Talking about Access to Education

I recently came across the following articles that got me thinking about education in Africa.

Early last year, I convinced two young women to join me in an over ambitious programme that aimed to present society with a breed of educated young women and girls equipped with leadership skills. My aim was not only to ensure that girls have access to education, but that they make the best of it, coming out as outstanding scholars and leaders at an early age. Recently, while reminiscing on my ideas and reading on the development of gender equality and education in Africa, I came across several articles that reminded me of a heated discussion I had with my partners. Being a feminist and presented with  the statistics on gender inequality in the education and leadership sphere in Africa, I was keen on developing this project for the specific benefit of young women and girls. My partners on the other hand had a different perspective, one that involved including young men and boys with the aim of changing their patriarchal and androcentric mentality.
After reading the above articles among others, I became aware of several issues affecting most societies not only in Africa but also Asia, such as access to education and quality of education. However, of interest to note is that free education is not enough, poverty is the main problem, and beyond poverty, culture also does hinder access to education, and it is this culture that I have always argued further oppresses young women and girls. Though I am a strong believer in the empowerment of the girl child and young women, it has come to my attention that the boy child is also affected by patriarchal cultural believes. Claire Ngozo’s story (see the links above) of the family in Malawi shows the burden a young boy has to shoulder, because of
the mother’s stereotypical and cultural believes that it is the male who have the responsibility of providing for the family. Ironically, in this case the boy becomes a victim of the very system that subjugates women. In the other story from Kenya, young girls are being forced into early marriages. In both cases children are denied access to education because of cultural believes and practices. What these stories suggest is that patriachy/andocentrism is a state of mind, which is embraced not only by the men, but by the women as well. Therefore, beyond government policies and programmes that provide free education, we should remember, that even in these “modern” times, traditional cultures and stereotypes still have to be addressed especially at the grass root level.

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