Five Barriers That Keep Girls Out of School
1. Social and cultural factors. In many communities, families expect their daughters to help at home with cleaning, cooking, taking care of younger siblings and helping on family farms. When a poor family weighs these needs against the seemingly slight opportunity of a paying job when a daughter is educated, keeping her at home is a more likely outcome than sending her to school. . Also, in many cultures, marriage means that a daughter becomes part of her husband’s family, so they feel little, if any, motivation to educate girls.
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2. Early marriage. For girls married off as children at times well under the age of 18 – often without choice or consent – the prospect of remaining in formal schooling is usually remote. Compared to those married at the age of 18 or older, girls who marry as young as twelve are 21 percent less likely to go to secondary school. Not surprisingly, education can have a powerful impact on reducing child and early marriage. Girls with higher levels of schooling are much less likely to have to marry early or have children at an early age.

3. The opportunity cost of school. For many families, especially the poorest, the cost of sending a daughter to school seems like an extra burden, especially when schools require even nominal direct and indirect fees. When countries eliminate tuition fees or the cost of transportation, books, uniforms or security, they can alter parents’ views of the costs and benefits of sending their daughters to school. Scholarships for girls or take-home rations of food or oil are also proven approaches to get more girls in school and remain in school.

4. Lack of separate toilets for girls. About 10 percent of African girls miss about 20 percent of their school days due to menstruation. So for any country hoping to boost the number of girls going to and staying in school, it is imperative to equip schools with water for drinking and washing, separate sanitary facilities and even sanitary napkins so girls can continue to go to school during their menstruation.

5. Lack of qualified female teachers. Trained and highly qualified teachers are essential to ensuring that students – girls and boys – really learn. And girls perform better in school and are less likely to drop out when they have competent women teachers who encourage them to succeed and act as positive role models.

We have a pretty good idea what it takes to lower these barriers. But in the absence of sufficient will and resources to put those proven interventions to work, not much will change.