A major issue in the education system in Africa is the ratio of boys to girls, as the children go up the grades. The older the student , the more the classroom will be filled with boys. There are many reasons for this. The obvious ones are simple, women must help at home and they will give up school to look after their siblings.
There are many reasons why the ratio of girls to boys differs, that are not so obvious. Many schools lack toilets and children must leave the classroom to go to the nearby trees and bush to use the bathroom. Girls tend to be more modest and shy, and sometimes this can be unsafe. Amboka Wameyo states “For many girls, the need to leave the classroom several times a day makes going to school anxious and unpleasant. For older girls, menstruation in an environment where there is no toilet and no water causes embarrassment and further complicates matters. And where toilet facilities are not available or located far away, there is a much higher risk of violence for girls. The risks and hassle just aren’t worth it – and they drop out. There are so many barriers to girls’ education, toilets shouldn’t be one of them.”
Typically, by the time school students reach the upper grades, the amount of girls has dwindled and the ratio of boys to girls has increased. In certain areas of Ghana, Uganda and Ethiopia, the drop out rate of 12 year-old girls is at 100%. These girls list many reasons for leaving school. The distances they live from school is a concern as they run the risk of facing violence while traveling to and from school. They list getting married as a reason also – girls of just 12. The final primary reason listed is caring for elderly relatives or younger siblings. They are old enough to maintain a home and start to receive chores and house work.
The focus has to be on this one telling statistic – for every year a school-girl remains in the education system, her income potential grows by 15%. That is huge and the money she makes in her lifetime will be used to help her family and potentially start her own business.
This is why there needs to be a focus on empowering young women and leveling the playing field by decreasing the ratio of boys to girls. The opportunity is there, they just need to be given the chance.