My Community - Barrier & Fear of Girls to Accessing education
My grandfather was exposed to education in his days as a village head and village judge. His gift of wisdom took him around and outside our community to judge and decide matters concerning his people and others where he met with Europeans and their interpreters. The power my grandfather witnessed, in his dealings with them, made him vow to send his male children to school. My parents left our community to live in an urban city which gave my siblings and I better opportunity at education and exposure.
My birthplace is in a hilly terrain which made it one of the disadvantaged and backward areas in terms of infrastructures - socially, economically, & politically. The Roman Catholic Church brought the only existing health facility in my community. Often times my people cannot access this facility because of poverty so they rely mostly on herbs and roots for most ailments.
The culture and tradition of marrying off girl children at a very young age, (a tradition that performs a blood ritual on their wedding day that keeps them bound to the string of tradition and their husbands) restrict their bright future. These girls often times end up marrying young men with unharnessed potentials & education so they end up like their parents – illiterate and poor. We have designed programs for these girls and women on Human rights / women rights and to access adult education.
Most of my peers got married after primary school because of poverty and for the fact that my community does not see education as a way to a brighter future. Most of those that proceeded to secondary school could not finish because of funds. Majority of our parents are illiterates and subsistent farmers (which unfortunately is the only trade my community know) so illiteracy is re-cycled. The designed program is to expose them to different skills to empower them economically.
Lack of mentorship is a major reason why unintended pregnancies are too numerous because once they are with child; it is assumed that they have no further use of education and most of these deliveries are taking by Traditional Birth Attendance. My organisation has made plans for resources persons to have participatory interaction with them on self confidence, self esteem and sex education.
Lack of family planning adds to the backwardness of my people. An average woman has 8 to 9 children thereby making it more difficult to cater for them. They are not exposed to reproductive health education and counseling. Family planning counseling for those within the child bearing age is in the program designed, the use of condom will be emphasised for those that cannot abstain.
Bullying and name calling (my little daughter is passing through that now in the hands of the senior girls and her class mates, which makes her cry and keep saying she does not want to be in school again) forms another serious barrier for girl children. So many do not have the courage to stand up for themselves especially if the name calling has to do with their female physique - you are as flat as a book.
Our culture’s lack of respect for women forms part of the reason why young girls cannot access education. Girl children are seen as nothing, therefore when opportunities of going to school come out, it is always the boys that are favoured. Male children are tutored from the onset of their importance in the society whereas the girls are only taught how to manage homes and be submissive to their husbands.
To sum it up, the greatest challenge of young girls in accessing education is poverty(economic constraints) and culture - which offer early marriage as the only and best option for them. Few families who live in the urban cities who are a bit economically stable, have been able to train their girl children in school though not all of them went to the university.
The impact of these barriers have made my community very backward, lacking and lagging behind in all aspect of life. The cultural aspect - the blood ritual performed during weddings are only done on the girl which restricts her to only her husband. Any time she compromises with another man, there will be a cleansing ritual as antidote to supernatural repercussion the person is supposed to face. The fear, shame and stigma that is associated to this aspect of life puts a lot leach on girls as they fear that those who are educated falls easy prey to other men which of course is a big fallacy.
These programs designed have not taking off completely because of funds and volunteers who can assist without being paid. We have not given up so we hold short interactive sessions whenever we have the opportunity.