femsa.gif (4844 octets)

EXTRACURRICULAR AND OUT OF SCHOOL FACTORS AFFECTING GIRLS’ PARTICIPATION AND PERFORMANCE IN SMT SUBJECTS: (HOME/COMMUNITY FACTORS; DISTANCE FROM SCHOOL; SAFETY; TIME USE)

The material in this booklet was assembled by Dr. Rita Torto

TABLE OF CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

Governments in many parts of Africa are aware of the benefits of female education. Education of females has a profound effect on national development as lack of their education has been linked to low birth weight, poor health and high mortality rates in children, high fertility rates, poor family nutrition, low life expectancy, poor sanitation and high illiteracy rates. The socio-economic importance of female education can thus not be over emphasised.

Efforts to boost female education has been made by governments, international organisations and NGOs. However, there is still a gender disparity in education. Females still have low access to education, low participation and poor performance in many subjects, especially Mathematics and Science subjects. Many factors which are home, community and school based, continue to restrict developments in female education.

Research has shown that factors within the classroom are not the only cause of gender imbalances in education and that home based factors which include family size, household income, parents’ education, cultural and traditional beliefs all contribute substantially to poor female enrolment in school. Girls are pulled out of school and boys left in school when the family income dictates that all children cannot be educated. Girls miss school when there are chores to be done at home or there is a sick family member to nurse. Girls are taken out of school when they mature to prepare them for marriage or to help supplement the family income by selling, farming or performing other money earning activities.

The factors which interplay and affect female education are limitless. Extracurricular and out of school factors play a big role in female education. Long distances from school, sexual harassment by classmates, teachers and males in the community and inefficient use of her time contribute to making attendance in school poor. Finally, the girl child drops out of school when conditions at home, in school, on the way to school and in the community prevent her from having a meaningful and conducive learning environment.

The effects of extracurricular and out of school factors which contribute towards shaping a girls’ education need close examination. By so doing, parents, teachers, boys and men in the girls’ local community who are all major contributors of those problems may be made aware of the effects of their attitude on girls’ education. It is also necessary that governments realise the risks involved when girls’ travel long distances to school so efforts can be made to remedy the situation where they exist.

RESEARCH METHODOLOGY

The results presented here were obtained through questionnaires, classroom observations in primary schools and discussions by the Participatory Learning Approach (PLA). No classroom observations were carried out in secondary schools except in Ghana at the Junior Secondary School (JSS) level which is considered together with primary schools as providing basic education. Sample schools were selected from both rural and urban areas, private and government schools. Full details of the research methodology and instruments employed are given in the booklet Background and Research Methodology of the FEMSA Project. Details of the school studies can be found in the booklets Status of Girls’ Participation and Performance in SMT Subjects in Primary Schools and Status of Girls’ Participation and Performance in SMT Subjects in Secondary Schools

IMPORTANCE OF SMT SUBJECTS IN SCHOOLS

Primary Schools

Table 1: Time allotted Mathematics and Science subjects in Cameroon, Ghana and Tanzania.

COUNTRY MATHEMATICS SCIENCE

 

Cameroon

Anglophone

CL 1 & 2

 

CL 3 & 4

 

CL 5, 6, & 7

 

 

Francophone

SIL, CP

CE 1 & 2

 

CMI 1 & 2

 

 

2:00 hours/wk

 

2:30 hours/wk

 

3:45 hours/wk

 

 

 

2:30 hours/wk

3:45 hours/wk

 

5:00 hours/wk

 

 

 

1:15 hours/wk (nature study)

1:15 hours/wk (hygiene)

30 minutes/wk (nature study)

1:15 hours/wk (hygiene)

30 minutes/wk (nature study)

2:15 hours/wk (rural/domestic science)

30 minutes/wk (hygiene)

 

-

1:00 hour/wk (sciences d’Observation et hygiene)

2:00 hours/wk (travaux agricoles)

1:30 hour/wk (sciences d’Observation et hygiene)

2:00 hours/wk (travaux agricoles)

Ghana

lower primary regular

lower primary shift

upper primary regular

upper primary shift

 

 

5:00 hours/wk

4:00 hours/wk

5:00 hours/wk

 

4:00 hours/wk

 

 

3:00 hours/wk (environmental science)

3:00 hours/wk (environmental science)

2:30 hours/wk (environmental science)

2:30 hours/wk (integrated science)

2:30 hours/wk (environmental science)

2:00 hours/wk (integrated science)

Tanzania

 

2:40 hours/wk 2:40 hours/wk

Uganda

Mathematics, Science, Social Studies and English Language are four compulsory subjects offered in primary schools. Science consists mainly of Health Science, Nutrition, basic Biological and Agricultural Science with a bit of the Physical Sciences.

Secondary Schools

Mathematics and Science are often compulsory subjects in the lower secondary school in many African countries. Often, mathematics is given a higher degree of importance than science subjects which may be dropped after the first two years of secondary schooling.

Cameroon

Anglophone

In anglophone Cameroon, secondary education is made up of 4 years of lower and 2 years of upper secondary schooling. Mathematics and Science are compulsory throughout the lower secondary i.e. Forms (F) 1-5. Only the Lower (L) and Upper (U) secondary Science(S) classes take any Mathematics or Science subjects.

Table 2: Time table for SMT subjects in anglophone Cameroon.

 

SUBJECT

Time allocation (hours/week)

F1 F2 F3 F4 F5 L6S U6S

Mathematics

Additional Mathematics

Pure Maths with Mechanics

Pure Maths with Statistics

Further Maths

Biology

Human Biology

Chemistry

Geology

Physics

Food and Nutrition

 

3:45 3:45 3:45 4:00 4:00 - -

- - - 3:00 3:00 - -

- - - - - 7:00 7:00

- - - - - 7:00 7:00

- - - - - 3:00 3:00

2:00 2:00 2:00 3:00 3:00 9:00 9:00

- - - 3:00 3:00 - -

2:00 2:00 2:00 3:00 3:00 9:00 9:00

- - - - - 9:00 9:00

3:00 3:00 3:00 3:00 3:00 9:00 9:00

- - 3:00 3:00 3:00 - -

The percentage of time allocated to Mathematics and Science varies from school to school due to optional subjects which are offered.

Francophone

The first cycle of the secondary school is 4 years starting from Sixieme (6e) and ending at Troisieme (3e). The second cycle is of 3 years duration and starts at Seconde (2) ending at Terminale (T). At the beginning of the second cycle, students choose between Science (C) or Arts (A). At the end of Seconde, Science students are again separated into two groups, the Physical Sciences and Mathematics group (C) and the Biological Sciences and Mathematics group (D)

Table 3: Time table for SMT subjects in francophone Cameroon.

 

SUBJECT

Time allocation (hours/week)

6e 5e 4e 3e 2A 2C 1A 1C 1D TA TC TD

 

Mathematiques

Sciences-Phys/Techno

Sciences Naturelles

 

5:00 4:00 4:00 4:00 3:00 6:00 2:00 7:00 5:00 3:00 9:00 6:00

- - 4:00 4:00 3:00 6:00 3:00 6:00 5:00 - 6:30 5:30

2:00 2:00 2:00 3:00 2:00 2:00 3:00 - 5:00 - 2:00 7:00

Science students spend a great part of their time studying Arts subjects (50% in 1C and 48% in 2C). Arts students do not spend as much time on Science subjects. It is only in the Terminale (T) classes where there is proper specialisation in Science.

Ghana

Secondary education in Ghana comprises 3 years of Junior Secondary School (JSS) and 3 years of Senior Secondary School (SSS). Admission from JSS to SSS is based on performance in the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE) taken at the end of JSS education.

The time allocation for Science and Mathematics in the Junior Secondary School (JSS) in Ghana is the same for all students irrespective of whether they are regular or shift students. The shift system, which is a strategy used when student numbers are very high, allows one group of students to attend school for half the day and the second group for the second half of the day, using the same facilities. There are 6 Mathematics, 4 Science, 3 each of Agricultural Science, Pre-Vocational Skills and Pre-Technical Skills and 2 Life Skills periods per week with each period a duration of 30 minutes. However, the teaching of integrated vocational skills depends on availability of teachers and local resources and the trade prevalent in the local community. Vocational skills comprise about twelve different disciplines and students select one after the first year of JSS. The senior secondary school (SSS) curriculum is divided into 6 departments: Arts, Science, Technical, Vocational, Business and Agriculture. Science and Mathematics are compulsory subjects for all departments.

Secondary schools in Tanzania and Uganda are divided into 4 years of lower and 2 years of upper secondary.

Tanzania

In Tanzania, admission to the secondary school is based on performance at the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE). There are seven compulsory subjects at the lower secondary and these include Mathematics and Biology. If the school is science biased, the students are also required to take Physics and Chemistry. Before entry into Form 3, students are advised mainly by teachers and based on their performance on selection of subjects in the Arts or Sciences. At the upper secondary, it is a requirement for Science and Commercial students to take Basic Applied Mathematics.

Uganda

Mathematics is compulsory in the lower secondary while Science has only recently been also made compulsory in the lower secondary. Many lower secondary schools in Uganda offer Biology as a compulsory subject. Physics and Chemistry are compulsory until the third year when students can drop them. Each science subject is given a minimum of 4, forty minute lessons per week. A qualifying examination, the Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) is taken at the end of the lower secondary for admission to the upper secondary. As with Tanzania, students in the upper secondary are either Science or Arts Students. The minimum number of periods for each science subject in the upper secondary is 6, forty-five minute period lessons per week.

GIRLS’ PARTICIPATION IN SMT SUBJECTS.

Primary Schools

All subjects, including SMT subjects, taught in primary schools are compulsory for all pupils and every pupil enrolled in school is therefore expected to participate fully in every subject. The rate of participation, however, is mainly based on the level of girls’ access to primary education and to SMT subjects which is dependent on the number of girls in school, a factor affected by poor enrolment and high drop-out rates.

In all the four participating countries, female enrolment has seen a slight increase in recent years. Female enrolment in Cameroon in 1985/86 academic year was 45.6% of total enrolment and had increased to 47.1% by 1994/95. However, between 1991/92 and 1994/95 in four provinces, the North-West, Far North, South-West and Western, the proportion of girls in school decreased. From 1990/91 many pupils dropped out of school because of the economic crisis in Cameroon which worsened in 1993/94 school year when the CFA was devalued and the salaries of state employees were slashed. There is a wider gap between female and male enrolment in the francophone system, where drop-out rates of girls is about 51.0%, than the anglophone systems at about 29.6%.

In Ghana, the enrolment figure of girls in 1990/91 academic year was 45.0% of total enrolment. Five years later in 1994/1995, enrolment had risen to 46.1%. In seven out of the ten regions in Ghana, the percentage of girls enrolled in primary schools is above the national average of 46.1% but in three regions in the Northern part of Ghana (Upper East, Upper West and Northern regions), enrolments are well below the national average with figures as low as 37.1% in the Northern region. The low enrolment figures are a result of strong religious and socio-economic factors within those regions which do not favour girls’ education.

Figures in Tanzania indicate that with the exception of nomadic communities, gender parity was achieved at the primary school level by 1985 and has stabilised over the years. Between 1990-1995, girls enrolment in primary schools (standards I-VII) fluctuated between 49.1% - 49.5% of total population.

Apart from a few districts, female enrolment in Ugandan primary schools is generally lower than that of boys at all grades with the drop-out rate for girls increasing as one moves from grades 1 to 7. Female enrolment in 1990 was 44% of total enrolment and had increased to only 45% in 1995. With the introduction of Universal Primary Education (UPE) for 4 children, two girls and two boys, there has been an increase in female enrolment. However, only one in two girls completing primary (P) 7 goes on to secondary school, a situation common also with boys.

Secondary Schools

Students are streamed into different subject areas as they progress through school. In Ghana, streaming is done at the end of JSS while in Tanzania, it is after completion of Form II. Choice of subjects is mainly dependent on the students’ performance in examinations, parent/teacher advice and the students’ interest. Some schools have a bias towards certain subject areas which affects subject selection. In general, participation of girls in SMT subjects is pathetic.

Table 4: Level of participation of students in the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination in Ghana in 1994.

SUBJECT

BOYS GIRLS

 

Biology

Chemistry

Physics

 

291175 (55.8%) 230348 (44.2%)

106459 (64.2%) 59368 (35.8%)

101328 (65.0%) 54651 (35.0%)

Between 1990-1995, only 25% of the total number of girls registered in secondary schools in Tanzania took Physics and Chemistry. Mathematics is compulsory to every student and Biology is compulsory for most subject alternatives. In the Lake zone in Tanzania, there were as few as 2-3 girls in some science classes of about 30 students.

In Uganda, mathematics is compulsory up to the end of "O" level and until recently one could opt out of science after the second year of secondary school. The new policy is that in addition to mathematics, at least one science and one technical subject must be studied to "O" level.

Table 5: Level of participation of students in Mathematics and Sciences at the Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) in 1995.

SUBJECT

BOYS GIRLS

 

Physics

Mathematics

Biology

Chemistry

Add Mathematics

Agriculture

Technical Drawing

 

16474(70.5%) 6907(29.5%)

34985(60.8%) 22540(39.2%)

31288(59.7%) 21154(40.3%)

16177(63.2%) 9427(36.8%)

125(92.6%) 10( 7.4%)

17840(65.6%) 9359(34.4%)

492(92.3%) 41( 7.7%)

In Cameroon, Mathematics is one of three compulsory subjects (English and French are the other two) studied to Form V in anglophone schools. In some schools, Biology is also compulsory. Students choose between the Sciences and Arts after Form III. The problem of girls’ participation in Science and Mathematics arises in Form IV in the anglophone and the 5th year (seconde) in the francophone system. Participation of girls in science subjects in the 10 districts of Cameroon in 1997 ranged between 2% - 24% with all districts except one between 2% - 14%.

GIRLS’ PERFORMANCE IN SMT SUBJECTS

Primary Schools

The performance of girls is generally poorer than that of boys in SMT subjects. This was found to be common in all 4 countries.

Cameroon: No statistics currently exist which give a proper indication of the performance of boys and girls at the end of primary school and in the CEPE examinations. The results given below are therefore not a representative sample of what happens nationally. The results for the francophone system show a success rate of higher than 50%.

Table 6: "Certificat d’Etudes Primaires Elementaires" examinations results from francophone Cameroon.

Type of school

Year

Percentage Pass

Girls Boys

Rural, good results

1993

1994

1995

1996

80.00 69.69

57.89 70.58

72.72 61.53

46.15 56.52

 

Urban, average results

1992

1993

1994

1995

37.50 37.20

56.09 67.64

22.22 32.69

49.01 59.69

Table 7: First School Leaving Certificate examination results in anglophone Cameroon.

Type of school

Year

Percentage Pass

Girls Boys

Urban, good results

 

 

Rural, good results

1995

1996

 

1994

1995

96.07 98.11

83.33 82.60

 

79.48 84.61

100.00 79.41

 

The results indicated that occasionally, girls performed better than boys.

Ghana: In Ghana, a final national examination, the Basic Education Certificate Examination (BECE), is given at the end of JSS, which together with the primary school constitutes what is referred to as a basic education.

Table 8: Basic Education Certificate Examination results in Ghana for the period 1990-1993 (as a percentage of the number of either sex participating in examination).

GRADE

Mathematics

Girls Boys

Science

Girls Boys

Life Skills

Girls Boys

Tech. Skills

Girls Boys

Tech. Drawing

Girls Boys

 

Excellent

(1)

 

Strong

(1-3)

 

Credit level

(1-6)

 

 

2 -3.5 3-6

 

 

11-15 13-17

 

 

28-42 28-36

 

2-3 4-5

 

 

12-17 13-16

 

 

27-40 26-34

 

2.3-3.8 1.6-3.4

 

 

- -

 

 

29-38 25-35

 

2-4 2-4

 

 

- -

 

 

31-42 24-31

 

2-3 1-4

 

 

- -

 

 

31-37 25-31

The above results indicate that up to 6% of boys and 3.5% of girls obtained Grade 1 in Mathematics. For both this grade and the strong grades, the boys had a very slight edge over the girls. Although the strong grades for both boys and girls in Science were similar, the boys again did slightly better than the girls in the excellent grade. The percentage pass to credit level in BECE Science from 1990-1993 declined from 39.4 to 26.6 for girls and from 34.2 to 25.7 for boys. In the three technology related subjects listed, girls did better in passes to credit level and at the lower limit but had comparable grades to those of boys with the excellent grades.

Generally, boys performed better at the higher grades but when all pass grades (i.e. grades 1-6) are examined, a greater proportion of girls than boys can be located. A reason for the higher number of girls than boys with an overall pass may be due to the fact that girls allowed by schools to participate in SMT subjects are the best students in the class. On the other hand, boys may get selected or be allowed into SMT classes even with a general class performance less than that permitted girls because those subjects are said to be a male domain. Secondly girls in SMT classes may make extra efforts to get pass grades (at least) whereas boys after selection to SMT classes may relax their efforts because they expect knowledge of the subjects to be a natural phenomenon.

Tanzania: Although the report from Tanzania indicates a general poor performance for both sexes as a result of a very poor foundation, the situation is worse for girls. From 1993-1996, the percentage of boys scoring Grade A was between 0.1%-1.8% and although this is poor, it is still higher than that of girls which was in the range of 0.0% to 0.3%. If grades D and E are considered as failures, then 28.1% of boys and 38.0% of girls failed in the Dar es Salaam region alone.

Uganda: Although girls’ performance is generally poor at the Primary Leaving Examination, there has been an increase recently. The percentage of girls passing Division 1 increased from 7% in 1991 to 11% in 1995. In some urban\semi-urban districts of Kampala, Mbarara, Masaka, Mpigi and Mukono, girls’ performance was at par with boys. The reasons for this equal performance by girls and boys were attributed to more enlightened parents/guardians, better equipped school facilities and materials, better teachers, higher level of private tuition since parents are more financially secure to contribute to childrens’ education.

Secondary school

In Ghana, performance of students are evaluated at completion of both JSS and SSS levels.

In the Senior Secondary Certificate Examination (SSCE) of 1993 in Ghana, a greater proportion of boys passed (Grades A-E) in the core mathematics and core science than the girls. Core science subjects are Science, Agriculture, Environmental Studies and Life Skills. More girls failed the core subjects. Both boys and girls performed terribly in the elective technical subjects and although only a small proportion of boys (less than 1% for Grade A and between 2%-9% for Grade B) passed in Wood work, Metal work or Building instruction, no girl got a grade A or B in these subjects. No student passed with a grade better than D in electronics. All the girls who took electronics passed with Grade E while 1.6% of the boys attained Grade D, 24.7% a Grade E and all the rest failed.

In the elective Mathematics, all the girls who participated, failed in the SSCE examinations. In the elective sciences, although the boys’ performance was not very good, the proportion of boys who passed was greater than that of the girls.

In Tanzania, between 1990-1995, over 70% of the girls who took the Certificate of Secondary Education Examination (CSEE) failed in Chemistry and Physics. The failure rate in mathematics was even higher. In 1995, 84% of boys and 96% of girls failed in mathematics (i.e. at aggregate of D or F). In Biology for the same year, the failure rate was 77% of boys and 95% of girls.

Table 9: Certificate of Secondary Education Examination results in Tanzania.

 

Chemistry

Girls Boys

Physics

Girls Boys

Biology

Girls Boys

Mathematics

Girls Boys

1992

No. of candidates

Grades A-D

Fail

1993

No. of candidates

Grades A-D

Fail

 

1994

No. of candidates

Grades A-D

Fail

 

1995

No. of candidates

Grades A-D

Fail

 

 

6582 11479

27.97 53.03

72.03 46.97

 

 

7788 13321

29.64 48.77

70.36 51.23

 

 

7790 13610

29.08 50.63

70.92 49.37

 

 

7864 13487

39.11 60.61

60.89 39.39

 

4057 8708

29.11 56.66

70.89 45.34

 

 

5007 10010

23.39 46.73

76.61 53.27

 

5014 10097

26.77 49.03

73.23 50.97

 

 

4955 10333

42.24 65.59

57.76 34.41

 

12939 16164

22.36 39.06

77.64 60.94

 

 

14385 17635

21.42 23.40

78.58 76.60

 

16094 18675

23.48 42.61

76.52 57.39

 

15808 18587

22.54 39.91

77.46 60.81

 

13331 17563

10.66 28.43

89.34 71.57

 

 

14997 19738

10.36 29.67

89.64 70.33

 

16924 21059

10.93 27.81

89.07 72.19

 

 

16614 20647

17.03 39.15

82.97 60.85

The above results are very disturbing for all students but more so for girls who fail at such alarming rates. It is surprising that even in Biology which girls tend to favour, the failure rates for girls are just as high as it was for the other subjects.

Cameroon: Performance of girls in Cameroon was not any different. The number of students passing SMT subjects has declined terribly over the years.

Table 10: Percentage of students who passed the G.C.E. "O" Level in 1996 in Cameroon.

SUBJECT

GIRLS BOYS

 

Biology

Chemistry

Mathematics

Physics

Further Maths

 

49.2 65.5

44.7 53.7

14.8 32.8

14.8 37.2

21.1 34.7

In the "A" level examinations taken at the end of upper secondary, the success rate of girls is again lower. In 1993, the percentage of girls with Grade A in Mathematics and Further Mathematics was 0.4% and 0%, respectively as against 4.% and 3.3% of boys.

Uganda: With the exception of Additional Mathematics where the few girls who participate do well, boys out perform girls in the SMT subjects in Uganda.

Table 11: Performance of students in the 1995 Uganda Certificate of Education (UCE) examination (expressed as a percentage of total number which participated).

Subject

Sex

 

Number

of students

Grade

1-2

Grade

1-6

Grade

1-8

Grade

9

 

Physics

 

Mathematics

 

Biology

 

Chemistry

 

Add

Mathematics

Agriculture

 

Technical

Drawing

 

F

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

F

M

 

 

6907

16474

22540

34985

21154

31288

9427

16177

10

125

9359

17840

41

492

 

 

0.9

2.1

0.5

1.7

0.6

0.7

0.5

1.5

0.0

3.4

0.3

0.2

2.4

0.8

 

36.2

46.0

12.4

18.4

23.2

32.0

16.8

35.4

30.0

32.8

20.1

34.1

4.0

34.5

 

63.4

74.2

33.2

42.4

55.9

65.6

39.4

-

50.0

60.0

67.2

81.2

51.2

67.9

 

36.6

25.8

66.8

57.6

44.1

34.4

60.6

-

50.0

40.0

32.8

18.8

48.8

32.1

Unfortunately most teachers, students, parents, government officials in charge of education and other stakeholders in education generally accept these results as inevitable and feel that the existing situation cannot change. Everyone then relaxes their efforts and this only worsens the situation.

EXTRACURRICULAR FACTORS WHICH AFFECT GIRLS’ PARTICIPATION AND PERFORMANCE

Home and community based factors.

Traditional belief of a woman as a wife and mother

This traditional belief still prevails in society. Hence the attitude that it is more beneficial to formally educate a boy than a girl and that girls only need to be educated and trained in house chores to prepare them for marriage still persists.

Family size

Large families at times face problems in educating their children. When faced with economic hardship, a great number of parents, even those aware of the importance of girls’ education, are forced to educate boys at the expense of girls. It is still argued that the man is the "bread winner" and hence boys need more education than girls who will get married and will have a man take care of them. Some parents send their girls to school later in the school term when they have acquired some money but because the girls have missed out so much by then, they do poorly and eventually drop-out of school.

Masculine fallacy of SMT subjects

Society generally believes that SMT subjects are difficult and a boys’ domain. Since SMT subjects are compulsory in primary school, girls have no alternative but to participate in class. However, concentration is poor and participation and performance low. This affects the grades in SMT subjects and determines the ability to continue and perform well in SMT subjects in secondary school.

Parental education

Most parents are aware of the benefits of sending their daughters to school. However, when situations arise which prevent them from educating all their children, girls are usually the ones who are not enrolled.

Household chores

There is a greater need for girls’ rather than boys’ labour at home. Many parents keep their daughters at home whenever there are some chores (cooking, selling, farming, taking care of other siblings or sick members of the family, laundry, etc.) to do.

Early Marriage

In some communities, religious and traditional norms dictate that girls are to be married at a certain age and when they are still in school with no prospects of marriage when they mature, it puts the family in disgrace. The girls are therefore pulled out of school as soon as they reach maturity to prepare them for marriage. Some men do not like very educated wives who may challenge their authority. When such men, especially the rich, want to marry a girl, the parents prefer to pull her out of school since marriage would also solve some of the family’s financial problems.

Cultural practices

Cultural practices in some societies require the girl staying out of school temporarily or permanently and interfere with her education. Some of these traditions require drastic measures on the girl e.g. mutilation of sexual organs, and on occasion, the decision to discontinue school after such a traumatic experience is made by the girl.

Role models

There is a complete absence of female positive role models in academic fields, especially in SMT careers, in many communities in the rural areas. Role models in villages mainly do simple jobs e.g. cooking and serving food, selling in the market or by the road side, etc. and have a great influence on the young girls in the community who believe that these women, with no formal education, earn money and are well off. They therefore do not see the need or importance of a formal education.

Jobs and remuneration

Poor career prospects in science fields do not encourage girls to stay in school. Majority of people who study SMT subjects end up as teachers with very low remuneration.

Pregnancy

Girls who become sexually active during their primary or secondary education and become pregnant are usually expelled from school. Only a few of these girls return to school later to continue with their education.

Prostitution

Mature girls are often tempted by money and goods they receive from older men and slowly turn to prostitution. Prostitution interferes with education because the girls do not see the need of continuing with schooling when they earn so much.

Distance from school

The number of schools in most African countries has not kept pace with population growth. Pupils and students sometimes have to travel long distances before they get to school.

In primary schools and in secondary schools when girls are day students, travelling long distances before arriving in school decreases their productivity since they arrive in school already tired. Participation and performance in any subject, SMT included is then hampered.

In Tanzania and Ghana, boys boarding schools have opened up admission for girls from the community as day students. Travelling long distances is still an issue, however, and girls arrive in school late, missing the first lessons of the day (usually mathematics or science), or get back home too tired for any meaningful studies. When they live long distances from school, girls are not able to participate in private tuition classes held after school hours or discuss homework assignments as they are expected to leave the school compound by a certain time or they need to hurry back home before darkness falls. In some cases where girls live a long distance from school, they are forced to take up lodgings in the town where the school is located which gets them exposed to many unscrupulous and harassing situations. Some families allow their daughters to lodge with relatives who may not necessarily be the right people to select as guardians. When schools are some distances from home, parents tend to worry about the safety of their daughters and often are unwilling to let them go to school. All these hardships frustrate the girls who may then drop-out of school.

Long distances from school promotes lateness and truancy among students. In some schools, especially in the primary sector, lateness to school guarantees punishment which is usually by caning. Girls would rather skip school for the entire day than risk this form of punishment which is painful and embarrassing. Lateness also results in missing the early morning lesson which in many primary schools is mathematics. Mathematics is a hierarchical subject and when lessons are missed, it is difficult to join in at a later stage. Unfortunately, most schools are unwilling to change the time table to remedy the situation.

Safety of girls

Sexual harassment is downplayed in most communities. However, sexual harassment of girls by males in the community including family members, teachers and boys can have a drastic effect on the girls education and result in her dropping out of school.

Very often complaints of sexual harassment of girls is ignored and many girls do not report incidences which occur. Some girls withdraw and become reclusive when they are disturbed by sexual harassment. Once girls start withdrawing from people, their performance in school goes down. When the person sexually harassing the girl is along the way to school or in school, she begins to skip school and ultimately drops-out of school.

Time use by girls

Time is inefficiently used by many girls at school and at home. At home time needed for homework and studies is used for household chores, playing, chatting and visiting friends. In school, while boys may spend the hours outside the class time discussing academic problems, girls may be found in clusters gossiping.

Teachers ask girls to baby-sit and run errands for them during and outside school hours. Girls sometimes volunteer for these jobs to gain favours from the teacher or to enable them get out of participation in some lessons or school activities.

Girls also use their school time inefficiently by not participating fully in class discussions. Unfortunately, this attitude of girls is partially based on African traditional practices where girls and women are not supposed to enter into discussions with men but are only to listen. Since some teachers do not make the effort to pull students into discussions when they do not participate, the girls then lose out on so much and are also not able to share with the rest of the class ideas they may have.

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVING EXTRACURRICULAR AND OUT OF SCHOOL FACTORS WHICH AFFECT PARTICIPATION AND PERFORMANCE

 

This booklet Extracurricular and Out of School Factors Affecting Participation and Performance of Girls in SMT Subjects (home/community factors; distance from school; safety; time use) is intended to provide an understanding of the problems outside the immediate classroom environment which affect girls’ education. Very often parents, teachers, policy makers and the general community are aware of these problems and yet downplay and ignore them when all that is needed may be adjustments in policies, practices and regulations at home and in school. To create a learning environment which is effective in ensuring a high level of performance from its students, it is essential to examine all factors which interfere directly or indirectly with teaching/learning in the school. When the girl child is happy within and outside the school environment, her participation and performance in school is greatly enhanced.