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School or No School? That is the Question

One of the major barriers to girls getting an education is poverty, of which they are of 2 kinds: Financial poverty and Poverty of the mind- where education on a girl is a waste of time and resources. In today’s society where more and more commitments are being seen by governments to provide free basic education for children in rural and urban communities, we still find that most children, especially girl, still lack access to these facilities, little that they may be. 1 in 3 female children are not in school, not because they do not want to learn, but because the concept of an education for girls has become a fantasy that most are sure will never come to pass. In Nigeria, and much of the developing world, access to education for girls is as difficult as moving a mountain with one’s bare hands. The society they grew up in, their families, availability of facilities and safe environment pose barriers to young girls having access to an education.

About 6 months back during a girls program I was running, I had the privilege of speaking to a number of young girls, both in and out of school. They shared their fears about not being able to get the kind of education they wanted, security in school and support from home. A young 15 year old girl shared that she had been brought from the village to the city to work for a family friend because they were 6 in her family and very little money. Most of the money she made as a house girl was sent back to the village and used to send her brothers to school. She had given up hope of getting an education and was already looking forward to marriage and starting her own family so she could stop being a servant. We had been able to encourage her to reconsider going to school and speaking with those that she lived with to support her education.

A lot of girls face this kind of situation which prevents them from getting an education. When families who are poor have to make a choice in who gets an education, the girl is automatically sidetracked and sent into the kitchen, the farm, or the streets to hawk and support the family. An arm of my organization that works on child rights reported a case where the girl had been promised an education if she agreed to marry a man older than her father; the child was in her pre-teens. Another case involved a young girl who dropped out of school because she was being sexually harassed by a teacher. Rather than having to face this humiliation every day, she dropped out of school and supported her mother in selling cooking ingredients in the market.

Education for girls is not just about providing schools that are ‘free’, but about ensuring that girls can access these schools which have been provided. This includes making sure that they have responsible people in schools for them to turn to when they have issues (an experienced counselor who would not take advantage of the girls), ensuring that their parents are educated on the immense benefits educating a girl will bring. We can all help in putting more girls in school by providing the support they need.

This story was written for World Pulse’s Girls Transform the World Digital Action Campaign.

World Pulse believes that women's stories, recommendations, and collective rising leadership can—and will—bring girls greater access to education which will transform their lives, their families, and communities. The Girls Transform Campaign elicits insightful content from young women on the ground, strengthens their confidence as women, and ensures that influencers and powerful institutions hear their stories.
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Aysha Ibrahim's picture


Education for girls is not just about providing schools that are ‘free’, but about ensuring that girls can access these schools which have been provided. Very well said

Rhoda Robinson's picture

When you take a closer look

When you take a closer look at these 'free schools', you find out that they are not so free at the end of the day. The cost of levies, books, uniforms and what nots, are more expensive than the said school fees which were wavied.

Parents who would have considered sending their girls to school, do not want to carry that cost and would rather put her to work or marry her off.

Rhoda Robinson
Director, Adminsitration
Coordinator, Hands up for HER Campaign

Linda M. Ando's picture

Beyond Free Education

Dear Rhoda,

I appreciate your voice and raising the serious concern of having a dedicated, qualified and caring team of educators, counselors in place at schools to fully support education of our girls. You are right, free education alone is not the answer.

How powerful it would be to educate the whole family in support of the girl child. Geoffrey Canada, an innovative and dedicated educator created "The Harlem Children's Zone" a comprehensive educational program for children and their families from pre-school to college and includes health care services, parent education and more. Dr. Canada helped provide HOPE, EDUCATIONAL ACCESS and RESOURCES for Harlem children and families marginalized with poverty, crime and despair.

You have a powerful voice, vision and leadership. May educators and communities around the world come together to help build a healthy, sustainable education program and support system to empower our girls to their fullest potential. Every child is our child!

Please keep writing, sharing and leading the way for your amazing girls!

With Gratitude,

Linda M. Ando

wowitsjackie's picture

Hi Rhoda, Thank you for

Hi Rhoda,

Thank you for writing this post and for your work lifting up and empowering the most vulnerable among us, the girl child. It's important that organization's like yours are listening to young girls to hear their stories and learn about their obstacles. I agree that the presence of counselors in schools will help protect them and hear their concerns.

What are the efforts being made to reach the families, especially the parents, to combat the "poverty of the mind" that you discuss, this belief that there is no value in educating girls?

Thank you, and keep writing!


LeenieT's picture

Free vs. Accessible Education

I appreciate the distinction that you make between a "free" education and one that is accessible, safe and appropriate. Girls should not have to endure emotional, physical and psychological trials as a consequence of pursuing education. I am sure that lack of safety is a major concern for parents when deciding whether or not to send their girls to school. Continuing to bring these issues to the forefront is crucial to ensuring that girls have safe environments that are conducive to learning (!!).

Thank you for advocating for these girls by listening to their voices and sharing their stories.



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