The New Times (Kigali)

12 October 2012

Rwanda: Denying Girls Education Linked to Poverty

Extreme poverty in most countries has been blamed on the low levels of education of the girl child, a new report has revealed.

The report, titled "Because I am a Girl: The State of the World's Girls 2012," indicates that a total of one in every three girls is denied education worldwide and estimates indicate that 75 million girls are currently missing from classrooms across the world.

The report was released yesterday in New York by Plan International to coincide with the United Nation's first International Day of the Girl.

"Millions of girls worldwide are not going to school, an education gap that condemns them to lives of hardship and entrenches broader extreme poverty," said new report.

As Rwanda joined the rest of the world to commemorate the International Day of the Girl, the First Lady, Mrs.Jeannette Kagame, in an open letter to the girl child of Rwanda, urged the girls to seize the opportunities that the government has put in place.

"I would like to remind you of the strength that you carry within you. Rwanda continues to do its best to create a level playing field for you and your brothers. Opportunities have been laid forth for you; schools, programmes, scholarships to mention a few," she stated.

Mrs Kagame is optimistic that the day will promote the rights of girls, highlight gender inequalities that remain between girls and their male counterparts, but most of all, look for ways to correct any discrimination and abuse suffered by girls around the world.

"I urge you to also cultivate your character by asserting yourselves, recognising the talents and importance of others, but most importantly, discovering your self-worth - the Rwandan "Agaciro". Learn to love yourself and build yourself both from self evaluation and accepting constructive criticism from others" continued the letter.

Nigel Chapman, Chief Executive Officer Plan International, said, an educated girl is less vulnerable to violence, less likely to marry and have children when still a child, and more likely to be literate and healthy into adulthood.

"Her earning power is increased and she is more likely to invest her income for the benefit of her family, community and country. It is not an exaggeration to say educating girls can save lives and transform futures, "Chapman said.

The current dropout rate for girls in many countries is said to be as a result of less funding and lack of programmes to stop child marriage and violence in schools.

Citing the 9-Year Basic Education programme Rwanda adopted, Plan international called on global leaders to ensure a minimum of nine years' schooling for all children, giving them a better chance to enter secondary education.

The document also shows that in many cases, poor families pull daughters from school out of fear for their health or safety. In Ghana, 83 percent of parents interviewed for the report said the risks of pregnancy were a disadvantage of school.

While in Togo, 16 percent of children interviewed named a teacher responsible for a classmate's pregnancy. That figure was 15 percent in Mali and 11 percent in Senegal.

In Ghana, 75 percent of children said teachers were the main source of school violence.

Meanwhile, Irina Bokova, Director-General of United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), said the Girl Child Day is a groundbreaking moment to raise awareness about long-term discrimination and to mobilise stronger action for human rights.

"The rights of girls are violated through early marriages, active discrimination and lack of opportunity. For far too many, being born a girl remains a lifelong sentence to inequality and injustice. This violates basic rights and holds back communities and societies from sustainable development," she said in a statement.

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