told through many books and films, but never in the way a group of filmmakers now intends to do. "Loving Vincent " will be the first ever feature-length film made of animated hand-painted images, done in the style of the late artist. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Issues or Ethnicity? Question Divides Nigeria

As Nigeria goes to the polls next month, many expect the two top presidential contenders to gain much of their support from constituencies organized along ethnic or religious lines. But are faith and regional blocs really what political power in Nigeria is about? Chris Stein reports.
Video

Video Rock-Consuming Organisms Alter Views of Life Processes

Scientists thought they knew much about how life works, until a discovery more than two decades ago challenged conventional beliefs. Scientists found that there are organisms that breathe rocks. And it is only recently that the scientific community is accepting that there are organisms that could get energy out of rocks. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports.
Video

Video Paris Attacks Highlight Global Weapons Black Market

As law enforcement officials piece together how the Paris and Belgian terror cells carried out their recent attacks, questions are being asked about how they obtained military grade assault weapons - which are illegal in the European Union. As VOA's Jeff Swicord reports, experts say there is a very active worldwide black market for these weapons, and criminals and terrorists are buying.
Video

Video Activists Accuse China of Targeting Religious Freedom

The U.S.-based Chinese religious rights group ChinaAid says 2014 was the worst year for religious freedom in China since the end of the Cultural Revolution. As Ye Fan reports, activists say Beijing has been tightening religious controls ever since Chinese leader Xi Jinping came to office. Hu Wei narrates.
Video

Video Theologians Cast Doubt on Morality of Drone Strikes

In 2006, stirred by photos of U.S. soldiers mistreating Iraqi prisoners, a group of American faith leaders and academics launched the National Religious Campaign Against Torture. It played an important role in getting Congress to investigate, and the president to ban, torture. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Former Sudan 'Lost Boy' Becomes Chess Master in NYC

In the mid-1980’s, thousands of Sudanese boys escaped the country's civil war by walking for weeks, then months and finally for more than a year, up to 1,500 kilometers across three countries. The so-called Lost Boys of the Sudan had little time for games. But one of them later mastered the game of chess, and now teaches it to children in the New York area. VOA’s Bernard Shusman in New York has his story.
Video

Video NASA Monitors Earth’s Vital Signs From Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, is wrapping up its busiest 12-month period in more than a decade, with three missions launched in 2014 and two this month, one in early January and the fifth scheduled for January 29. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, the instruments being lifted into orbit are focused on Earth’s vital life support systems and how they are responding to a warmer planet.

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More

All About America

AppleAndroid