Harsh economic conditions impact on girls’ education

“When I grow up I want to be a medical doctor and heal sick people,” says Loveness Makoni, aged 16.

Girls undervalued as families invest in boys’ education
Girls undervalued as families invest in boys’ education

Her dream was shattered when her parents could not afford to pay for her secondary education. Instead she had to pay her dues by becoming the seventh wife of a local prophet. The harsh economic condition in the country blocked this child’s life goal – one more doctor down the drain.

According to Plan International Zimbabwe’s “Because I am a girl” campaign, adolescence is a critical period when girls are at a greater risk of many events with irreversible negative consequences. These include child marriages, early pregnancy, or school leaving, which impact not only on the girls themselves, but also on the next generation.

It is estimated that 21% of girls aged between 15-19 in Zimbabwe are married, with 21% of young women aged 20-24 years having given birth before the age of 18 years. The study further reveals that more girls than boys enrol into lower secondary school, but a significant number fail to complete secondary education as they drop out for various reasons.

Gladman Njanji, the Communications Manager at Plan International, said “sexual abuse and exploitation of girls is rampant, perpetuated by both boys and men. Most cases are neither reported nor accorded justice. Those that are reported are largely dealt with by the families themselves, resulting in child marriages and/or payment as token compensation.

The unemployment and harsh economic climate in the country has caused a lot of financial difficulties in most families. As a result parents, especially in rural areas, cannot afford to send their children to school. The belief that a girl does not need to be educated as she will get married has resulted in education for boys being preferred.

Tinotenda Hondo, Gender Advisor at Plan International, noted lack of school fees as one of the major reason for girls failing to complete secondary school. “Financial difficulties in families admittedly affect both boys and girls education but undervaluing of girls results in families preferring to invest in boy’s education instead of girls,” he said.

Some of the reasons for girls dropping out of school include cultural and religious practises, lack of sanitary ware, violence against girls, poor performance, long distances to school, non-attendance by teachers, and death of parents.

Girls like Loveness might not get another chance of education as family duties now restrict them, the report adds.

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