Nearly 115 million children lack primary education, and 90 million of those children are girls, according to a report entitled “Gender Achievements and Progress in Education” (GAP), which was presented at the global advisory committee of the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative (UNGEI). The report found that 46 countries, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa, will not meet this year’s UN Millennium Development Goal of achieving gender parity in primary schools.
While factors such as natural disasters, war, and poverty were discussed, the report also highlighted the ways in which outdated gender roles, early marriage, HIV/AIDS and pregnancy contributed to keeping girls out of school. The report said “Male privilege and entitlement (ensure) that when educational opportunities are limited, boys will take available classroom space,” reports BBC News. In a statement, UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman said “Education of children, especially girls, is the cornerstone to national progress. It leads to greater economic productivity, reduced infant and maternal mortality and a greater likelihood that the next generation of children will go to school.”
In addition to examining the reasons for failure to meet these goals, the report proposes new approaches to promoting girls’ education worldwide. These goals include removing financial barriers to education, creating financial incentives for families to send their children to schools, using schools to provide health services and education to children, and treating countries with particularly low enrollment as “emergency” cases, which would receive the quick influx of funding and support that is often seen in cases of natural disasters.