30 July 2008

Uganda: Science Policy Unfair to Girls, Say Activists

Kampala — THE Government policy of investing more in science courses is increasing the gender gap at higher levels of learning, women activists have said.

"The policy is leaving out girls and is a big threat to efforts of reducing the gender gap. We need to take action before it is late," Peace Musiimenta of the Makerere University gender department said.

Musiimenta was yesterday speaking during the launch of a report on the advancement of women in political participation at Hotel Africana in Kampala.

The survey was funded by the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung, a non-profit organisation.

The admission list of government-sponsored students at public universities this year shows a huge gap between boys and girls.

Out of the 3,000 students admitted on merit, only 940, or 32%, are girls.

The list also shows that boys continue to dominate the science-based programmes, while girls dominate the arts courses.

But since more funds are allocated to science courses, a few girls access free university education.

The Government, for a third year running, is not sponsoring certain arts courses which were once popular with girls.

The Uganda Women Network also observed that after 40 years, the women's movement had suffered the burn-out syndrome.

"There is a long-term exhaustion and diminished interest of young women taking on the fight. They think it is battle for old women," said researcher Rosette Ssemwogerere.

A generation gap, women activists said, seems to pose a problem in the society today.

"Many young women and girls grew up with that obvious consciousness of being emancipated. Nowadays, this young generation does not find it necessary to be active and show solidarity," read the report.

The activists also appealed to the Government to introduce gender studies as a subject, right from the pre-primary level.

"The children have to learn about the value of a woman in society, especially an educated woman," the report noted.

The activists also appealed to the education ministry to strengthen opportunities for post-primary education for girls.

The report says women's participation in decision making has improved.

There are 79 women MPs now as opposed to 51 in the last Parliament.

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