Early marriage and childbirth and the lack of educational opportunity are key obstacles to leadership and economic independence for rural girls in Kenya.
Many studies have confirmed that investing in girls’ education produces positive results in solving the complex challenges facing developing countries. Educated women contribute significantly to the economy and to the political world. Education allows women to live safer and healthier lives. Despite compelling evidence that shows education helps the entire community and not just women, over 41 million girls are out of school worldwide.
The Government of Kenya has taken great measures to increase the number of children attending school. Unfortunately, this well-intentioned effort has created an undesirable outcome in most rural schools as they have seen an enormous influx in the number of children enrolled, yet the resources to accommodate them all, are very little. Many schools are extremely overcrowded and under-staffed, greatly reducing the quality of education the students receive. Primary schools often have 75-100 children in one classroom with one teacher. Not surprisingly, many drop out along the way and for those lucky enough to finish primary education, only a handful makes it to secondary school. Most of the dropouts are girls.
As students, girls suffer more from the consequences of overcrowding. Because of cultural traditions, girls are expected to finish school at a young age. Consequently, teachers and parents focus their limited time and resources on educating boys, who, they believe, have more to gain from advanced opportunities. Under the assumption the girls will withdraw, teachers tend to neglect girls and favor boys. For example, boys in Kenya are offered tutoring in the evenings after classes. Girls, however, miss this extra support because they would be forced to walk home in the dark, increasing their risk of sexual assault during their journey.
When a girl is not educated, the cycle continues from one generation to the next, with men and tribal elders dictating her present and future without considering her social, financial, physical, or emotional well-being.