By Agripinner Nandhego
Following the release of the Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education (UACE) results for 2013 last week, it was revealed that girls performed better than boys at principal level and also in subjects such as history, English literature, Islamic education and mathematics.
This was good news to many of us who promote girl’s education. In the past we have been used to news that boys have performed better than girls whenever exams are released.
Not that I have any intentions of favouring girls at the expense of boys but given the history of girls education in Uganda, this good performance was a big achievement and, in life, we need to celebrate every small achievement.
We all know that historically, girl’s education was not given priority and actually the first girls’ schools were set up to prepare good wives for the kings and princes and the subjects of focus then were cookery, tailoring and domestic science, among others.
What impressed me most in the recently released results was that, apart from excelling in subjects which have historically been perceived as ‘feminine subjects’ like history and literature, girls also excelled in mathematics. This is a clear sign that given good preparation, enough facilities and the right attitude of the teachers and the girls themselves, girls can actually excel in any subject.
The problem affecting girls’ performance in science subjects has always been the belief that they are ‘weak’ and cannot do well in hard subjects like sciences. This is an attitude girls get from their teachers right from primary school and they tend to relax in these subjects and leave the boys who are perceived to be ‘strong’ enough to take on the tough things in life to focus on sciences. This has had long term effects on the girls as they cannot pursue science courses in future and are confined to humanities.
The Government focus now is on science education at university level meaning many girls who will have dropped sciences will miss out on free education. Research has shown that much as there are many girls in universities pursuing courses such as law, education and other humanities, their presence in the science courses is very minimal.
Now that girls have started improving their performance, we need to increase our efforts to this continues. We need to encourage enrolment of female teachers in schools particularly in rural areas who will act as role models to the girls in these schools to work harder. Girls in urban schools have been able to do well partly because they have female role models near them to look up to which is not the case in rural areas.
We need to provide facilities in all schools that will enable effective teaching especially for science subjects but for girls in particular we need gender friendly facilities that will make their stay in school confortable like good sanitary.
We also need teachers with the right attitude to girl’s education who will mentor them and encourage them to perform well at school. The notion that girls are the weaker sex and not suitable to do sciences maths inclusive needs to change first among the teachers then the girls themselves.
We also need to start peer to peer clubs in schools where girls will sit together share experiences, encourage and learn from each other.
Bravo to those girls who excelled in 2013 exams.
The writer is a Gender activist.