Giving Girls Education, is Giving Them Life
The saying goes that ‘If you educate a woman, you can change a whole society”. This is indisputable because educated women excel in whatever they engage in. The lack of education limits the earning power of women and girls and their ability to participate in the development of their communities and their countries.
As a young girl, I never had a problem in my educational needs. The problem I had was while I was in Secondary school, and it had to do with the distance to school. I trekked a distance of close to 10kms and if I were not determined, I would have given up my education.
As a young girl, if you have a vision contrary to that of your family, it can affect your education. A friend of mine Winifred told me she made it known to her parents that she wanted to become a reverend sister in the future and received disapproval which ended up with her parents refusing to pay her school fees. She became dejected, withdrawn and angry with life and with her family. She was forced to make some life choices contrary to her initial ambition, by getting married to a man her family objected to and finally left for an unknown destination. If a young girl fails to be sent to school for reasons known to her, this is likely to affect her entire life.
And there is Dora, a girl whose parents could not send her to school. She worked as a house help in a family for years and discovering her intellectual potential, this family sent her to school. Dora was older than her classmates who laughed and jeered at her, but she kept them silent with her performance. When I met Dora a few weeks ago, she is about to graduate from a professional school to become a teacher.
Generally speaking, there are still a lot of girls who don’t have the opportunity to basic education. In Cameroon, primary school education is free in public schools. Parents have to pay a Parent Teacher’s Association (PTA) levy of 2000CFAF, an equivalent of about $4. But then, there are still problems.
• Most of the public schools are too far off for the girls to trek and some parents still can’t afford this levy, uniforms and other school needs.
• Mission and private schools which might be more accessible are too expensive for most parents
• Young girls that drop out of school because of pregnancy, find it hard going back because their parents don’t readily support them again.
• Orphans miss out on education because successors fail to take care of their educational needs and readily give them out in marriage in order to collect bride price
• Given that most of the rural women are farmers, some young girls tend to drop out of school to accompany their mothers to the farms or get engaged in hawking to economically sustain the family, and children of single parents suffer the greatest impact
• Some parents still give out their children to early marriages, some even on debt bondage
• Some cultures betroth children at birth leading to very early marriages which hamper the education of the girl child
• Most women are either stay at home mums, farmers or engaged in small businesses. Young girls who fail to see beyond this and get no mentoring on the importance of education are likely to willfully drop out of school in a bid to follow their mother’s foot-steps, with most getting contented with primary education
Some of these factors can lead to child trafficking because parents fall into the temptation of sending them off to live with foster parents who sometimes have hidden agendas.