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GIRL ENROLMENT UP BUT FAR FROM ACHIEVING GENDER EQUITY

By Vision Reporter

Added 19th May 2009 03:00 AM

WHEN Joyce Tumwijukye joined P.1 in 2001, the number of girls in her class was twice that of the boys. But by the time she completed P.7, there was just a handful of girls. Most of her female colleagues dropped out of school along the way.

WHEN Joyce Tumwijukye joined P.1 in 2001, the number of girls in her class was twice that of the boys. But by the time she completed P.7, there was just a handful of girls. Most of her female colleagues dropped out of school along the way.

By Arthur Baguma

WHEN Joyce Tumwijukye joined P.1 in 2001, the number of girls in her class was twice that of the boys. But by the time she completed P.7, there was just a handful of girls. Most of her female colleagues dropped out of school along the way.

According to education experts, the trend of girls dropping out of school gets worse as you move from lower to higher education levels.

“By S.6, we have fewer girls sitting for A’level. But throughout our government policy, we have been encouraging girl-child education. That is one of the reasons why affirmative action was instituted to make society appreciate the importance of education for the girl-child,” says Aggrey Kibenge, the education ministry spokesperson.

However, education experts believe there is a strong link between fewer girls joining university and dropout rates at lower levels of education. Although the number of females joining university is increasing over the years, although it is still very low to meet the millennium development goal of gender parity. It also explains why few girls at university are admitted to science-based courses.

In this year’s admissions, boys dominate 75% of the government-sponsored admissions which are science-based. The other 25%, mainly arts, are dominated by females. Girls have taken up 38% of government scholarships for public universities this year. This is up from 32% last year, but still far from the gender parity goal.

Out of the 2,572 students to benefit from the state scholarship scheme only 990 are girls. This is an improvement from 745 in 2008. The proportion of female students at Makerere rose from about 20% in 1990 to 35% in 1998 and 42% in 2004.

However, statistics from this year’s admissions show that stereotypes about girl-child education are still rife. For instance, for the Bachelors of Laws, out of 82 students who were admitted on government scholarship, only eight are boys. This is in contrast with Bachelors of Medicine where only 11 girls were taken out of 90 students.

The trend shows that there are more boys being admitted to sciences courses, while the majority of the arts admissions are dominated by girls. In the 2007/2008 academic year, 745 females were admitted compared to 1,327 males on government sponsorship.

Education experts argue that girls are still disadvantaged because of lack of emphasis on girl-child education at the lower level. “From primary school, girls should be encouraged to develop interest in sciences,” Vincent Ekwang, the Deputy Registrar of Undergraduate Admissions and Records at Makerere university notes. Close to 50% of pupils who enroll in P.1 do not complete P.7 in the set time-frame.

Ekwang notes that the new government policy on sciences will go along way in addressing this gap. “Some schools were just registering students for the sake of raising money through high numbers enrolling for arts. They were offering only arts, but in most schools, sciences are now compulsory,” he says.

Fagil Mandy, an education consultant, advises that a policy must be put in place and girls sensitised about doing well in sciences. He says career guidance in most schools is weak.

Mandy advises that sensitisation on the importance of sciences should move away from emphasising only the traditional courses like medicine.

Kibenge, however, says career guidance in schools is being strengthened.

Part of the problem is caused by stereotypes. Girls used to shun sciences when they would have performed well or better than boys.

The Government sponsors 4,000 students in public universities. Of these, 3,000 are selected on academic merit, while 75% are admitted to science courses and 25% to arts and humanities.

The Government stopped sponsoring most arts courses to promote sciences and courses considered strategic for national development.

The cut-off points mainly for sciences were lowered because of the poor performance recorded in last year’s Uganda Advanced Certificate of Education.

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Compared to other countries in the region, Uganda’s dropout rate is high. And the majority of these are girls. While only 49% of pupils in Uganda reached Grade 5 in 2004, in Kenya it was 83%, in Tanzania 84% and in Burundi 67%, according to the 2007 Human Development Report. Uganda’s annual performance report of the education sector indicates that children drop out mainly in rural districts because of early marriage, engagement in petty trade, lack of lunch in schools and poor supervision.

GIRL ENROLMENT UP BUT FAR FROM ACHIEVING GENDER EQUITY

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