Africa: “Too many girls not completing school”

Although more girls in sub-Saharan Africa are finishing primary school than ever before some countries on the continent are lagging…

Although more girls in sub-Saharan Africa are finishing primary school than ever before some countries on the continent are lagging behind, with still the lowest female completion rates in the world, a report released on Thursday suggests.A paper released by UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report suggests that over the past twenty-five years the completion rates for girls in Africa has gone up from 41 percent to 66 percent.

 But this has not changed the overall picture for the number of girls completing schools.

The paper, entitled: An unfulfilled promise: 12 years of education for every girl, studies the progress made over the past two decades since the landmark commitments of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action were made on gender equality. 

It finds that from 1995 to 2019, 68 million more girls enrolled in primary and secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa.  

Ethiopia has made the fastest progress in the region, with more girls than ever completing school primary and secondary school. 

In 1995, for every 100 boys completing school in the country, only 60 girls would do so; twenty-five years later, girls’ completion rates have overtaken those of boys.

However, the report claims that extreme disadvantage persists, particularly for girls. 

In many countries, significantly less than 50 percent of girls are completing primary school and less than 12 percent are finishing lower secondary school.  

In the case of South Sudan poverty, conflict and displacement meant that only an estimated 18 percent of girls are completing primary school while 9 percent are finishing lower secondary school. 

The report says that in Guinea-Bissau for example, where there is now gender parity, the estimated completion rate for boys and girls is still very low at 23 percent for primary school and 12 percent in lower secondary (up from 8 percent and 4 percent respectively). 

Similarly low primary school completion rates are witnessed in the Central African Republic (30 percent), Niger (30 percent) Liberia (30 percent) and Burkina Faso (35 percent).

The report finds that in Guinea, completion rates have much increased for both girls and boys (from 14 percent in 1995 to an estimated 52 percent in 2017), but girls remain at a disadvantage compared to boys and gender parity in completion of primary education still remains far from reach.

Barriers to education for adolescent girls include poverty, domestic chores, gender-based violence, child marriage, early pregnancy and inadequate menstrual hygiene management, the report says. 

According to the paper, many of these barriers have grown during the COVID-19 pandemic as less than one in five countries globally are reviewing policies on girls’ access to education.

The report was launched to coincide with the Paris Generation Equality Forum which took place on June 30th, urging stakeholders to make financial commitments in support of quality education for girls and boys. 

The report recommends planning, budgeting, implementation and monitoring efforts in support of the process to realising gender equality through education.

 It is recommended that girls should complete at least 12 years of education as UNESCO urges governments in Sub-Saharan Africa to invest among others on tackling gender disparity in education access and completion, ensuring balanced representation of girls and women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields of study and eliminating stereotypes and gender bias from teaching and learning materials. 

It also suggests rendering the school environment safe from gender-based violence for both girls and boys and facilitating a balanced representation of women in education management and leadership positions.

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