THE convention on the Rights of the Child defines the “child” as every human being below the age of 18. Every child’s rights are granted to such person in terms of their civil, political, social, economic and cultural life.
The girl child in Africa suffers relatively greater deprivation and neglect than their boy counterparts. The girl child is forced to perform like an adult long before she is physically or biologically ready – performing household chores, playing “mother” while she herself is still a child and in need of mothering; Gross school enrollment ratios for the girl child still very low, while the dropout rate is high (teenage pregnancies, poverty, etc.)
Girls also suffer greatly by being subjected to harmful cultural practices such as female genital mutilation, early marriages. Fundamental challenges facing the African society is how to mobilize and enhance its human resources. The girl child is the woman of tomorrow and investing in her is a primary priority.
Many development experts are increasingly recognising that women’s role to economic development can be enhanced though education and failure by many nations to educate the woman is frequently cited as a significant cause of poor socio-economic condition.
Looking at the thematic area of concern of the National Gender Policy (2010-2020) of the Ministry of Gender Equality and Child Welfare (November 2015), the policy has 12 critical areas of focus which include “education and the girl child”.
The rational is that women can be better agents of economic growth and development if sufficient investment is made in their skills and education. Evidence from a number of countries in Africa indicates a direct correlation between educational attainment levels of mothers, and the socioeconomic welfare of household members. For instance, in a study carried out in Zambia by V. Seshamani (1993), it was reported that the total fertility rate of mothers with no education was 7.1; 6.8 for mothers with primary school education and 4.9 for women with secondary education. The same study demonstrated that the under-five mortality rate amongst children from mothers with no education was 204.4, those with primary school education 181.7 and those with secondary school education 134.8. It is therefore important that more resources are invested in the education of girls which has a definite high rate of return to society.
Fortunately, available data in the SADC region show that enrollment between boys and girls at primary levels is more balanced. Observation in the society demonstrate a clear proof of empowerment of the women who make the majority of the working force in sectors like banking, education, administration, fishing factories, business industry, etc.
An opportunity therefore should be afforded for the Society to explore, debate and provide technical support to reduce more inequality in education and improve education retention rate for girls and boys.
By Rev. Jan. A. Scholtz
(Written in my own capacity)
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015