Breaking the myths of girl child education and highlighting the facts
A UNESCO (2017) report suggests that 264 million children of primary and secondary school age are out of school. Worldwide, an estimated 100 million young people are illiterate. Out of this number, the greater percentage are girls who are at an even higher risk of missing out on education due to persistent myths and misconceptions surrounding their education. Some of them are:
Myth 1 - Boys are better at understanding technology than girls
In reality, technology is a part of the world we live in and a major aspect of the future. The ability to learn to use technology is present in both genders. What is true is that in some cases, girls have less access to technology than boys do as is true of all education and this has to change.
Myth 2 - Boys are better in school and education than girls
The truth is that boys are girls perform the same when they are not exposed to barriers to access. Barriers to access are gendered and pervasive as well as rooted deeply in the economy and society. They include low attendance rate for girls, gender-based violence, and lack of funding and early marriage.
Myth 3 - There is no gender bias from teachers
Science and math teachers are not biased toward their male students: in reality, biases are persistent and teachers tend to interact more with boys than girls in science and maths and any other subject deemed technical. For example, a teacher will often explain to a boy how to perform an experiment but do the experiment for a girl if she asks for assistance.
Myth 4 - The STEM field is not for the female gender
When it comes to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) fields, some people believe that women are just born at a disadvantage. While gender differences are visible on standardised tests, this does not make them innate. This is because, for instance, countries with larger gaps in gender equality also exhibit larger gaps in math performance by gender compared to more equal nations that show the issue is related to systematic conditioning.
Myth 5 - Education becomes useless once a girl is married
it is believed that a girl ends her education in her husband’s kitchen whereas, in reality, an educated girl remains an asset to her community regardless of marital status as she can earn more, has better outcomes as a mother and is less likely to experience domestic violence. She is also more empowered on all levels.
Why do these myths persist in societies?
Societies hold these myths many times due to a combination of factors that range from a lack of education and awareness, a need to hold on to patriarchy, resistance to change and a love of tradition. Girls are expected to take care of their siblings, perform domestic duties and many times, bring the family out of poverty through early and arranged marriage.
Many people in rural societies especially are resistant to change due to widespread misconceptions regarding girls’ education and a preference for the family hierarchy or structure, which they are used to for generations. It is believed for example that an educated girl will become haughty, promiscuous and difficult to control. In reality, these qualities are not specific to educated girls and have little to do with formal education.
What are the implications for girls’ education?
Education is not seen as a priority in a lot of cases and the issues that discourage girls education are still not tackled properly at all levels in many areas.
How to break the myths?
Breaking the myths involves a multi-layered approach involving the government, teachers, influencers in the community and parents.
1. Parental support as well as support from teachers have proven to be beneficial in creating interest in education for girls and improving attendance, particularly in STEM subjects.
2. Teachers need to be deliberate about taking steps to involve female students, as this is beneficial to everyone.
3. On the government level, there needs to be proper and better investment in education so that girls can be encouraged to get to school. An example is by building separate toilets for girls and providing free regular sanitary products. More women also need to be encouraged to take up public positions and go into decision making so they can mentor the next generation of female leaders.
4. Lastly, influencers in the community such as community leaders should be educated on certain key issues affecting girls’ education, encouraged to put an end to harmful practices such as early marriage, and forced domestication.
The SaGG Foundation (Sponsor a Gambian Girl) is a girl’s education movement, with aim of championing the cause for girl child education in The Gambia. Education is a basic human right; our vision is to advocate and champion for girls' education.