The Big Picture
Worldwide 31 million girls under age 10 have never been to school. That’s about the same number of children in elementary school in the U.S. (33 million).
There are numerous reasons why girls are kept out of school. Some of the biggest are:
Families cannot afford the school fees, or they need their daughters at home to look after siblings and grandparents as well as cook and fetch water every day.
Usually when families do find a way to send a child to school, they send their boys. Girls are not expected to learn and succeed, they are expected to do unpaid work. Many schools also do not have private bathrooms for girls, and not everyone has access to hygiene products, so many girls miss school when they have their period.
One-third of the girls in the developing world get married before age 18. When girls get married, their educations usually end. They are expected to run the household, have children, and cater to the needs of their husband and his family. A tragic reality for too many is that marriage puts a girl’s life in danger. Pregnancy is the leading cause of death for girls between ages 15-19 in developing countries: 90% of adolescent pregnancies occur within a marriage. This means the bride was a child who was neither physically nor emotionally ready to have children of her own.
HIV/AIDS and other diseases
Many girls stay home to care for sick relatives, or drop out when they themselves get malaria and miss too much school. Too many children have lost their parents and siblings to diseases. These orphans have no one to watch over them and help them get an education.
In Mali during 2012, armed groups kidnapped children, abused girls, and displaced hundreds of thousands of people. Elsewhere in the world, there was the attempted assassination of Malala Yousafzai in Pakistan by the Taliban in 2013, and in 2014, 300 girls at a village boarding school in Nigeria were kidnapped by Boko Haram.
Education is not a priority
The United States is one of the wealthiest countries in the world, yet less than 1% of our budget goes towards foreign aid. Other countries such as Sweden, Japan, and Norway are much more generous with their aid. Mali only spends less than 5% of its budget on education.
The Mali Education Crisis
43.6% of the people in Mali live in poverty. The majority of Malians (65 percent) have no education and the average years of schooling among adults is only 2.4 years.
The literacy rate of people aged 15 and older in Mali is 33.4%, which means that a majority of adults cannot read.
In Mali, there are over 300,000 girls who are not in school.
Over half–55% of girls in Mali–are married before the age of 18. Many become child brides as young as age 12.
By the 7th grade, only 24% of girls are in school.
Less than 5% of women in Mali enroll in university.
Why is educating girls so important?
Education offers immediate and long lasting solutions. In the short-term, students gain math and reading skills that are crucial for daily life and economic success. Every year a girl is in school, she increases her earning potential. Education empowers girls to be independent, pursue their dreams, and contribute to their society. In the long-term, educated girls mean progress for their children, community, and country.
Education has the power to save lives
Educated girls are more likely to keep their families safe and healthy and to delay marriage and pregnancy. When girls delay having their first child until they reach adulthood, they cut down on the numbers of infant mortality, maternal mortality, and of chronic complications resulting from early childbearing. When girls are educated about the ways that dangerous diseases like HIV/AIDS or malaria spread, they are better equipped to keep themselves and their loved ones from risking exposure.
Education lets girls lead
One of the most important aspects of education is that it will give girls a sense of their own power. Girls are the world’s greatest hope for a thriving future and to fully realize their incredible potential, they will need to develop a strong sense of confidence and gain the power to speak their minds, follow their dreams and stand up for their values. As more women–who represent half the population–gain an education, they will be able to participate equally with men in making decisions about policies and laws. Education produces intelligent leaders and more women are needed to solve global problems.
Education will transform the developing world
Mothers are more likely to send their daughters to school if they themselves went to school; they understand and value the importance of education and want their children to have the best opportunity for a bright future. So many girls miss out on all that life has to offer because they miss out on finding their strengths and passions. Imagine if all that potential could be put to use!
Educating girls will save the world by creating more scientists to solve global warming, lawyers to make the world more fair, and leaders to resolve conflicts without war.
– Joanne Conelley, School Girls Unite Co-Founder
Education will give peace a voice
Women have a powerful role to play in preventing conflict and war. As former UN Secretary General Kofi Anan said, “For generations, women have served as peace educators, both in their families and in their societies. They have proved instrumental in building bridges rather than walls.” Without proper education, girls will never have the chance to be in positions of power to prevent violence and solve conflicts peacefully.