Rwanda has made huge progress closing the gap between boys and girls in terms of school enrolments. In fact, slightly more girls are enrolled in school than boys. The problem the government and NGOs are looking at now is keeping them there, and motivating them to perform to the best of their ability.
Drop-out rates are far higher for girls than boys at secondary level, and girls’ performance is poorer at both lower and upper secondary levels. Our own qualitative research, carried out through Girl Effect’s mobile research programme TEGA as part of our partnership with UNICEF, shows that pregnancy is the number one perceived reason for girls dropping out of school and failing to complete their education.
Parents are very supportive of getting their children to school. However, while school is seen as a place for boys to learn and develop, for girls it is viewed as a ‘protective space’, a way to keep them safe from unwanted pregnancy and there is little focus on girls’ learning. Parents tend to believe education plays a different role for boys than it does for girls.
Girls are also expected to contribute to household chores, and balancing their schoolwork with their domestic duties is another big reason for falling behind, intermittent absences or dropping out altogether. Boys, on the other hand, are given the time to focus on their studies.
The TEGA research also found young people have limited aspirations for themselves and are keen to conform and fit in with peers.