(Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part blog post about the education of girls in Tanzania. This installment is titled, “Why? Understanding the Challenges.” To read the second installment, click here. All photos are by the Sega Girls School.)
Tanzania is one of the world’s poorest countries, with one of the lowest secondary school enrollment rates in sub-Saharan Africa—less than 20 percent in 2007, according to the Ministry of Education and Vocational Training in Tanzania. Faced with a severe shortage of schools and other extreme poverty-related challenges, the government is working to increase the number of children in primary school with its National Primary Education Development Program, and taking steps to increase the secondary infrastructure. However, most schools that do exist are overcrowded and lacking such basic resources as qualified teachers, books, desks and chairs, bathrooms, and more. Any available classroom spots rarely go to girls. In fact, according to the Population Council 2009 report “New Lessons: The Power of Educating Adolescent Girls,” less than one percent of girls in Tanzania ever complete secondary school.
Did you know:
- 45 percent of Tanzania’s population is under the age of 15, versus 20 percent in the United States. (Source: www.globalhealthfacts.org)
- Tanzania has one of the highest adolescent pregnancy rates in the world, which affects girls’ health, education, and future employment.
- One in five Tanzanian girls has no education at all. [Source: United Nations, Tanzania, "Delivering as One" (July 2010)]
Nurturing Minds, Inc., which supports the Sega Girls School for at-risk, marginalized, and orphaned girls in Morogoro, explains that from the time they are born, Tanzanian girls hold a lower status and value in society. They enjoy less freedom and, due to a widespread lack of resources and excessive household demands, are often both the last selected for schooling and the first to drop out. As a result, many end up as child laborers, prostitutes, and/or getting pregnant, thereby perpetuating a downward cycle of poverty and poor health conditions. A quote from a July 2010 UN report on Tanzania reads, “Tanzania cannot just stand aside while losing the most precious contribution of many young girls to early marriages and pregnancies.” (Pictured: Prisca sitting in front of a house.)
Here’s one case study to explain how education will help girls in Tanzania. At 14, Hidaya (Editor’s note: All names have been changed for privacy purposes) left school after her father was killed and her relatives took everything from her mother, who later was paralyzed by illness. Hidaya—like her peers Love, Ann, Mary, and Beth—was forced to work as a servant on other people’s farms and in their homes in hopes of earning money to help provide for her siblings and extended family. As it often happens, promised wages were never delivered. Alice, 14, and her peers Frances, Khadija, Patience, and Margaret, dropped from school after their parents died and there was no money for government school fees. At 12, Naomi was chased out of school when her pregnancy was too far along to hide. She then sold donuts on the roadside to help her mother and support her baby. (Pictured: a prospective student at home.)
In a country where customary law dominates—where girls and women are seen only as wives and mothers and can be married off as young as nine in some areas, and where access to education for girls has been restricted for centuries—the reality of empowering girls to “excel” is challenging but necessary.
The Impact of Education
- When a girl in the developing world receives seven or more years of education, she marries four years later and has 2.2 fewer children. (Source: United Nations Population Fund, State of World Population 1990)
- An extra year of primary school boosts girls’ eventual wages by 10 to 20 percent. An extra year of secondary school: 15 to 25 percent. (Source: “Returns to Investment in Education: A Further Update,” Policy Research Working Paper 2881,: World Bank, 2002)
“My dream is to become a doctor,” says 17-year-old Rose, who was kicked out of school in 2007 when she became pregnant. Her baby, severely premature, died two months after birth, and Rose took to selling bread on the street to make money. Rose is now a student at Sega Girls School, and she is fully embracing her newfound education and opportunity. “I am studying hard so that one day I can help alleviate poverty and create a better life.”
The story of the Sega Girls School and how it is redefining education for at-risk girls in Tanzania will be posted tomorrow.
Anne Wells is the founder and director of UNITE The World With Africa, a social organization dedicated to building bridges of service and transformation between Americans and Tanzanians. She also recently launched the Ashe Collection, an online store that sells art and fashion from East Africa to support of UNITE’s work in women’s health, education and microfinance.