In Liberia, girls remain at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to quality basic education. At the primary school level, the ratio of girls to boys is 40 per cent to 59 per cent. Across West and Central Africa, almost one out of every two children – 45 per cent – is out of school and most of these are girls in rural areas. Lack of girls’ education has an intergenerational effect. Eighty-one per cent of children out of school have mothers with no formal education. Only 55 per cent of school-aged children are in school. Only 1 in 4 women is literate. Girls rarely enjoy the opportunity to even finish primary school. The majority of teachers are unqualified, and only 19 per cent of all teachers are women; this is the smallest number of female teachers out of all of the African countries.
Why is this happening in Liberia?
Liberia emerged in 2002 from many years of civil war, which has led to the internal displacement of hundreds of thousands of people. Liberia is located on the west coast of Africa, between Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire.
For decades prior, the delivery of basic social services was disrupted. Women and children were particularly vulnerable to extreme poverty, hunger and disease, including AIDS, and more recently Ebola. Armed conflict has also hampered the country’s ability to make significant progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals. High drop-out rates from school are largely due to teenage pregnancy, early marriage and harmful traditional practices. The civil war had a stronger impact on girls as they would often be expected to help support their families by working, taking on the role of childcare or caregivers and fulfilling any responsibilities of missing family members.
The training of more female teachers will eventually lead to more girls being encouraged to seek an education. Women will provide gender-appropriate life skills education and needed counselling for girls in schools, in addition to assisting to strengthen the health systems in schools. The presence of one or more women, especially in rural schools, will help to protect girls from unwanted attention – even abuse – from boys and men.
To help respond to some of the challenges of girls education in Liberia, The “Educate Girls Network“(EGN) was created in 2014. Its aim is to sponsor girl students from underprivileged families to complete higher education and become educators. Girls still lag behind boys in enrollment, retention and completion rates at all levels of education in that country.
Please join EGN in helping Liberian girls and women become teachers; your actions will enable Liberians to improve their living standards and provide opportunity for future generations. You can learn more about how to help at the SUPPORT EGN page.