In poor communities, cost benefit analysis keeping girls out of school
Despite increased awareness regarding female education needs in many developing countries, West Africa needs more to be done. Beyond the financial hardships that may keep girls from receiving education in West Africa, cultural practices may be a bigger barrier to education than commonly discussed.
"Perceptions of women's roles and the extremely high number of early marriages in West Africa limit the prospects for educating girls. Sexual harassment in schools and the lack of protection against it also discourages parents from sending their young ones to school.
"There are different reasons in West Africa why girls are denied the opportunities of education and exposure to knowledge: there is this cultural belief in the region that, since women are just women, no matter how much valuable resources are invested in educating them they ultimately are potential future home-bound wives... In a largely Muslim culture, there are religious factors that dictate exclusions from schools: Muslim parents often believe that the secular education offered in public schools is harmful to their religious traditions, and will corrupt their girl-child... (Economically speaking) the reason why so many girls are absent in schools is because parents think boys are a better investment because they are more likely to get jobs. 'Opportunity costs' refer to labour time lost to the parent when the child goes to school. These opportunity costs are usually much higher for girls than boys, since girls are expected to do more domestic work that boys.
"To mitigate this, countries in West Africa need to pass laws banning the early marriage practices... Countries must also pass legislation to make the education of girls mandatory."
The cost benefit analysis of sending a girl to school is much greater than the cost of tuition. The loss of domestic labor must be considered, as well the costs of potential cultural corruption.
Much like functional adult literacy programs in Nigeria, a holistic approach to increasing female education must be considered.
West Africa Insight August 2010: http://newsletters.clearsignals.org/CDD_Aug2010.pdf