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  Access, retention and success
urgent needs in girls' education
By Leila Loupis,
UNESCO Harare
   
    During the decade of Education for All, the enrolment ratio for girls in the Ivory Coast jumped from 33 % to 64%. Mrs Salimata Blé, National Coordinator for the EFA 2000 Assessment explains this remarkable advance as due to the specific efforts made by the Ministry of Education towards reducing gender gaps. "Since the World Conference on Education for All held in Jomtien in 1990, the Ministry of Education in Ivory Coast implemented various initiatives to advocate girl's education" she says.
   
    Firstly, committees for the basic education of girls were created. Next, in collaboration with a project of the African Development Bank, activities for girl's education were initiated in three domains to respond to their most urgent needs; access, retention and success.
   
  Adequate supplies increase access
   
    To ensure girls' access to education, it was found that financial aid was necessary, as often parents with financial constraints will send their sons instead of their daughters to school. The Minister engaged in supplying school books, and 1700 schools were given school manuals for girls, which reached a total of 130,000 girls. Moreover, 2200 school canteens were constructed in zones with a low enrolment ratio to provide meals for girls at a minimal cost. Other contributions were made by international partners, such as a donation of supplies and textbooks made by UNICEF.
   
  Protection ensures retention
   
    To ensure the retention of girls in the school system, the need for girls' protection was identified, particularly concerning early pregnancy, which is major obstacle to completing education. As a response to this problem, the Ministry re-introduced a system of school dormitories for the protection of adolescent girls. Wherever there is a primary or secondary school, the sub-prefecture and the community are held responsible for the creation of these dormitories.
   
  Cultural stereotypes obstacle for success
   
    To encourage the success of girls, prevailing cultural stereotypes and mentalities present huge obstacle. Girls' education is confronted with societal attitudes that assumes that a girl's place is in the fields or the kitchen rather than learning her lessons at school. It is necessary to change the image of women, and the Ministry encouraged the use of female role models such as teachers and successful women, to encourage young girls to stay at school.
   
    "The obstacles in the way of girls' education are multiple, and efforts like those carried out by the Ministry of Education reveal the need to launch the battle on different fronts simultaneously", states Mrs Blé. It is these aspects combined - financial, social and cultural - which need attention to ensure a real and sustainable promotion of girls' education.
   
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