Educating girls has a multiplier effect both locally and nationally

5 September 2018

Using education to empower girls has always been central to what Bridge does.

It is clear that if the world is to prosper then girls must be educated; our failure to ensure this happens is one of the most damaging legacies of our time, with generational consequences.

The latest UNESCO education report shows that the number of girls out of school increased by 6% in just one year. The general public’s impression was that the global community is getting closer to achieving the goals, not falling further behind.

There are two overriding challenges; firstly the actual numbers of girls in school needs to drastically increase, a fact which often faces entrenched cultural barriers. Secondly, once in the classroom an environment – and teaching approach – in which girls can actually learn needs to be fostered. Neither challenge is easy and tackling them will require focused collaboration from all committed partners.

“In Liberia, by the age of 18 a girl is more likely to be married than literate.”

To understand the importance of girls being in the classroom, it’s important to highlight what happens when they are not. In Liberia, by the age of 18 a girl is more likely to be married than literate. In communities where child marriage is highly prevalent, and teenage pregnancy common, girls become trapped in the poverty cycle unless that cycle is interrupted by access to education. Limited access to quality education is damaging not only on an individual level, but on a community and ultimately a societal level too.

Educated women are enabled to work more, spend more and have less in health costs with a reduction in maternal and infant mortality. Unlike with men, research shows that a women’s income will be used to generate prosperity in their own neighbourhoods. Typically a women will invest 90% of her income back into her family and community; this in turn creates a multiplier effect throughout economies on a local and national level. The impact of income was recently assessed by the World Bank who estimated that the losses in lifetime productivity and earnings for girls of not completing 12 years of education was $15 trillion to $30 trillion dollars globally.

These are figures that should give real pause for thought.

In order to tackle this issue we need to focus on girls educational attainment. We need to get girls into the classroom, yes. But, once there we need to be assured they are learning. For too long the focus has been on access; with measures of success being aligned to that focus.

We know that it’s actually what happens in the classroom that determines the health and wealth of communities and countries.  That is why we encourage and inspire girls to believe in their #GirlSuperPower. At Bridge, girls consistently outperform boys; in the most recent KCPE results our highest performing cohort were girls who had attended Bridge for over five years. The number of female pupils passing their KCPE has increased by over 20% in just three years. In Uganda, Bridge girls were almost two and a half times more likely to achieve Division 1 or Division 2 than girls across eastern Uganda. In Liberia, 68% of Bridge girls who couldn’t read a single word at the beginning of the year, could read by the end of the year compared with only 42% at local comparison schools

Around the world growing up as a girl in the communities in in which we serve can be tough. Yet, despite what must often feel like insurmountable barriers, girls are striving for academic success so as they can pursue their ambitions and build more prosperous futures for their families. They believe that they can achieve anything if they study hard. All they need is a good school, a great teacher and a chance to learn. It does not matter – despite what many say –  that they live in impoverished communities or that they are girls.

The short and long term benefits of education for girls, their communities and their countries are self evident what is now needed is a strengthened global focus from policymakers to achieve this. At Bridge we are empowering and building strong confident girls who will go on to inspire their daughters that anything is possible if they believe in their #GirlSuperPower. They are the lucky few.

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