Southern Africa: If you educate a girl, you educate a nation

Southern Africa: If you educate a girl, you educate a nation

Date: August 26, 2014
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Rose Hill, 17 June: According to findings published by the UNESCO Institute of Statistics (UIS) in September 2013, although laudable, only 74% of the African youth, will be literate by 2015. The study also finds that out of the 148 countries surveyed, the lowest performers in youth literacy rates are countries found in Sub-Saharan Africa. The global youth illiterate population is over 123 million, of which 61% are girls.

The 2013 SADC Gender Protocol Barometer echoes similar disparities in literacy rates among men and women. With the exception of Lesotho and Seychelles, women in Southern Africa have lower literacy levels than men. Less than half the fifteen SADC states have achieved the gender parity targets at primary, secondary and tertiary levels, while only six countries in the region: Mauritius, Seychelles, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia and Swaziland have higher proportions of women than men at tertiary level.

After observing father’s day this past Sunday, Sir Seewoosagur Ramgoolam (SSR)- also known as the ‘Father of the Nation’, came to mind. He was the first Prime Minister of Mauritius and after leading the former British colony to full independence, he fought for the establishment of free education and free health – achievements that are still only aspirations for many nations across Africa and the world.

SSR understood that free healthcare and education went hand in hand: healthy children made good students; good students made good citizens and good citizens made a good nation. Since 1976, he opened classrooms to girls. SSR believed the adage that if you educate a girl, you educate the nation, and indeed our father of the nation was right.

Article 11 of the SADC Gender and Development Protocol requires Member States to “ensure that girls have equal access to education.” Out of 11 SADC countries surveyed, Mauritius has the highest proportions of women at tertiary education and the country is well within reach of gender parity in primary and secondary education before the 2015 deadline. Furthermore, according to a 2011 Population Census, the youth literacy was almost equal for both boys and girls aged between 12-19, and sits at over 90%.

In a backgrounder published by UNICEF on the importance of girl’s education, “Education is vital to ensuring a better quality of life for all children and a better world for all people. But, if girls are left behind, those goals can never be achieved. In country after country, educating girls yield spectacular social benefits for the current generation and those to come. She will be more productive at home and better paid in the workplace. She will be better able to assume a more active role in social, economic and political decision-making throughout her life.”

A child’s first sphere of socialisation is the family and in a patriarchal world, fathers are more often than not the head of the family and the ones who ‘lead’ the way. At the dawn of 2015, there is still time to make a change and lead in a better way, to ensure gender equality and that our girl children are educated.

To all African fathers who wish to be celebrated on the Father’s Day to come, to be revered as role models and to be drivers of change, help educate the nation: start at home and support your child’s education. It is not only the greatest gift a father can give to his child, but it is a basic right and necessity, for all children regardless of gender.

Kelvin Suddason is a student at the University of Mauritius. This article is part of the GL News Service special series celebrating phenomenal fathers, offering fresh views on everyday news.




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