Education for Girls...What Does it Take?
Just recently, news of a third “poison attack” on 160 students at a girls school in Afghanistan in a span of two weeks came out. Authorities suspected that the attack was caused by toxic chemical sprayed in the classrooms. The previous one in Takhar province downed 120 school girls and three teachers, sending them to hospitals for treatment due to headaches, dizziness and vomiting.
The radicals have so far forced more than 100 mixed or girls' schools to close in an attempt to prevent girls from getting an education. The Talibans who have been the main suspect of the crime, however, denied their involvement in the last 2 incidents. This is not the first time Afghan schoolgirls have been targeted. In 2009, hundreds of girls were hospitalized in the Kapisa province in eastern Afghanistan in three attacks. In 2010, more than three dozen schoolgirls at another girls school were hospitalized also of a suspected poison attack.
Back in 2007, U.S.-funded girls schools were destroyed by insurgents and forced the closure of dozens of girls’ schools. But some villages continued to hold classes in an underground school in defiance of the Taliban. Since the presence of US troops in Afghanistan, many girls have taken the bold step of expressing their right to have an education, even daring to bare their faces by not wearing a veil to cover their faces. But as the US commitment to withdraw US troops draws nearer, the Talibans have also intensified their campaign to enforce their radical belief that girls should not be educated.
As the US prepares to leave Afghanistan, there are increasing worries that women’s rights may be curtailed further. In March 2012, top religious leaders on the country’s Ulema Council ruled that men are “fundamental” and women “secondary.” Women were barred from interacting with their male counterparts in schools or the workplace. But recent news of two brothers who started out teaching relatives quickly spread throughout the village. The number just grew and dozens attended regularly. The brothers, though trying to remain anonymous, have received threats from radicals to stop their activities or suffer the consequences.
Afghanistan however, isn’t the only country where girls’ education is hindered by many factors,though Afghanistan has by far been the most extreme in its opposition to girls' education. Other countries such as Bangladesh, Africa, and several South Asian countries are burdened with the same problem of gender discrimination when it comes to education.In fact, in such countries, most girls are not expected to be sent to school but simply do the chores at home or be married off at a young age as child brides. Gender discrimination, early marriage and pregnancy, violence against girls in schools, and poverty are just some of the stumbling blocks for education of girls. Statistics showed that:
• In 1999, around 106 million children were out of primary school. Almost 61 million (58%) were girls compared to 45 million (42%) boys.
• In 2009, around 35 million girls were still out of school compared to 31 million boys.
• Although the gap in gender parity has decreased substantially, there are still many more girls out of primary school than boys.
• Almost ½ of the world’s out of school girls are in the Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA. Around ¼ are in South Asia.
• In South Asia, the region’s total number of out-of-school girls dropped from 23 million girls to 9.5 million since 1999.
• In Sub-Saharan Africa, the number of out-of-school girls has decreased more slowly, from 25 million in 1999 to 17 million in 2008. (source: Worldbank.org http://web.worldbank.org/WBSITE/EXTERNAL/TOPICS/EXTEDUCATION/0,,contentM...)
The statistics show that despite threats and discrimination facing schoolgirls, the gap in education of males vs females has gone down over time. According to the World Bank, “the most significant increase in girls’ education enrollment in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia has been at the primary education level. In countries in East Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, the increase in girl’s education has been at the secondary education level while in countries in Europe and Central Asia, girls’ enrollment has risen most at the tertiary education level.”
Though many organizations and developing countries have taken on the Millennium Development Goals’ (MDGs) drive for education and have positively made progress, indicators show that most will not meet the 2015 target on education.
The value of girls’ education cannot be stressed enough. Not only is education a basic right of every person as stipulated in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, but studies have proven that countries where the parity of education between men and women is lower have higher economic growth and productivity. No one should ever be deprived of the right to an education. And no threat to hinder education of anyone because of gender should be tolerated by any government.