6 things keeping girls out of school and what Plan International is doing about it

Girls in Uganda jump for joy at being able to continue their studies.

Girls in Uganda jump for joy at being able to continue their studies.

62 million girls around the world are not in school. Millions more are fighting just to stay there.

Without education, girls are more likely to marry young, have children early, and spend their life in poverty. Yet, when girls are given the opportunity to receive an education, they are more likely to improve their own lives and those of their families, helping to break the cycle of poverty.

So what’s the problem? Find out what’s keeping girls out of school and what Plan is doing to help.

6 barriers to girls’ education

With the help of Plan’s State of the World’s Girls report: Learning for Life, and our Senior Education Advisor, Yona Nestel, we’re helping you understand why so many girls are not receiving the quality education they deserve.

6 barriers stand in the way of girls receiving an education. Most of these are unimaginable to people living here in Canada. They include:

  1. The cost of education – Though education should be free, there are a lot of costs associated with sending children to school. The cost of uniforms, textbooks or bus fare can be too much to bear for a family living in poverty. Too often, parents choose to keep their girls at home and send the boys to school instead.
  2. Distance to school – In many parts of the developing world, the nearest primary school to a particular community might be a 4 or 5 hour long walk away. On top of that, girls may face dangers or violence on the long way to school, so many parents opt to keep their daughters at home and out of harm’s way.
  3. Violence at school – Once arriving to school, girls may face various forms of violence at the hands of teachers, peers and other people in the school environment. If parents find out school isn’t safe for their daughters, they may remove them from school.
  4. Gender norms – Typically, girls are asked to fetch the water, take care of their younger siblings and to help their mothers cook and clean. Due to this, girls may not have the opportunity to attend school because their contributions to the household are valued more than their personal education.
  5. Poverty – In many parts of the developing world, children’s health is a big concern, especially if they’re facing poverty. If there’s not enough food or sufficient clean water to keep girls nourished and healthy, they may not be well enough to attend school.
  6. Early marriage and pregnancy – When girls are forced to marry young, they are often pulled out of school at a very critical age in their development. The transition from primary to secondary education is key for girls to gain the life skills they need to escape the cycle of poverty. Yet, this is often the same time that many girls leave school due to early marriages or pregnancy. Girls who become pregnant are often discouraged from attending school because of the stigma surrounding them.

So, what is Plan doing to address these barriers and keep girls in school? Our Senior Education Advisor, Yona, weighs in on the challenges confronting girls’ education, and discusses ways we can help.

Yona believes that we can help girls get the education they deserve by supporting the following:

  • Equal access to education – Plan supports community initiatives that promote positive attitudes towards equal access to education, and that raise awareness on its importance for both boys and girls. Plan also supports the creation of gender-sensitive learning environments to ensure both boys and girls enjoy their right to education.
  • Educating boys about gender equality – Gender equality is good for everyone; boys and girls, women and men. Plan engages boys in solutions to achieve gender equality to help change social norms in entire communities.
  • Village savings and loans associations (VSLA) and girls’ scholarships – VSLA programs help promote financial literacy and allow women and girls to invest in their education. Scholarships help girls with tuition fees, school uniforms, school supplies and safe transportation.
  • Challenging gender roles – Raising awareness at family and community levels will promote positive attitudes towards education for girls. It’s also important to engage parents in open dialogue regarding commonly held gender stereotypes.
  • Preventing violence in schools – Plan works with communities to ensure that their schools are violence-free and that they provide a safe learning environment for girls. Plan also works with schools to build networks of peers, role models and mentors, train female teachers, and offers social support to help create a safe space for girls and boys to learn.

Removing barriers to girls’ education is one of the key focuses of Plan’s Because I am a Girl initiative. As we mentioned above, violence is one of those barriers.

While violence against children is unjustifiable, it is also preventable, and it’s something we’re addressing in the countries where we work.

About Plan International

About Plan International

Plan International is a global movement for change, mobilizing millions of people around the world to support social justice for children in developing countries.


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