Why many girls drop out of schools in Africa

By Paul Okediji

Only few girls remain in class (Pix Source: UNICEF)












The third millennium development goal is one of the central goals in achieving all the MDGs as improving gender equality and empowering women are pathways to making sustainable human development and to achieving other MDGs. In favor of this, the MDG report shows that the progress on this goal in Africa is encouraging.

Many African countries are making notable performances, for example, in equalizing gender parity in primary school education and the number of seats held by women in parliament. Despite efforts to promote gender equality in schools in Africa, the dropout rate for girls is still high.

Reports on the first target which focuses on eliminating gender disparity in education, have shown that the ratio of girls to boys enrolled in many primary schools continues to improve in many African countries.

According to UNESCO (2012), of 50 countries in Africa with data, 31 countries have gender parity indices of less than 1.0 (i.e., girls’ enrolment less than boys), 16 countries have an index of 1.0, while two countries (Mauritania and Senegal) have girls’ enrolment higher than boys’.

With regards to secondary school education, the dearth of data has made it hard to conduct a full analysis and so conclude whether the target will be met by 2015, but the little available data have shown that only a few countries have surpassed the 1.0 index. This then means that more still needs to be done to reverse the trend of disparity.

According to UNESCO’s 2011 World Atlas of Gender Equality in Education, Zambia is one of the countries in Africa with parity in primary school enrolment as the ratio of girls to boys in primary school enrolment rose from 0.90 in 1990 to 0.97 in 2008.

This rise was attributed to the introduction of The Programme for Advancement of Girl’s Education in 1994 which was supported by UNICEF, the Canadian International Development Agency and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation. This has really helped in empowering girls and women to fully participate in the country’s economic and social development.

In spite of these achievements, there is still a lot to be done as regards meeting this goal by the year 2015. In most African countries, the drop-out rates for girls is still very high. Many factors account for this finding.

First, cultural practices in families and society more widely impose constraints on girls’ primary and secondary education. Secondly, vulnerability to violence, both in and out of educational settings, and to HIV/AIDS and other diseases is a major constraint. Again, several African countries have not developed girl-responsive secondary schools that address issues of sexual harassment from teachers and boys.

Finally, the perception that the benefits of education do not always translate into jobs in some countries, coupled with the rising trend of unemployment have reduced the value of education to girls in many African societies.

Therefore, for the achievement of Goal 3, it is important that respective governments focus on changing cultural practices that hold back women’s empowerment, such as has been done in North Africa; eliminate all socio-cultural impediments to girls’ education and increase their access to productive and financial resources; and ensure deliberate commitment and involvement of the top political class in enhancing the status of women.

This is a summary of the MDG 2012 Report for Africa.



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