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K24 Day 1: Girls’ Education in Africa July 8, 2010

Filed under: K24 — Admin @ 6:38 am
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The African Union is continuing to push for gender equality in education. Since 1990, girls’ education has been a priority in the commission as the AU resolved to develop a new educational program called, the Second Decade of Education for Africa.

A 4-day workshop, organized by the African Union and the International Centre for Girls’ and Women’s Education in Africa (CEIFFA) began Monday in Nairobi for capacity building of the Anglophone  focal points of CEIFFA in Education Management Information System (EMIS) for girls and women in Africa.

At least that’s what it said on the press packet given to me by the guy at the door. I was like “huh?”

I’ve been speaking English my entire life and I still don’t understand what the workshop was about! I speak plain old English, not “Arafraengchinspanzulu.”  (Not need to go to google; I just made that up).

My first day at K24, I was assigned to go with a reporter named Grace to cover Kenya’s Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Professor James Ole Kiyiapi, as he  officially opened the workshop. It was a basic story, but getting to the nut graph took some work.

That’s because to understand political affairs, one must read between the lines. I’ve heard many Africans make fun of African politics. One common idea shared among many of the Africans I know is that African politicians love to use big words, love to hold “very important meetings,” love to hold press conferences, and love to smile for the camera. Basically, they say it’s a whole lot of PR (public relations).

However, if you can ask the right questions, you can grab the reality out of the political fantasy.

Here’s the story:

Girls in Africa have a hard time getting to school. Why? Well, you know. If the family is poor and must choose between educating their kids, they opt for the boy child to go to school. Girls may stay home to care for young family members. In some places, girls cannot go to school during the menstuation cycle. They must be sequestered and a female teacher may, MAY, come to meet them privately. Girls may get married early and in that case, school is out of the question. Girls may face discrimination in schools populated by boys.

The African Union’s education division is working with a number of NGO’s and institutions, including the International Center for Girls and Women’s Education in Africa (CIEFFA, which is based in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso) to address the concern.

The AU and CIEFFA has established what are called, focal points, or representatives and contact persons in the respective AU member states.

I met the Nigerian focal point. Stella Okafor. She works under the Federal Ministry of Education. When I saw her name tag, I knew I had to greet a fellow Nigerian.

I introduced myself.

“Your name is Chika?”

“Yes, Chika Oduah,” I responded.

“You’re my sistah!”

“I know! Where are you from?” I asked her.

“Anambra.”

“Me, too! My dad is from Ogbaru, near Onitsha.”

We hugged and exchanged contacts. She asked what I was doing in Kenya and was impressed when I told her. She’s the only Nigerian I’ve met so far in Kenya.

So, Stella Okafor and the other AU/CEIFFA focal points are meeting in Nairobi to learn more about collecting reliable data on girls’ education in Africa. AU and CEIFFA cannot tackle gender disparity in education without knowing the extent of the problem. This research requires statistical information. That’s why the Second Decade of Education for Africa program, established by the AU, supports the newly created Education Management Information Systems (EMIS) area. EMIS will enable African countries to have clear indicators supported by relevant qualitative data to be used in the governance of educational systems throughout the continent.

Dr. Beatrice Khamati Njenga, head of the Education Division Commission of the African Union, said something that really stood out to me during her interview with K24.

Grace had asked Njenga a about the importance of EMIS. Njenga responded this way:

“If you cannot measure it, you cannot plan for it. If you cannot plan for it, you cannot manage it well. So If you want girls to be in school as much as boys or as much as people elsewhere, you have to know how many girls are not going to school. You have to know why they are not going to school.”

So, that was my first media coverage in Africa and watching these journalists doing their thing (holding up boom mics, crab- walking with hefty cameras, scribbling in reporter’s notebooks) made me happy. Journalism is alive in Africa. And I get to be a part of that.

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