Education is the key to a healthier, more economically developed society, especially when every child has a chance to benefit from it. Guinea, a small country in West Africa, is no exception. Although girls’ education in Guinea is often impeded by gender bias and traditional views of women’s roles in society, the country has made great strides to create a more equal education system. Keep reading to learn the top 10 facts about girls’ education in Guinea.
Top 10 Facts About Girls’ Education in Guinea
- There is a steep drop in girls’ enrollment between primary and secondary school. While close to 77 percent of girls attend primary school, only 25 percent of girls of secondary school age are attending. This dramatic difference is largely due to teen girls dropping out to help at home or as a result of child marriage.
- Gender bias hinders girls’ education in Guinea. Families with multiple children, especially those in rural areas, tend to choose to educate boys instead of girls. Guinean girls face the issue of being taken out of school to help with younger siblings and assist with cooking or other housework. This significantly affects their ability to keep up with schoolwork, which furthers the likelihood of dropping out altogether.
- Child marriage is a major barrier to girls’ education. In 2017, Guinea adopted the African Union campaign to end child marriage. Since the campaign’s launch, while 51 percent of Guinean girls are married before the age of 18, only 21 percent are married before 15. This number shows a slow but marked progress in keeping teen girls in school.
- A lack of proper toilet facilities keeps many girls out of school. For girls of menstruating age, the ability to dispose of sanitary pads and wash their hands in a single-sex bathroom is essential. UNICEF estimates that 10 percent of female students in Africa will skip school during their periods due to improper facilities, resulting in missed lessons and raising the likelihood of abandoning school altogether.
- Gender-based violence also poses a problem to girls’ education in Guinea. Sexual harassment—even assault—is not an uncommon occurrence for female students. Additionally, some male teachers may demand sexual favors for a passing grade, even if the student has earned a high mark on her own. While there is a lack of statistical data in regards to these assaults as they are often unreported, they are a common enough occurrence for families to worry about their daughters’ safety at school.
- There is a major disparity in literacy rates between urban and rural areas. While 53 percent of women ages 15 to 24 in urban areas are literate, only 15 percent of those in rural areas can say the same. As families in isolated areas are more likely to keep girls home to help with chores, especially if school is farther away, getting an education is much more of a challenge for rural Guinean girls.
- Girls’ enrollment in secondary school is still low, but primary school enrollment has seen a significant increase. Between 1990 and 2014, the number of Guinean girls enrolled in primary school quadrupled, largely due to millions of dollars of donations from the World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund. This money was used to build more schools in rural areas and hire thousands of teachers, leading to a significant increase in enrollment.
- The Ebola epidemic of 2014 severely impacted girls’ education in Guinea. Students missed at least 33 weeks of school during the Ebola outbreak, which put girls more at risk for dropping out altogether to support their families through marriage or work.
- In 2004, Guinea launched the National Plan of Action for Girls’ Education. This program was designed to build interest in girls’ education, especially at the primary school level. The initiative partners with organizations such as the European Union and UNICEF to provide income and resources for schools and actively steers the “offer of education” in favor of Guinean girls, who are more likely to drop out of school. While the program has been active for several years, Guinea still faces obstacles in bringing educational opportunities to girls in rural areas.
- UNICEF has implemented several local associations, known as COMEFs, to support girls’ education in Guinea. These associations work to empower Guinean mothers, who often lack education themselves, to become vigorous supporters of their daughters’ schooling. UNICEF’s main objectives are ensuring safe classrooms, helping families purchase school supplies and demonstrating how education leads to a financially healthy future.
Education is a powerful tool, especially for girls who so often find themselves fighting to stay in school. The top 10 facts on girls’ education in Guinea prove that while progress may be slow, it is still happening. Implementing programs to bring educational opportunities to girls in rural areas, discouraging child marriage and eradicating harassment in the classroom is essential to create a more equal platform for education in Guinea.
– Holli Flanagan