Maputo — Despite an overall improvement in access to education in Mozambique, the government remains concerned at the high drop-out rate among girls.
The Minister of Education, Conceita Sortane, speaking on Thursday at the opening in Maputo of an International Conference on Girls' Education, "we are worried by the numbers of girls dropping out of school, and there is a need for mechanisms to protect and retain girls, including those who are pregnant".
Among the reasons for girls dropping out are child marriages, unwanted pregnancies, and lack of family support.
Sortane stressed the need to make society as a whole aware of the need to keep girls at school. "Our main challenge is to mobilise parents and guardians and the entire school community to become aware and to support their daughters, so that they go to school, learn and complete levels of education", she said.
Child marriage and teenage pregnancy were blocks limiting the development of girls, she said, and society should fight relentlessly against these evils.
She put the number of girl pupils who became victims of child marriage in 2017 at 1,233. Over the last three years, she added, 7,417 pupils had become pregnant, and some of these had dropped out of school.
It was no less important, Sortane added, to strengthen actions in defence of sexual and reproductive health at school. This included managing menstrual hygiene, and preventing cervical cancer and sexually transmitted infections, including HIV/AIDS.
The Minister said the conference is happening at a time when the government is working to repair the damage caused by cyclones Idai and Kenneth, which struck Mozambique in March and April. The two cyclones had destroyed 4,035 classrooms, affecting 233,455 pupils and 10,576 teachers.
"Let us make this conference a moment for the advance of new opportunities and challenges in search of pathways leading to gender equality and equity, and particularly the defence of girls' rights in Mozambique", urged Sortane.
The statistical data for Mozambique indicated that nine out of every ten girls enter primary education, but only 1.5 out of every 10 girls enter secondary school. The conference is part of the Education Ministry's drive to alter this scenario.