As a girl growing up in a rich country, I was taught that I will most probably follow a scheme of life with basic stages such as birth, going to school, working, having a family, retiring, etc. but I soon realise that what I took for granted was sometimes inconceivable in other countries of the world.
Indeed, in some countries, such as Sudan or Yemen, children, mostly girls, are willing to go to school but they are not allowed to; while in my country children complain about going there, and if they have the occasion they like better to skip class. How come such an important gap exists between countries?
Firstly some figures to make everything clearer:
These graphs are alarming when compared to our educational system through which almost every child go. For example, the graph about the enrolment in Yemen means that only 23% of boys and 8% of girls attend school after the age of 11. How come education, which is one of the priorities in the UK, can reach such rates in other parts of the world?
The reasons for these figures are numerous:
The first reason that comes to mind is the poverty of the country, which doesn’t allow the creation of school in every village. This means that children would have to go a long way to attend their school on an everyday, twice a day basis. But even, if they choose to walk there, they might be put in a class with more than 100 other children…
The second reason that is claimed for these worrying figures is the culture of the country. Let me explain. Countries such as Sudan or Jordan know an impressive drop in the number of students, especially girls, between primary and secondary school because of their tradition: at that age, girls are pressured to get married, so they drop out, whether or not they have children.
Even if they do not get married, women are stereotyped as housewives, they are only supposed to take care of their home, their family and that’s it, they are reduced from woman and human to just being wives. We are far away from the workingwomen in rich countries.
“At one Jordanian girl’s secondary school, 80% of the girls I spoke to said that the first role of the woman was to stay at home and bring up her children.” Safa Faisal – BBC Arabic Service
The problem with this lack of education is that it creates a vicious circle: girls do not get educated, so they cannot stand for themselves and defend their rights and the situation goes on and on unchanged. However, we were able to notice that when these women were educated, it changes their way of thinking. They learn to think by themselves and develop their own ideas and start standing up for their rights.
However that result is the one, which provoked a more recent problem that affects girls’ education: the Taliban’s fear of educated girls. If I can name one of the most famous example, it would be Malala Yousufzai, a Pakistani schoolgirl, who was shot in the head by Taliban on her way back from school. She was accused of promoting secularism. However, this is one among many other shootings and bombings targeting little girls and their schools. But why so much hatred for girls’ education?
I believe that this hatred is only from fear, fear of the unknown, fear of the power and fear of the knowledge. Maybe they believe that if these girls are educated, they will understand that what they are doing is wrong, they will realise that Taliban’s ideas of Islam is not the real idea of the Islamic religion. Taliban might also know that, if children receive an education, these women will not only be able to function, by themselves, in the modern society, but they would also be able to overcome them, and put to an end to their reign, based on terror, violence and ignorance.
“Education is a matter of death and life. We can’t solve terrorism issues without educating people” – Muhammad Atif Khan, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province education minister.
However, and despite this fear, more and more girls try to go to school, more and more girls want to become like Malala, and governments are setting up plans to help the girls’ education.
And this is the only reply to most problems in the world, if children, boys or girls, are not both allowed education, then they will live in ignorance and they won’t do anything to solve it. Education has to come first because it is the way to end the vicious cycle of ignorance, poverty and misery. Economic growth will only come when there will be educated people able to create it. Educated children will understand that marriage can wait, and does not have to be at 12 or 13. And most importantly, school will allow children to make their own mind, to believe what they want and not what they are told; they will be able to think by themselves. For example, one of the plan currently in action is the Girl’s Education South Sudan (GESS) plan. From 2013 to 2018, it is aiming to eliminate barriers between girls and education, as well as promoting gender’s equality. There are also actions by the UN that sends school supplies and money… These are only a few examples, and I don’t know all of them. These actions have already bear fruits, but there is still a long way ahead of us.