Why Girls' Education Matters

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Dr. Jane Abucha, WISE Board member, author, professor, refugee from South Sudan, and owner of her own health practice in Arizona, knows whereof she speaks. Please take to heart her thoughts on the critical issue of girls’ education in Africa:

It’s a common phrase that is whispered on the streets of many African countries: “Educate a girl and you will never be hungry.”

 

WISE — a non-profit, non-governmental organization in Zambia — is taking on the challenge to educate tomorrow’s leaders, with a focus on girls, and supporting their dreams by giving them educations. This challenge has never been easy and becomes tougher, especially now. With poverty in developing countries like Zambia, many families lose hope because the dream to educate their children is fading every minute. As these challenges increase, parents are forced to make unethical and non-moral decisions about their children, such as “who will go to school” and even decide the extent of education for the children. Unfortunately, this dilemma for parents is real and girls are made to pay the price to support the family. If a family has boys and girls, they will decide to send the boys to school first, while the girls, from age 7, help at home by baby-sitting the siblings, fetching water and firewood, washing dishes, cooking, going to the farm with the mother and with many other tasks, while boys go to school, come home and eat food prepared for them. Many times, parents are forced to make these decisions, not because they do not like their children, but because there is nothing else to lean on.

 

On the other hand, many Africans believe that (1) the boys inherit the home and keep the family name alive, while the girl is married and goes to support another family (2) the girls are considered property and can generate income from bride price and (3) the girls will take their wealth and education to enrich another family. Because of this, boys must go to school first and only if there is a way and extra cash to pay the tuition for girls, then girls will go to school. Though this has been the practice, the 21st century has brought some light and change and parents have started to look at their children equally, though they are still poor.”