For every 6 in 10 South Sudanese males who have learned about mental health and emotional safety in their secondary education, zero South Sudanese girls had access to the same. The study featuring 29 South Sudanese found half the girls had learned about personal hygiene, 1 in 10 had about environmental care, while none of the girls had learned about self-defence, protecting others, protecting property, mental health or emotional safety during their secondary school education. (SAFIGI, 2017)
“Education is the key to success” is the mantra I was taught – gathering red dust on my discoloured white socks as I walked hours on a lonely road to school at six years old in a remote town of Zambia – just to learn my ABCs. What is success? I ask myself, one Summa Cum Laude later.
The system of education remained patriarchal until the Women’s Rights movement in the late 1900s for the western world. The school curricula as we practice it began in 1837 in Massachusetts though we can credit formal style of learning to Mesopotamia (Egypt). Early education was more informal, with boys learning trade from their fathers or taking up apprenticeships and girls cooing at their mother’s ankles to practice housekeeping and cooking.
It is no wonder that in 2017 84 percent of girls had learned personal hygiene during their secondary education (SAFIGI, 2017).
The latter is not a bad fact. It only proves the shortsightedness of our current education system when we see only 24 percent of girls had learned about protecting others, 35 percent about the environment and 12 percent about mental health as of 2017.
Education is pivotal to give girls a fighting chance in a grossly patriarchal world; to increase their opportunities, end child marriage, teen pregnancy and Female Genital Mutilation, for example. The education gap still exists and it is critical to ensure girls are given equal opportunity to get in and remain in school. This cannot be debated. However, one of the consequences of our current education system is it is doing away with much of informal learning.
Parents spend more time working and students spend at least nine months a year at school. This transfers education about life to institutions and peer-to-peer learning, which may not be the most informed advice for a girl. Thus, any information that is not instilled in the school setting may never be learned and that is where survival instincts to navigate the real world come into play.
What is the real world anyway?
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Hadassah is a freelancer in Communication Media and Non-Profit Management. She is Founder and Project Manager of SAFIGI Outreach Foundation in Zambia, a youth-led volunteer organization working to advance safety for girls via Safety Education.
Her goal in life is to attain overall freedom and ultimately be a delegate for peace and conflict resolution. When she is not overwhelmed with ever impending deadlines, she can be found working on her manuscript, or taking pictures for her blog [www.themisguidedhermit.com]. She loves practicing healthy living and volunteering for worthy causes.
SAFIGI Outreach Foundation Ltd is a not for profit organization based in Zambia with a vision to raise a generation where girls are empowered, equipped and fulfilled in every aspect of their life, for the development of the entire world. To know more about SAFIGI’s goals and activities, visit http://www.safetyfirstforgirls.org