Culture and Religious Norms Limit Girls’ Education in Africa

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The author, Dadawu Fuseina is the administrative assistant at Savana signatures

Education is an area that culture and religious norms in Africa have offer little opportunity to girl-children. This accounts for the larger number of female illiterates and one of the major obstacles to the socio-economic and political development of women in Africa.

Education is one of the most critical areas of empowerment for women, as both the Cairo and Beijing conferences of United Nations affirmed. It is also an area that offers some of the clearest examples of discrimination women suffer. Among children not attending school there are twice as many girls as boys, and among illiterate adults there are twice as many women as men, says UN.

According to the UN, offering girls basic education is one sure way of giving them much greater power — of enabling them to make genuine choices over the kinds of lives they wish to lead. This is not a luxury.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women establish it as a basic human right.

Education, though the most critical tool to women empowerment, African cultures and religious settings have denigrated the girl-child education making girls more vulnerable. In Africa, girls are treated as if they do not have rights and deserve to live like boys as stipulated in the UN convention on the rights of children. Girls are often neglected and denied certain rights. Africa cultures and religious hinder or limit girls physical and mental development.

The cultures and religious settings in Africa value less girls’ empowerment denying girl children the opportunity to go to school. The treatment of boys and girls in an African home depicts a perfect inequality. The cultures and religious norms inflict nothing but pain and horror that create a future of uncertainty, struggles and fears for girls.

Yesterday’s girls are today’s women. In spite of this horror often inflicted on yesterday’s girls, the same society is expecting today’s woman to be able to manage her home perfectly whereas she has no education or empowered to do so.  Women in Africa are lacking behind in terms of socio-economic and political development. They are often at the receiving end.

In Africa, the society thinks a girl-child place is in the kitchen or at home. The perception that a woman will leave her parents to join somebody in marriage and need no education is a fallacy.

It must be noted that an educated woman is able to properly and effectively manage her home, create, sustain and properly utilizes her limited resources to develop her family among other things. Few women managers and leaders in various set ups in Africa have proven that women are good leaders and able to manage businesses. Women have unlimited potentials which education and empowerment can enhance.

When girls and women are empowered, their contributions to the socio-economic development of nations cannot be downplayed. Girls and women are often deprived of opportunities to self-development through education.

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Girls learning ICT after school

Offering girls basic education is one sure way of empowering them for the future. An educated woman has the skills, information and is confident to manage, create wealth and stands the chance of building a better home than an illiterate woman.

An educated woman for example, is also likely to marry at a later age when she is able to cater for her children and the household. It is therefore important that the society encourages and promotes the girl-child education.

Cultures and religious norms in Africa must be fine tuned to give equal opportunity to girls as to boys to learn and be empowered.

Schools and for that matter the ministry of education must develop friendly curriculum that will enable girl children to learn under a friendly environment.

Also, flexible schooling hours should be created to favour  girls who work  at home before leaving for school. Teaching and learning materials use in schools should be made relevant and attractive to girls to learn. The Ghana Education Service (GES) should also build the capacity of their staff in charge of the girl child education unit in all districts for effective implementation of policies and programmes promoting the girl child education.

Finally, the guidance and counseling unit of GES must be equipped with professional staff who understand the situation of an Africa girl to be able to offer better and informed counseling to them to enable them make informed choices. They should also frequently monitor and assist schools to adjust school learning environment to suit the girl children. This, I believe is the sure way to empower girls and women in society.