I was watching John Green’s vlog on his visit to the Azraq refugee camp, and what touched me the most was when he said he kept on asking the refugees what they wanted the most and the recurring answer was, “To learn.” In Afghanistan, children risk getting shot at and losing limbs due to landmines buried decades ago. In rural parts of Kenya, children run for 10 kilometers daily to go to school, turning some of them into marathon runners as a by-product of that.
Then I think of people who are extremely capable of educating their children, and for whom school is just around the corner, but they refuse to do that because…
their children are girls.
Once I was teaching in one of the private schools in Mombasa, and the English teacher asked me in the staff room; “Why do you people treat your daughters like this?”
She had a Form 4 student of South Asian descent who stopped caring about the KCSE exams because she was forced by her grandmother into a marriage right after graduation. Even though I’m not of South Asian descent, I’ve heard so many similar stories in our community.
The stories don’t stop there. In fact, worldwide statistics are staggering; 62 million girls worldwide are not in school.
Sometimes it’s not the parents who are at fault, as some from the Older Aunty generation claimed in a recent discussion. “It’s the girls themselves who want to get married early.”
The thing is, you really can’t blame such girls; when they continuously hear an avalanche of disheartening comments about how too much ambition is not a good thing; how guys don’t like to marry girls who are smarter than them and/or have higher degrees; how no matter what they do or where they go, they’re just going to end up cooking in a kitchen somewhere; how they have a time clock that’s running out; how their value as a human being is tied to one of those two things, being someone’s wife and being someone’s mother. The comments are incessant and vicious, so can you blame them?
And school isn’t exactly fun to go through.
So they ask, “Why bother? What’s the point?”
The point is,“You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.”
As Michelle Obama said, “No country can ever truly flourish if it stifles the potential of its women and deprives itself of the contributions of half of its citizens.”
All girls, regardless of the circumstances to which they were born, are human beings who have the right to an education. The only prerequisite to this right is to be born….not to be born with a Y chromosome.
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