Girls’ education in Senegal has greatly improved in the last 20 years, partially thanks to Senegal’s government. According to the World Bank, Senegal’s government allocates almost a quarter of its budget toward education, the highest percentage of any country in northwest Africa. The money pays for the construction of school buildings, teachers’ salaries and equal education initiatives. Despite the government’s commitment to education, cultural norms and widespread poverty still prevent many Senegalese girls from completing their education and less than 50 percent of Senegalese women are literate.

Improvements Made

Achieving gender parity in primary schools is one improvement the government has made in girls’ education in Senegal. Thanks to substantial budget allocations and initiatives for equal education, Senegal’s government has maintained gender parity in primary schools since 2010. For example, girls only made up 35 percent of Ndiarème B. Primary School’s student body when it first opened in 1996. In 2010, the percentage of girls had risen to 49 percent.

The World Bank reports that Gross Enrollment Ratios (GERs) have also risen across the small country. In 2016, 87.9 percent of girls were enrolled in primary schools according to the World Bank. However, only 63.5 percent of girls actually complete their primary education and only 57.9 percent enroll in lower secondary education (equivalent to middle school). The GER for girls enrolled in secondary education falls even lower at 48.4 percent.

The Fight Continues

First, educators fought to get girls enrolled in schools. Now, educators fight to keep them there. BuildOn is a non-governmental organization that works in the U.S. and around the world. Its global program helps build schools in poor villages. Employees and volunteers continue working with the communities to ensure each school’s success.

Aminata Ndiaye, a buildOn Education Coordinator in Senegal, has worked directly with children in Senegal’s rural communities since 2015 to bring students back to school. Ndiaye’s program has brought more than 2,000 students back to school in just a couple of years.

As a woman, Ndiaye is particularly sensitive to girls’ struggles to get an education, noting that Senegalese parents often prioritize boys’ education over girls’ education.

Poverty and Girls’ Education in Senegal

Tostan is a community-led NGO that works to educate and empower African women. Harouna Sy, a Tostan regional coordinator, says that poverty rather than culture is actually at the heart of girls’ education issues in Senegal.

Poverty is a widespread issue in Senegal and girls are often singled out to help support their families instead of attending school. Aisatou Ba’s parents took her out of school at age 11 so that she could help her mother at home and work as a maid to support her family. She watched her brothers continue going to school and eventually earn higher paying jobs. Ba’s little education disqualifies her from many higher paying opportunities. She still works as a maid and earns the equivalent of $70 per week.

Cultural Norms

Even though Sy claims poverty is at the root of girls’ unequal education, cultural norms do still affect girls’ education in Senegal. Many Senegalese parents take their girls out of school early to force them into marriages. Senegal’s government prohibits marriage for girls under 18 but it does not have the resources to enforce the policy, especially in rural villages.

Girls forced into marriage at a young age are also forced to take on new responsibilities in their new homes, such as cleaning, cooking and doing laundry. Even if the girls’ husbands allow them to stay in school, they have less time to devote to their studies. Many of these girls are also expected to get pregnant and those who do often leave school entirely.

There is still more work to do to keep Senegalese girls in school, but girls’ education in Senegal has made great strides thanks to government funding and help from NGOs.

– Kathryn Quelle
Photo: Flickr

girls' Education in Rwanda
Thanks in large part to Rwandan women enthusiastically pursuing higher education and leadership positions, Rwanda is rising out of poverty and experiencing an optimistic rebirth of a growing economy.

Education Results in Representation in Government

After decades of civil war, conflicts and genocidal tragedy in Rwanda, women became 70 percent of the population and actively rose toward education and leadership positions. Improvements in quality and opportunities within girls’ education in Rwanda make it possible for women to prepare for leadership positions, including in government.

Rwandan women now hold more seats in Parliament than Rwandan men. Rwanda’s Parliament consists of 106 seats (80 Lower Chamber and 26 Upper Chamber) and Rwandan women fill 59 of those seats (49 Lower Chamber and 10 Upper Chamber). Of all the Lower Chamber Parliaments in the world, Rwanda’s has the highest percentage of women (60 percent).

Girls’ Education in Rwanda Exceeds All Goals

Rwandans have been achieving universal education goals and even surpassing them. After Rwandans surpassed their 2015 goals outlined in the Millennium Development Goals program, UNICEF reported that Rwandan girls surpassed boys in school enrollment at all levels (girls at 98 percent and boys at 97 percent) and Rwanda’s total school enrollment rate is the highest in East Africa. With such determination in meeting its goals and effectively using foreign aid funds, current and future endeavors in Rwanda are full of hope for continued success.

One such endeavor began in June 2017, when Rwandans began utilizing Huguka Dukore, an education initiative funded by the United States Agency for International Development. The goals include providing 40,000 Rwandan youths with job skills training by 2021. The training includes internships, job coaching, entrepreneurial development and access to financing and health services. The Education Development Center is managing the program.

Women and Girls in Rwanda Breaking Out of Traditional Gender Roles

Until the recent decades of drastic change in girls’ education in Rwanda after war and recovery, Rwanda functioned as a traditional patriarchal society. Young girls commonly bore children instead of staying in school and pursuing careers. Building confidence has been key in allowing girls to explore their potential beyond motherhood. The World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts is one of the organizations working in Rwanda to build girls’ confidence and ensuring a path towards quality education and utilizing opportunities.

Before the recent drastic changes, men typically dominated science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, while females stayed home in traditional gender roles, some marrying and having children at very young ages. The recent focus on girls’ education in Rwanda opened the way for girls to feel safe pursuing education and to realize they have multiple options beyond the traditional gender roles.

Now, more than half of Rwandan girls choose science classes. Some government-funded schools now specialize in STEM classes and encourage girls’ participation, such as Fawe Girls’ School in Kigali, Rwanda.

If the recent success of improving girls’ education in Rwanda is an indication of momentum for continued success, the 2021 goals of the Huguka Dukore initiative may be reached and surpassed, and girls may continue to freely explore their potential along with boys. The momentum is currently pointing towards continued education advancements, economic growth and reduction of poverty.

Furthermore, Rwandans are utilizing foreign assistance for education as it is intended–to progress towards eventually not needing foreign funding. While Rwandans do still need assistance, perhaps their track record of effective utilization of education funds will prompt continued funding. Hopefully, if Rwandans continue with their current successful momentum, they will choose to pay it forward when they become successful enough to provide funding and guidance to others in need of assistance.

– Emme Leigh
Photo: Flickr

Education in Dominican Republic
Girls’ education in the Dominican Republic is faced with many challenges. The Dominican Republic has one of the highest rates of adolescent pregnancy in Latin America. For every 1,000 pregnancies, 90 are by teenage girls. Twenty-five percent of female teens in the Dominican Republic are likely to become pregnant. Regionally, only Nicaragua at 28 percent and Honduras at 26 percent have higher rates of teen pregnancy.

Healthwise, younger women may not be physically developed enough for the stress the body endures during pregnancy and birth. Socially, teens are typically not mature enough to handle the stresses and responsibilities of becoming a parent. According to many studies, teen brains are just not grown up yet.

Furthermore, teen pregnancies compromise education and lead to higher rates of dropping out of school. Financially, teens are usually unable to provide much or anything for their family, possibly creating or extending a vicious cycle of poverty for themselves and their children.

Many organizations recognize the complex issue of adolescent pregnancies and are taking steps to help empower women through education, vocational training and proper medical care and treatment for women/girls and child. Here are just four among them:

  1. The Mariposa DR Foundation: This organization’s top priority is girls’ education in the Dominican Republic. It seeks to minimize the gender gap and generational poverty through the education and empowerment of young girls. The organization assists in funding the education, health and empowerment of a girl, as “she will reinvest 90 percent of her income back into her family and her community, making her the most influential figure in today’s world.”
  2. Sister Island Project: This organization’s mission is to foster “community empowerment, cultural exchange, diversity and equity awareness,” particularly in the Dominican Republic. The Sister Island Project has also built houses for community members, given scholarships to university students, coordinated micro-enterprise projects and distributed many donations.
  3. The DREAM Project: This organization was founded to make up for the lack of resources in Dominican Republic schools. The organization supports quality education for more than 7,500 children with 14 programs implemented across 27 communities in the nation.
  4. World Bank Dominican Republic Youth Development Program: Its mission is to “[improve] the employability of poor, at-risk youth by building their work experience and life skills and expanding second chance education programs to complete their formal education.”

World Bank senior director for education Jaime Saavedra says that “the Dominican Republic is facing a great opportunity to improve the education system and tackle the challenge of the global learning crisis. Improving the quality of education is a fundamental condition for expanding opportunities for all.” The World Bank currently supports the education sector in the Dominican Republic with a total investment of $49.9 million.

Over the years, the Dominican Republic has been a great trading partner for the United States. It supplies the country with medical appliances, electric components, textiles, minerals, tobacco and produce. Many U.S. citizens are also retiring there now. The country as a whole has seen economic improvements but is still facing many educational and economic pitfalls.

Girls’ education in the Dominican Republic is of great importance to each of these organizations. Their work and the work of others like them is providing the country with a much-needed boost and giving girls a much greater chance of success.

– Jonathan Jimenez
Photo: Flickr

Girls Education in Colombia
Extensive progress typically does not happen overnight, especially when the subject at hand is an entire country with numerous socioeconomic factors in play. However, Colombia has impressed the world and set a remarkable example in cultivating girls’ education.

Facts About Girls’ Education in Colombia

  1. The average number of school years girls complete grew about 23 percent, from 3 to 3.7 years, between 1900 and 2000.
  2. In rural areas, more than three-quarters of children in primary education go on to the next grade compared to almost 90 percent in urban areas.
  3. Between 1989 and 2011, girls’ completion of lower secondary school increased from 37 percent to 94 percent.
  4. Girls’ education has led to increased participation in the workforce, growing from 30 percent to 43 percent between 1990 and 2012.

These staggering present-day successes were achieved while Colombia also worked to help its internally displaced population. Internal displacement refers to people who are forced to leave their homes but remain in the same country. Colombia has had approximately seven million people internally displaced due to conflict within the country, one of the highest numbers in the world.

Despite the relatively difficult circumstances, girls’ education in Colombia continues to develop, which has helped Colombia create a prosperous and peaceful present and future.

An Inspiring Project

The Medellin Regional Corporation, supported by UNICEF, established the School in Search of the Child project that aims to reintegrate conflict-affected children back into the education system. The project provides funds to cover any expenses related to keeping children in school.

According to the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative, in 2004, its first year of operation, 310 out of 375 children enrolled in the program were effectively reintegrated into schools, a more than 80 percent success rate. The project has proven to be a fruitful endeavor that with further assistance could be much more far-reaching.

De Cero a Siempre – “From Zero to Forever”

Colombia’s national government established the From Zero to Forever strategy in 2010, which introduced a now-common structure to organize the children’s well-being and development sector. The strategy is unifying key participants in the sector, both from private and public sectors as well as domestic and internal organizations and agencies. From Zero to Forever has linked several relevant policies and programs in the sector to provide poor children with much-needed comprehensive early childhood care and education.

Fundación Escuela Nueva – “New School”

The New School model innovates traditional teaching practices in Colombia and has been doing so since the late 1970s, growing to cover more than two-thirds of Colombia’s rural education system. The model has effectively delivered the following results:

  • Brought education to rural and misrepresented areas
  • Made school affordable
  • Fostered a team-building environment in students’ work
  • Trained teachers to initiate and manage settings conducive to learning
  • Tailored education to focus on children of varying levels separately, rather than addressing all levels simultaneously
  • Stimulated entrepreneurial teachings, modernized education skills and fostered leadership aptitudes among children

40 by 40 Program

Oscar Sánchez, the former Secretary of Education of Bogotá, presented the 40 by 40 program in 2012, with the goal to increase class time in schools across the country so that students attend full school days totaling 40 hours per week, 40 weeks per year. The program extended children’s access to extracurricular activities such as sports and arts that can ultimately fulfill children and promote fair and higher quality education.

Girls’ education in Colombia is one of several areas that the country has sought to improve. The effects are entirely positive and thereby reveal the capacity for a country to meet its goals, even during great adversities that would appear crippling. Fortunately, Colombia has flourished, and with its investment in the necessity that is girls’ education, its continued success looks very promising.

– Roberto Carlos Ventura
Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Pakistan
Girls’ education has always been a point of concern in many developing nations. Pakistan is one among them. The Economic Survey of Pakistan (2015 – 2016) highlights a 2 percent decline in the nation’s literacy rates from 60 percent to 58 percent. Also, while the urban areas mark a literacy rate of 74 percent, it is as low as 49 percent in the rural areas. But, with the increase in awareness, undiluted efforts and the focus on ‘Pakistan Vision 2025’, the future for girls’ education in Pakistan looks bright.

In 2018, fresh hope has emerged for Pakistan as it experiences a host of welcoming changes, all focused on enhancing girls’ access to education:

  1. Korea’s monetary support to UNESCO with the mission of ameliorating girls’ education
  2. Malala Yousafzai’s recent visit to Pakistan for the first time after the Taliban attack in 2012
  3. The launch of the book Knowledge is Bulletproof with a bulletproof cover page on World Book Day.

Korea Extends Support to Girls’ Education in Pakistan

On March 23, 2017, The UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay and the Korean Ambassador to UNESCO Lee Byong-hyun signed an agreement to support national capacity building to make girls’ right to education a reality in Bahawalpur and Muzaffargarh districts in South Punjab and Gilgit-Baltistan.

This $3.4 million project between UNESCO’s Girls’ Right to Education Programme in Pakistan and the Korean International Cooperation Agency aims to bring quality education in the remote regions of Pakistan.

Ambassador Lee expressed how foreign assistance and education hugely improved the post-war poverty-stricken condition of Korea. This clearly highlights the importance of foreign aid in abolishing poverty.

Malala Yousafzai’s Visit to Pakistan

The youngest Nobel laureate visited her hometown Swat Valley in Pakistan on March 31, 2018, not simply to relive the memories of growing up in her house but also to present her hometown with the gift of quality education.

She opened a state-of-the-art school using The Malala Fund and her Nobel Prize money. Malala writes in her blog, “Pakistan comes second after Nigeria in the ranking of out-of-school children, with 24 million girls and boys denied access to education today. My dream is to see all Pakistani children with access to 12 years of free, safe and quality education…In just a few years, Malala Fund has invested $6 million in our work for girls’ education in Pakistan, from opening the first secondary school for girls in Shangla to supporting Gulmakai Champions across the country.”

Malala’s recent visit births new promises for young girls and women who struggle for their rights on a daily basis. Though some parts of Pakistan still advocate the extremist mentality and hatred for Malala, change is slowly ushering in and Malala’s visit proves it. The visit is also a positive answer to all the doubts about government involvement in enhancing the lives of women in Pakistan.

Bulletproof Book for Girls’ Education in Pakistan

On this year’s World Book Day, resistance took a new form in Pakistan. Sanam Maher, a journalist based in Karachi, recently published a novella titled Knowledge is Bulletproof which tells the story of two girls who survived the Taliban attack along with Malala in 2012.

The world has not heard much about Shazia Ramzan and Kainat Riaz who endured the terrifying incident and continue their fight for girls’ education in Pakistan. This book which was inaugurated by the award-winning Pakistani filmmaker, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, provides these young activists more scope to voice their strength. Obaid-Chinoy claims that the profits will be donated to charities that work towards improving girls’ education in Pakistan.

The book is designed by advertising agency BBDO and has a Kevlar binding which makes it strong enough to repel a nine-millimeter bullet from as close as five meters. The book is symbolic of the strength and willpower of Pakistani girls and women who continue to attain education despite all the hurdles that come their way. It is also a source of motivation for many girls who refrain from going to school due to many stereotyped social and cultural taboos. “To show that knowledge is indeed bulletproof, it was…ideal to design an actual bulletproof cover for the book,” Maher told The Arab News.

While she is excited at the possibility of reaching out to millions of girls through this new venture, she also hopes that the need for such campaigns lessen with time and more and more people realize the importance of girls’ education.

Education is the backbone of a nation’s economy. If a section of the population is deprived of it, it not only affects the nation’s GDP but also its standard of living. Though poverty continues to affect millions in developing countries, these recent developments offer hope for a brighter and better tomorrow. They prove that transformation is slow but in process. Promoting girls’ education in Pakistan and elsewhere and encouraging women’s participation in the labor force are among the major ways in which poverty can be abolished.

– Shruthi Nair

Photo: Flickr

girls' education in Haiti
On Jan. 12, 2010, a 7.0-magnitude earthquake shook the island nation of Haiti. In the aftermath, 200,000 people were left dead and 1.5 million homeless. Homes, hospitals and government buildings crumbled, leaving communities scrambling for essential resources and shelter.

Volunteers and relief organizations across the globe swarmed with aid. Most aid groups from the earthquake have since left and the rebuilding process now lies in the hands of Haitian community members and scholars. Eight years later, many still live without basic services (clean water, plumbing) or health resources.

Citizens agree that girls’ education in Haiti and community development need to improve before the country can truly recover. A recent study using World Bank data has listed Haiti as a nation significantly below global enrollment rates for girls in schools.

World Bank data from 2014 states 15 percent of girls 12 to 18 are no longer in school, compared to 11 percent for boys. Only 45 percent of Haitian women over 15 are literate, compared to 53 percent for men over 15 years old. For effective redevelopment, the trends for girls’ education in Haiti are something both locals and researchers agree need to change.

In response to lower female community involvement and enrollment in schools, many research and educational programs focused on girls’ education in Haiti have started gaining popularity throughout the island nation.

Jayne Engle, a doctor of participatory community development in post-earthquake Haiti, conducted a post-earthquake study focused on effective and sustainable community development in Bellevue-La-Montagne, a small community near Port-au-Prince. She prioritized the rebuilding process by the following “levers of transformation:”

  1. Education (for all)
  2. Place identity, networks and research
  3. Social entrepreneurship and social innovation
  4. State-society trust and accountability

Engle worked extensively with community leaders to develop educational programs concerning social entrepreneurship, healthcare, environmental stewardship, community agriculture, planning and construction. As a result, the community has made significant progress in its infrastructural recovery and social equity. Engle believes her framework could be effective on a nationwide scale.

The Days for Girls (DfG) International program teaches Haitian seamstresses to produce DfG hygiene kits for distribution to women across Haiti. Each kit contains valuable information concerning female hygiene as well as safe, clean female hygiene products. During the two-month trial program, 90 percent of participants agreed the kits were easy to use and clean.

The Haitian Health Foundation’s (HHF) GenNext program combines a youth soccer league with “female sexual reproduction health” classes taught by nurse educators. The league is for girls only, as well as the classes. A three-year study of league participants compared to peers not in the soccer league showed significantly fewer pregnancies for league participants.

These programs and others continue to educate a generation of Haitian women eager to propel their
nation from poverty and hardship. As these efforts and more continue, girls’ education in Haiti is sure to only improve over the coming years.

– Charles Metz
Photo: Flickr

Girls’ Education in Nigeria
Like in many developing nations, the fight for girls’ education in Nigeria has been an ongoing battle against poverty, the costs of schooling and long-held notions of the unimportance of educating girls. To understand the progress that has been made and the struggles that persist in Nigeria, here’s what you need to know:

Five Facts About Girls’ Education in Nigeria

  1. Enrollment and Completion of Primary School Improving. Although Nigeria continues to face struggles getting its young females to enter and remain in school, the nation has made considerable progress in recent years. According to the World Bank’s Education Data, the number of girls enrolled in primary school increased from 79 percent to 92.3 percent between 2008 and 2013. Enrollment of boys likewise rose, from 89 to 95.2 percent, continuing to remain slightly higher than that of girls. In addition, rates of primary school completion are also on the rise. In 2008, 64.1 percent of girls (while, by comparison, 75.3 percent of boys) completed primary school; in 2010, those numbers had risen to 68.9 and 78.4 percent, respectively. Despite progress, there is still considerable room for improving girls’ education in Nigeria — especially regarding school retention. In fact, a significant portion of girls enrolled in primary school are not completing it.
  2. Financing Education. Officially, education is free and mandatory for all children in Nigeria, both boys and girls, between the ages of six and 15. That being said, Adamu Hussaini, Nigeria’s Secretary of Education, said in 2017 that an estimated 10.5 million kids were either not enrolled in or not regularly attending school. Many schools, especially rural ones, continue to charge unofficial school fees. The reasons for not attending school for girls range from ideological beliefs about the unimportance of education for females to being unable to afford the unofficial school fees. Beliefs persist that girls’ education in Nigeria is unimportant. Many who are willing to pay school fees for their sons would rather keep their daughters at home and working. However, eliminating these unofficial fees can be one of the easiest ways to increase female enrollment and attendance. Groups like the Global Partnership for Education and the Peace Corps offer scholarships, paying the school fees for a girl whose parents promise to let her complete her mandated 10 years of education.
  3. The Role of Mentorship. The importance of mentorship and having female role models should not be underestimated. As more women pursue higher education and enter careers, younger girls will have role models to show them that higher education is attainable for females. Also, these role models will demonstrate that pursuing education opens doors to opportunities otherwise forever unavailable to girls. Many schools in Nigeria hoping to increase female attendance have begun peer mentorship programs in which older girls connect with younger ones, giving the former an immediate sense of meaning for their education (helping younger kids) and the latter both academic and social role models to hopefully encourage them to keep coming to school.
  4. Women at Nigeria’s Universities. Increased participation of women in the education sector is also visible at the university level — when Nigeria gained independence in 1960, only 7.7 percent of Nigeria’s college students were female. By 2001, that number had skyrocketed to 41.7 percent and it continues to rise. In 2009, 45 percent of all university students in Nigeria were female.
  5. Societal Benefits of Educating Women. Levels of female education correlate directly with improved health and an overall increased quality of life. Educated women are more likely to seek proper medical care both for themselves — especially maternal care — and their children. Likewise, higher rates of female education correspond with lower HIV and STD rates. Women also are less likely to get married or give birth as teenagers if pursuing an education. The benefits of extending education to women reach not only those specific women, but society as a whole. Many experts agree that focusing on women’s education is one of the best investments a developing nation can make, for female education rates are directly correlated with national economic growth. Educated women are more likely to hold stable jobs, less likely to be in poverty, and more likely to contribute to the overall economy.

Strides Since Independence

Girls’ education in Nigeria has made tremendous strides during the 60 years since Nigeria gained independence. More girls than ever are attending and completing primary school as well as pursuing higher education. But the fight for education equity in Nigeria is not over.

By continuing to advocate for the importance of girls’ education, encourage older educated women to act as role models for younger generations and help finance girls’ education, Nigeria can and will reap the benefits associated with girls’ education.

– Abigail Dunn
Photo: Flickr

Impact of Violence Girls Education Syria
Prior to the civil war that has plagued Syria for six years, the Syrian government created a movement to end illiteracy by 1991. These efforts were fruitful, with enrollments stretching towards 100 percent.

At the onset of the conflict, however, education took a huge hit, with enrollments dropping drastically — 92 percent in 2004 to 61 percent by 2013 (for primary education). Just as one can see in non-government controlled eastern areas like Aleppo where as little as 6 percent of kids attend school, girls’ education in Syria has been affected most drastically.

Girls’ Education in Syria

This drop in schooling has created a consolidation of hardships. Not only are children subjected to violence and loss, but their acquisition of skills and knowledge falls behind the norm. In many areas, middle-school-aged kids are unable to complete first-grade math problems. This drag in skill alters the students’ self- esteem and perception, and leaves long-term effects.

The decline in scholastic enrollments can be directly and indirectly attributed to the Syrian conflict. School bombings and shootings have left facilities destitute, while simultaneously created an environment of fear surrounding schooling. In eastern provinces, 40 percent of schools have been shot at or bombed; as a result, more parents are inclined to keep their children out of school from fear of an attack.

Impact of Destruction

Buildings have been destroyed while others have been converted to emergency shelters, which are structural decisions that create a lack of space for education. In addition to an absence of physical space, the war has created a shortage of teachers — school staffing has fallen 22 percent due to death, emigration and fear of returning to work.

Many schools have suspended activity indefinitely to keep students out of harm’s way; others have been forced to move classrooms to secret locations, often underground, or have opted to replace glass windows with bulletproof plastic.

The violence has led to nearly 3 million of the 4.8 Syrian school-aged children to leave schools — about 2.2 million children within Syria and another half of a million Syrian child refugees.

Displaced and Uneducated

Syria has the most displaced persons out of any country in the world. Among refugee children, only 17 percent are in school. Language barriers coupled with political prejudice and financial inadequacy have made enrollment extremely difficult. While aid agencies have attempted to help refugee children, the well of information necessary for refugees to navigate a new and unfamiliar system remains largely untapped.

The war has been even more detrimental to girls’ education in Syria. In many cases, rape has been used as a weapon against young girls, inciting parental prejudice against female educational opportunities. Education is directly linked to opportunities and empowerment, particularly for young girls; interestingly, in areas of extreme conflict, girls are almost two and a half times more likely to be out of school, thus causing them to fall behind their male counterparts.

Save the Children

While many organizations — such as Save the Children and UNICEF — have intervened to help protect the children, in order to foster an environment conducive to learning, schools must be safeguarded against violence. Save the Children currently supports 53 schools in the northern regions of the nation through security, funding and promoting more sensitive teaching approaches. UNICEF advocates a similar approach by encouraging innovation for classrooms and supporting international responses to refugee children’s educational opportunities.

The protection of education and particularly girls’ education in Syria is necessary for economic recovery and social stabilization. Failure to address issues surrounding schools will only perpetuate the conflict and the issues left in its wake.

– Jessie Serody
Photo: Flickr

Malala Visited Pakistan

The story of Malala Yousafzai’s survival is widely known around the globe. Recently, Malala visited Pakistan for the first time since 2012 when she was shot in the head by the Taliban.

Returning to Pakistan

In 2018, Malala returned to Pakistan and, under security protection, visited her home in the northwest town of Mingora. Back in 2012, Mingora was controlled by the Taliban under the rule of Mullah Fazlullah. At the age of 15, Malala was already vocal about female education, something that wasn’t supported under Taliban rule.

The Attack and Recovery

One day, Malala was traveling on a school bus with other students when it was stopped by men who were part of the Taliban. They boarded the bus, asking for Malala by name. When her friends turned to look at her, the trigger was pulled and she was shot in the head. 

Malala was rushed to the hospital, where her recovery was difficult. Within the first 72 hours of being shot, her brain swelled and she got an infection. She was transported to England to receive rehabilitative care at the Queen Elizabeth Medical Center, which specialized in emergency and rehabilitative care. Malala survived her attack after various surgeries but was left with some facial paralysis and deafness in her left ear.  

Continuing the Fight for Education

After recuperating, Malala continued her fight for the education of girls. She became the youngest Nobel laureate in 2014 when she received the Nobel Peace Prize for her “struggle against the suppression of children and young people and for the right of all children to education.” 

Malala has a foundation in her name, which is set up to support groups in Pakistan, Nigeria, Jordan, Syria and Kenya that support education. Apple has also partnered with Malala and the Malala Fund to help girls get an education.

According to 9 to 5 Mac, Apple will help the Malala Fund reach its goal of providing secondary education to more than 100,000 girls who would otherwise be unable to attend school.

Since the murder attempt in 2012, Malala has become the biggest advocate for girls education in Pakistan. She has become a beacon of hope. After Malala’s last visit to Pakistan, she hopes to return to live there after she finishes her studies in England.

– Valeria Flores

Photo: Flickr

Girls' Education in Egypt
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
Photo: Flickr