IF WOMEN ARE THE BACKBONE OF SOCIETY, WHY NOT EDUCATE THEM?
“Education is a basic human right as proclaimed in article 26 of the United nation’s Universal Declaration of human rights: everyone has the right to education. Education shall be free, at least in the elementary and fundamental stages. Elementary education shall be compulsory. Technical and professional education shall be made generally available and higher education shall be equally accessible to all on the basis of merit.” (http://www.un.org/overview/rights.html)
Education is accessible in Jamaica, but how many are able to afford the expenses associated with it. Been a teacher in the high school system in Jamaica, this something I hear every time a student is absent from school “ miss my parents had no money” . And I can tell you that my brighter girls are mostly absent from school due to lack of funds, whenever, I speak with parents of these girls, it is quite clear that their parents are unemployed or doing inconsistent jobs. It’s a sad and tearful reality that I have to face on a daily basis. The main barriers that prevent girls in my community and girls whom I teach from accessing education are:
1. Financial constraints
2. Failure to understand the value of education
3. Teenage pregnancy
Education is accessible to both sexes in Jamaica as long one is able to afford it. However, as primary and secondary schools the cost are partly subsides by our government. But many have difficulties paying the rest. Many families in my community are single parent families with more than two children where mothers have inconsistent minimum wage jobs. It’s very expensive for parents of girls to pay fare, to afford lunches, to afford supplies for school and health maintenance for girls.
Failure to understand the value of education ( Self Esteem issues)
I have also observed that most of the poorer girls in my community seem not to understand the value of education, they tend to assume that education, ‘school’ they often refer to it has, are for wealthy people and always tend to underestimate themselves by thinking they are mentally incapable of completing schools. Most girls are prey to older men, and many often run away from their families to live with older men, who often impregnate them and use then as sex slaves who then become victims of violent abuses and sexual transmitted disease. They often tend to seemly believe that they will not be better than what they are now, so there is no need to try for a better living. A lot then are missed informed and some are completely oblivious of the resources available to them due to been unexposed beyond the community and so they are unable to think beyond.
As a result of not been able to attend school, failure to understand to value of education and lack of proper resources, such as lack of proper role models and someone to talk to them about sex and the changes that their body goes through, how to deal with the opposite sex, self-esteem issues, been preys to older men, peer pressure and parents who work or “hustle”. Many of the girls tend to drop out of school full time, despite the opportunity to go back to school after pregnancy, but this then restarts the cycle of poverty, lack of understanding and teenage pregnancy. However, a lack of family support seems to be the main problems in many homes in my community that causes them to be scared and extremely vulnerable.
The solutions to reducing barriers to girls’ education are, simply in speech, but takes strong people to carry out
1. Have community gender workshops.
2. Advocate for free education
3. Talk to girls
4. I am the solution
Knowledge is power, and with this in mind my community needs workshops that will provide girls with information about contraceptives, provide mentorship programmes, and teach how to access resources about scholarships. In general, provide then with information about how to use the information. For a country to develop they should invest in education at all cost, they should invest in girls and at large young people on a whole. We should encourage advocacy, silence cannot save us and will not solve the problems. Talk to girls! They have the answers. Let us never forget that the issues are about them and they should and must play an integral part in the solution process. Last but not least me, I play a crucial role in the development of girls, I should use my voice to aid more representing girls issues. I am a woman, who was a girl, who witnessed and went to through the troubles of been a girl. I have seen and I am a testimony of what education can do for women. Educate a woman and she will change the world.