Education is key to the empowerment of women, and everyone should be able to access it. Egypt is one country that shows that it believes in that statement. There has been excellent progress towards closing the gender gap when it comes to boys’ and girls’ education in Egypt.
Egypt has the largest education system in Africa and it has grown exponentially since the 1990s. In 2012, about 95 percent of children between the ages of six and 18 were enrolled in school. This is a significant difference from another African country, South Africa. In the same year, South Africa had an enrollment rate of around 65 percent for boys and girls of the same age group.
Increased Spending Results in Increased Equality
The government of Egypt has shown more interest in the education system in the past few years and has worked to improve the system, especially for women and girls. Significantly more government funding has been used over the past decades to increase the accessibility of girls’ education in Egypt. A total of 11.1 percent was spent on education in the 2016/17 fiscal year and was projected to rise by nearly 5 percent the following year.
Over the past 20 years, girls’ enrollment in school has risen greatly. According to Egypt Demographic and Health Surveys, as of 2014, 92 percent of girls living in urban areas were attending primary school and 71 percent of girls were attending secondary school. These rates are very similar to the percentage of boys enrolled in the same age groups. This is a significant change because in the past, girls were not given nearly the same opportunity to achieve an education as boys.
While access has generally improved for girls’ education in Egypt, inequalities remain widespread. Girls’ school enrollment has risen significantly over the past few decades, but the problem that remains is the dropout rate. About 71 percent of men completed schooling up to the secondary level, while only 68 percent of girls completed the same grades. This is in part due to the rates of poverty in many areas of Egypt. Another issue with girls’ education is that families with multiple children often send only the boys to school because that is all the family can afford. Girls who stay at home have lower literacy and completion rates.
Local and International Groups Target Girls’ Education in Egypt
In 2001, the National Council on Childhood and Motherhood began a program called the Girls’ Education Initiative. The program was created to address the need for girls’ education in Egypt, especially in its poorest areas. The project urges communities to come together and buy into the project by donating land and volunteering to work in schools. This is a way to bring communities together for a cause they can all support and relate to.
The United States Agency for International Development, along with the government of Egypt, encourage access to education for girls starting at the primary level. In secondary education, USAID very much supports girls’ participation in STEM education. In addition, the government of Egypt, along with other programs and agencies, is working tirelessly to ensure that someday every child, boy or girl, will have access to the same education and the same opportunities.
Together, these groups have shown over the past several decades that they have been able to improve the quality of education for girls and will not stop until every girl can hold up her diploma with pride. There are many other countries struggling to close the education inequality gap and Egypt is a prime example that has shown that it can be done.
– Allisa Rumreich