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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 She became dejected, withdrawn and angry with life and with her family.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.

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.
Learn more »

Comments

susanncruz's picture

Excellent points

Hi Tina,
you bring some excellent points as to the detrimental effects of denying girls access to education. You touched on access to sexual and reproductive health services, and the effect of lacking these services: teen pregnancy. Far too often childbearing is assumed to be the sole and exclusive responsibility of the mother because she gives birth; however, as I tell the youth I work with: "it takes two to tango" and we have to hold the fathers accountable too. Great post!

Susan Cruz

Cassady's picture

Great work!

Tina,
I really enjoyed the stories you shared about Winifred and Dora. They illustrate both a positive and negative outcome, but in both cases there are struggles taking place that girls must endure to become educated. I think you make a good point that girls are often aware of the reasons that they are being denied an education, and this can have detrimental effects to her entire life (such as early age at first birth, or being forced to marry at a young age). We are all glad you were determined to stay in school! Thank you for sharing!

Cassady
www.worldschildren.org

courtmiller03's picture

Overcoming Obstacles

Thank you for sharing Tina. I couldn't agree more about the importance of education for girls and society as a whole. It is so unfortunate to know that even when public schools are providing education for free some girls are unable to take advantage of it due to other obstacles that you listed. If we could just put more pressure on society, schools, parents to push and help their daughters receive an education - maybe it would be easier for them.

In the meantime, it is up to us to continue encouraging the girls to do whatever is needed to get the education they deserve.

Keep up the fight - no matter how frustrating it may be at times.

Courtney Michelle Miller
Digital Communications Strategist and Multimedia Producer
http://courtneymichellemiller.org

Tina Young's picture

That's true courtmiller and

That's true courtmiller and it is also important to make parents understand that girls education does not end at the primary level. This is because when even they succeed to pay the school fee through primary school, they give up on secondary education. It continues like that until only few girls attend University education at the end of the day. I commend the efforts f people who usually give scholarships for meritorious girls to proceed to secondary and High school education. I am usually also impressed with the general performance of girls. To tell you the truth, girls are performing very well in school. The encouragement will continue.

Tina.

kati.mayfield's picture

Barriers

Dear Tina,
I am shocked to learn that adoptive and foster parents would take advantage of girls in their care to marry them off and collect a bridal fee. How sad that greed of that sort can impede a girl's education.
You lay out very clearly the barriers that exist in Cameroon to a woman getting educated; what are the opportunities to overcome those barriers?
I look forward to reading more about your ideas,
Kati

*resolved this year to think twice and to smile twice before doing anything*

SamanthaKeller's picture

Access to education

Thank you for sharing the stories about your friends. It seems hard to believe to me that mothers would not protect their daughters rights and opportunities to education, especially hearing stories about child marriages where young girls are denied even basic education. I completely agree with your claim that educating women is the key to changing the way a society works. Even "free" education isn't entirely free, and no one should be denied access to education based off of economic or transportation needs.

yvonnegemandze's picture

Thank you for sharing

Tina, I am astonished by your article. It is wonderfully enriching and it cuts across many aspects of real life situations in Cameroon. I share your views that high parental influences in girls up bringing has led to, most parents wanting to impose on their children (especially females) carrier choices, social life and marital life, irrespective of whether or not they possess the qualities of what their parents want them to become. Thereby exposing them to negative peer influences.

I totally agree with you on the point that early marriages are still in high prevalence in Cameroon in particular and Africa in general and that, young girls are been forcefully sent in to marriages as sheep ready to be slaughtered, just in a bit to settle a family's debt, solve a family's pressing problem or further their son's education.

Your citing different cases to back your article is also a good idea. I hope you will help in advising your peers in standing up for education irrespective of the bountiful challenges that awaits girls.

Keep posting your articles on World Pulse as this will give other girls the opportunity to learn from your personal stories and life experiences.

Yvonne Riwuya Gemandze
Chief Administrative Officer and Researcher
Center for Independent Development Research, Cameroon
Junior Chamber International (JCI) Cameroon National Vice President
yvonnegemandze@gmail.com
+237 70212069

Tina Young's picture

Thanks Yvonne

I will certainly keep posting Yvonne. Thanks for your push for me to continue and not relent. Actually, we need to share at all times.
Stay blessed.

Anais Tuepker's picture

lots of insight

Hi Tina,

Thanks so much for sharing the stories of the women you know. It gave me a real-life glimpse into the way the issues you outline affect individual women. You intelligently pull together the many barriers women face. Dora's story, and yours, show that barriers can be overcome. Keep at it!

very best wishes,
Anais

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