Importance of Girls' EducationAdvances in the education of young females have caused positive effects in the past several decades. Still, 130 million girls between the ages of 6 and 17 are not in school, according to the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) estimates. The importance of girls’ education should not be looked over. Investing in girls education leads to outcomes that benefit society as a whole.

Benefits of Girls’ Education

Research shows the positive results of more women and girls having better and sustained access to education. Studies show that education raises women’s standard of living in economic, social and health terms.

A 2012 U.N. report found that 95 percent of the 28.5 million children not receiving a primary school education live in low and lower-middle income countries. Of these children, 55 percent are female. A 2014 World Bank paper, using decades of data from 139 countries, found the cross-economy average rate of returning to school is 9.6 percent a year, but estimated rates are higher from women than men.

In addition, educating girls today will also help future populations. According to UNESCO data, if all females in developing countries completed primary education, child mortality would drop by a sixth, saving nearly one million lives annually. Also, maternal deaths, which the U.N. vows are largely preventable, would reduce by two-thirds. Schools can provide girls with life skills, reproductive health knowledge and a social space to discuss issues.

The importance of girls’ education is generational. “Girls are the future mothers of any society. Every girl that receives an education is more likely to make education a priority for her children. It’s a ripple effect of positive change in the community and country.” Tariq Al Gurg, the chief executive officer of Dubai Cares, said.

Challenges to Girls’ Education

Girls also face unique challenges that impact their ability to stay in school through adolescence. For one, poverty often reduces young girls school attendance. Girls are compelled to stay home and work as an extra income could be vital to familial livelihood. Females also face heightened levels of violence; physical assault can keep females away from the classroom on a routine basis.

Another notable obstacle is child marriage. Each year, 15 million girls are married before reaching adulthood. Child brides rarely stay in school, assuming the role as caretakers of a home instead. As a result, the practice is an impediment to education reform, the economic status of women, and thus the empowerment of women worldwide.

Importance of Girls’ Education

Many groups have invested in and advertised the importance of girls’ education and put it at the forefront of global development. The World Bank Group, for example, set several goals in 2017 aimed at improving the education girls receive. The group provides scholarships, trains female teachers, ensures gender-sensitive discussions in classrooms, addresses violence against women and helps end early child marriage. In 2014, the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution calling for the ban of child marriage, thus promoting the reduction of inequality between genders.

The economic costs of low educational attainment for girls are high, particularly in African states like Uganda. The study finds that a government-sponsored universal primary education would likely raise earnings in Uganda by 18 percent.

Recognizing the importance of girls’ education ensures inclusive and quality schooling for all students. Elevating the level of girls education is vital to improving the lives of girls and people everywhere. Research shows that better female education is correlated with lower rates of poverty and improved health.

– Isabel Bysiewicz
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Kenya
In 2003, Kenya first introduced what is known as free primary education. Since then, primary school enrolment rates have increased as much as 84 percent in some regions; a great improvement for the country as a whole. However, the reality is that barriers remain in Kenya that reinforce male privilege. A lack of girls’ education in Kenya is one of these barriers.

Low School Enrollment for Girls

In regions that experience high poverty rates and low levels of gender equality, as little as 19 percent of the girls in the region are enrolled in local primary schools. In others, as few as one in 15 girls are enrolled in primary school. There is an obvious gender gap when it comes to girls’ education in Kenya.

Although primary education may now be free in Kenya, families are still responsible for providing the children with the necessary equipment to attend these primary schools. Often, families must prioritize the education costs of their children and make the difficult decision to send the child thought to have the best possibility of future success and keep the other, or others, home.

In rural Kenya, one in two girls is married by age 19. The legal marriage age is 16. The percentage of girls getting married below the age of 18 is 30.5 percent.

One father describes his decision not to enroll his daughter in primary school: he says he was “trying to be practical by keeping [her] home” he “never thought of education as a right” and instead focused on her future marriage. This belief and thought process is not uncommon in Kenya. Most often, the result is sending the boy to school and keeping the girl home.

A Need to Challenge the Traditions

The good news is, this thought process and belief can be changed. It is evident that laws and policy do not impact enrollment rates for girls in Kenya, so what is left? What is needed is an engagement and challenge of the traditions and culture in Kenya, specifically rural Kenya.

Traditions have a large influence on education barriers for young girls. Poverty, ignorance and male preference factor in to disadvantage young girls and their educational track.

While it is rare enough for girls to attend primary school, transitioning to secondary school or universities is almost unheard of. In Trans Mara West, 2.4 percent of the female population attends university. Even more shocking, just 1 percent of girls are enrolled in university in Narok North.

Girls’ education has been proven to be one of the most beneficial strategies to enhance development and economic growth. Educated mothers tend to have healthier children and that these children are also more likely to attend school, breaking the cycle of illiteracy and poverty.

Foreign aid and governmental efforts must now be allocated towards changing beliefs and traditions surrounding girls’ education in Kenya in an effort to increase primary school and university enrollment rates.

– Haley Hine
Photo: Flickr