UNESCO urges African leaders to tackle gender disparity, access to learning

United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) has called on governments in Sub-Saharan Africa to speed up measures of eliminating gender disparity in education access, participation, and completion. 

It also urged them to ensure a balanced representation of girls and women in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields of study. 

According to a paper released by UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring (GEM) report, in the last 25 years, more girls are finishing primary schools than ever with completion rates increasing in sub-Saharan Africa from 41 to 66 per cent. Despite these gains, however, the agency said some countries in the region are lagging behind, with the lowest female completion rates in the world.

The paper, titled: An unfulfilled promise: Twelve years of education for every girl, looking at progress over the past two decades since the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action were made on gender equality. It disclosed that from 1995 to 2019, 68 million more girls enrolled in primary and secondary education in sub-Saharan Africa. 

However, UNESCO lamented that extreme disadvantage persists, particularly for girls.

“In many countries, significantly less than 50 per cent of girls are completing primary school, while less than 12 per cent are finishing lower secondary school.”

Director of GEM report, Manos Antoninis, said that just as progress was achieved over the last 25 years, there is a need to deliver a final push to ensure 12 years of education for all.

By re-prioritising efforts, the UNESCO chief said it is possible to ensure that all girls complete a full cycle of education.

He identified some of the challenges confronting adolescent education for girls as poverty, domestic chores, gender-based violence, child marriage, early pregnancy, and inadequate menstrual hygiene management.

Antoninis said: “2021 is a critical year for investment in girls’ education on the back of the recent G7 Girls Education Declaration. This political commitment sets out the ambition to get 40 million more girls into school and 20 million more girls reaching minimum proficiency in reading by the end of primary school in low- and lower-middle-income countries by 2026.”

He enjoined African leaders to remove stereotypes and gender bias from teaching and learning materials and make schools safe spaces for all girls and boys.

The report added that all girls should complete at least 12 years of education, while gender parity should be achieved in all levels of education and literacy in line with SDG goals 4.1, 4.5, and 4.6.

SOURCE: GUARDIAN

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