Date: Fri, 26 Mar 1999 10:49:48 -0600 (CST)
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Rich Winkel)
Subject: EDUCATION: Africa Urged To Invest In Girls To Reduce Poverty
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Africa Urged To Invest In Girls To Reduce Poverty
By Moyiga Nduru, IPS, 22 March 1999
HARARE, Mar 22 (IPS) - Investing more in the education of girls can make a significant contribution to the reduction of poverty in Africa, an official of the Forum for African Women Educationalists (FAWE) says.
Kinandu Muragu of the Nairobi-based FAWE says the adequate participation of girls in the education system in Africa can bring gains in terms of economic development, improved community health and national welfare.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, the social return on girls' education is estimated at 24.3 percent for basic education and 18.2 percent for secondary education, the highest rates in the world, according to FAWE.
Muragu, who attended a conference of African ministers of Education in Harare, Zimbabwe (Mar 15-19), says due to a lack of education and skills, only 32 percent of African women, as opposed to 63 percent of the men, participate in the formal labour force in Sub-Saharan Africa.
"The majority of these tend to cluster in lower rungs of work as unskilled and semi-skilled workers, clerks, copy typists, secretaries and nurses," she says.
"Education is critical for economic growth and poverty reduction," Muragu says.
"Primary and lower secondary education helps reduce poverty by increasing the productivity of the poor, by reducing fertility and improving health, and by equipping people with the skills they need to participate fully in the economy and in society," she says.
The number of girls unable to enrol in school is increasing. "In Africa, it is estimated that more than 26 million girls are out of school," says Muragu. "This figure is expected to increase to 36 million by the year 2000."
According to Oxfam Great Britain, enrollment of girls increased by 0.5 percent in the first half of the 1990s. "According to this trend, it will take 50 years for Sub-Saharan Africa to reach a level of gender equality," says Tony Burdon, policy advisor, Oxfam GB.
Oxfam estimates that for Africa to achieve universal primary education (UPE), some three billion US Dollars per year would be needed.
Until this money is found, the provision of basic education to every African will continue to elude a lot of African countries.
The UN Children's Fund (Unicef), 'The State of the World's Children: 1999' report, says a billion people will enter the 21st Century unable to read or write.
Almost two thirds of this number will be women, the Unicef report adds. Of the people who will be illiterate, more than 130 million are of school-going age and are in the developing world.
"This state of affairs makes it imperative that we combine vision and pragmatism, political will and economic resourcefulness in order to change the fortunes of our peoples in Africa," said Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe, when opening the conference of African Ministers of Education in Harare on Mar. 18.
Girls also are denied access to education because of discrimination. Discriminatory policies, cultural suppression and family conditions deny girls an opportunity to fully realise their potential.
In turn, girls grow up to become women who lack the skills and education to push out of a cycle of poverty. Economically, women are still located in subsistence farming and other informal activities which bring low economic returns.
A recent World Bank study shows women, who form the backbone of the rural economy in Africa, lag behind in business.
In Malawi, for example, female-owned Malawian businesses account for 45.5 percent of all small firms, compared to 51.9 percent for the male-owned ones.
Organisations like FAWE have started not only awareness campaigns and advocacy programmes targetted at policy makers, communities and the media to get more girls in schools, but the Kenyan-based, Pan-African group also has invested financially in giving girls a chance.
FAWE says its experimental project of providing scholarships for poor families has been able to assist 55 girls in Kenya to go to school.
In Zimbabwe, FAWE has, since its inception in 1991, assisted 240 girls who are sponsored throughout their secondary education.(END/IPS/mn/99)
[c] 1999, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
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