Over 40 million girls around the world are still missing out on any kind of education. In many countries, girls' education is often not considered as important as educating their brothers.
However there are other simple barriers which prevent many girls from continuing their education once they reach puberty. Lack of decent sanitation facilities, dormitories and the threat of sexual harassment can be a barrier to many teenage girls continuing with school.
But with support from Plan, one secondary school in Rwanda is attempting to turn this situation around.
Free, compulsory, basic education is now a right of every child in Rwanda. The government has set increasing girls’ access to education high on its agenda. But lack of suitable facilities and support has continued to hold girls back, especially when they reach secondary school.
Plan is enabling schools like Kiziguro Secondary to build new dormitories and hygiene facilities, as well as hold classes to help those who have fallen behind.
"We used to sleep two per bed" The new dormitory at Kiziguro Secondary, constructed by Plan Rwanda, has capacity for 600 students.
“My parents live in Nyagatare district more than one and a half hours drive from school. I’m in senior four – Computer Science. The Kiziguro dormitory is the only place where I can stay for my studies,” explains 17 year old Joyce, who boards at the school. “This new building comes at the right time. We used to sleep two per bed.”
Equally important for girls’ ability to attend are the latrines. Without proper facilities, many young women avoid school when menstruating, which can mean they are left behind in class. 12 ventilated pit latrines have been renovated at the school, and the toilets are now separated by gender. The school is also making use of captured and stored rainwater for its hygiene facilities.
These small changes have helped create a healthier environment for young women, and as a result, have improved the overall quality of girls’ education at the school.
Remedial classes help girls catch up Recently, Plan Rwanda has also facilitated extra classes for girls who may have previously had their education hindered. Seventy girls at Kiziguro school took part in the classes, which were held during the April holidays last year.
The classes helped the girls to improve their English skills, and allowed them to explore life skills, creativity and the reasons why they and other girls have often been left behind in education in Rwanda.
The girls had the opportunity to write creatively and give constructive criticism on each other’s efforts, explore their aspirations in relation to their talents and read and present critical analysis on novels. They also examined the role of young women in development and looked at issues around sexual harassment and how to prevent it.
Jackline, who is 17 and took part in the classes, said: “During the classes we learnt that given opportunity girls can perform better than boys. I also discovered that reading improves my English, which helped me to perform well.”