Why are 63 million girls missing out on education?

The Global Development Podcast
The Guardian
Publication Year:
April 29, 2020
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Half of all children born this year will leave school without even the most basic of qualifications. Girls are at the highest risk of missing out on schooling altogether, but what’s being done to tackle it? Lucy Lamble visits rural Zimbabwe to discover the barriers that can prevent girls getting an education, and investigates programmes in place to help

Last September, world leaders promised to ensure all children received ‘free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education leading to decent qualifications by 2030’. This seems a long way off: according to the Global Partnership For Education63 million girls are out of school.

Lucy Lamble went to rural southern Zimbabwe to find out what’s stopping girls there from getting an education. She speaks to experts around the world who are trying to turn things around.

Professor Pauline Rose is director of the Research for Equitable Access and Learning Centre in the faculty of education at Cambridge University. She highlights the physical barriers: in areas of conflict the schools may have been destroyed, maybe even deliberately targeted. Sometimes the road to school is just too dangerous to travel.

Ethel Kufa works as education programme facilitator in Zimbabwe for the Improving Girls’ Access through Transforming Education programme. She says that the solution is sometimes as simple as building more toilets, and providing sanitary products such as reusable menstrual pads.

Nasikiwa Duke is the programme manager of the NGO Camfed in Tanzania. She talks about the issue of poverty, and how it can lead to girls being married off at a young age.

Distance can also be an issue. Fiona Mavhinga leads the Zimbabwean branch of Cama – the alumni network of the NGO Camfed. Local parents joined together to build a hostel for the girls to sleep in near the school, with their mothers taking turns to act as matron. Mavhinga says school hostels are a popular solution across Zimbabwe and Tanzania.

Julia Gillard, the former prime minister of Australia, is the board chair for the Global Partnership for Education, and a patron of Camfed. She explains that as well as working on a practical and grassroots level, it is also important to work with the governments of poorer countries to help them develop high quality national education systems.

Justine Greening is the UK’s education minister, formerly the UK secretary of state for international development. She says it’s important that girls who do come late to education don’t feel like they have missed their chance, because it’s never too late to learn.

Photograph: Shah Marai/AFP/Getty Images

In this episode, host Lucy Lamble explores the challenges girls face in obtaining education. Lucy speaks with several leaders and community members in rural Zimbabwe.



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