Barriers to girls’ education are believed to have been made worse by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Some of the barriers highlighted at the just-concluded symposium on girls’ education include gender parity in secondary and tertiary education as well as the under-representation of girls in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
Experts at the two-day symposium, which ended March 30 in Kigali, also noted that there was low ICT literacy among girls compared to their male counterparts, and a disproportionately low enrollment rate. girls in TVET (technical and vocational education and training) subjects. .
“Common socio-cultural norms create constraints for girls, which seriously affects their attendance and academic performance,” says Sofia Cozzolino, a consultant at the Building Learning Foundation (BLF), a program of the Ministry of Education.
Highlighting how gender norms govern the division of labor in communities, Cozzolino said adolescent girls would frequently be expected to take on domestic responsibilities such as cleaning the family compound, caring for younger siblings and fetch water, leaving little room for study.
Other factors such as the loss of a family member, marriage or early pregnancy have also conspired with Covid-19 to cause girls to miss out on higher education opportunities, experts have noted.
Despite government efforts to increase the availability of toilets in schools and meet the menstrual hygiene needs of girls, it was noted that infrastructure gaps continue to limit girls’ participation in education.
For example, access to education for girls with disabilities continues to be a problem.
Compared to boys, the number of girls with disabilities enrolled in school appears to be lower.
According to the Ministry of Education, only 0.3% of girls enrolled in upper secondary education have a disability, while the total number of girls with disabilities aged 15-19 is around 2.9%. . Only 41 of young women with disabilities have studied at tertiary level (compared to 69 young men).
Suggested Rosa Muraya, deputy program director at Education Development Trust, thinks Rwanda can learn from Kenya.
“Invest in strengthening school-parent engagement to create more supportive home environments,” she added, noting that one way to do this could be to address the harmful effects of household chores on girls’ education.
It was suggested that efforts should be focused on improving girls’ education by reducing gender-based violence and early marriage, providing teacher training, and advocating for system and school policies that promote constructive discipline and non-violent approaches in the classroom.
The symposium also recommended improving education for girls about puberty, including menstruation and other physical, psychological and cognitive transitions in adolescence, and creating an empowering language to speak and understand. adolescence.
This is in addition to building the capacity of school staff and supporting schools in building and maintaining sufficient and functional girls’ rooms with a regular supply of sanitation/water supplies and female chaperones, among others.