Bir Kızın Değeri Nedir ki? - What Is A Girl Worth?

02/25/2010 00:00:00

What Is A GirlWorth?

Jessica Shepherd

The Guardian, Tuesday 23 February 2010

On Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, 12-year-old Abigail Appetey isforcedtomissher classes atprimaryschool to sell fried fish door-to-door in Apimsu, her farming village in eastern Ghana. She gets up at 5am to buy the fish three miles away. The little she earns won't go on the exercise books she needs; her parents will spend it on her 20-year-old brother Joseph's education. Abigail wants to be a teacher, she says, but is always tired in class.

There are 41 million girls around the world who should be in primary school all week, but aren't, the Department for International Development says. At least 20 million of them are, like Abigail, in sub-Saharan Africa.

Here in Asesewa - one of Ghana's poorestdistricts- Abigail's nearest junior high school has just five girls out of 20pupilsin its mostseniorclass. The school improvement plan istorn, written infelt tipandpeelingfrom a wall in a corridor. It is the middle of the dry season and temperatures can reach 31C, but the school'stapis empty and the toilets don't work. The most the school seems to have is a few exercise and textbooks that look as though theydate backto the 1950s.

Almost 80% of inhabitants farm maize and the starchy cassava plant. The work is done with machetes or by hand. Most families have no running water or electricity in their homes and almost half are illiterate.Living in poverty like this, girls stand little chance of being spared the time - or the money - for school.

Ministers in the Ghanaian governmentabolishedfeesfor primary education in 2005 andboastthat they spend theequivalentof £6 instatefundson each primary pupil every year. But parents must pay for exercise books, school uniforms and exams.

Besides, the value of an educated girl is lower than that of an educated boy. "The feeling is that girls will marry and belong to another family; boys bring back what they make to their parents," Appiah says.

And, in these rural communities, girls are needed at home. From as young as seven they can be expected to prepare breakfast and lunch for their parents, take it to them in the fields and cook a hot dinner in the evenings. Many will also have tofetchwater from several kilometres away and sell what they can tosupplementtheir family'smeagreincome. That leaves little time for lessons. "Here, it is only when a girl has extradeterminationto make it in her education that she will," Appiah says.

MPs on the Ghanaian government's education select committeerejectthe idea that their country's newwealthis not being shared with its poorest districts. Later, heconcedesthat "under-tree schools", as those indeprivedparts of the countryside are known, just "can'tmatch upto city schools because we don't have the money to give them the samefacilities".

But what these under-tree schools can't match in cash and facilities, they more than make up for in initiative. Word about the girls' football club here in Asesewa has even reached the MPs in Accra, Ghana's capital. Football is apassionfor Ghanaians of both sexes and the club only allows girls who are at school or onvocationalcourses to play. Clever girls, who have dropped out of school through lack of funds, are awardedscholarships, funded by Plan, to return to class and allowed to join one of the 25 teams.

"The football club motivates me," says Margaret Ampomah, 16, one of itsstrikers. Without her scholarship, Margaret, anorphan, would not be able to continue at school.

The club started only three years ago, but is already thought to haveboostedgirls' schoolenrolmentsin some villages by 15%. It may have been just thecatalystneeded to change attitudes - and to change them more quickly than the MPs expect.



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